Award focuses on rehabilitation through landscape architecture

22nd March 2013


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University of Cape Town graduate Phillippa Hedley won brick manufacturing company Corobrik’s Most Innovative Final Year Landscape Archi-tecture Project award in Cape Town, in December last year, along with a R3 000 prize for her thesis on disused landscapes and the potential that mines, urban wastelands and other damaged sites have for redevelopment.

Entitled ‘A New Nature for Exiled Terri-tories’, the thesis explored the rehabilitation of the Glencoe quarry, in the Table Mountain National Park - an area characterised by rock faces that are popular with local mountain climbers.

Hedley’s work mirrors a major global trend that encompasses the rehabilitation of current construction sites. It also highlights the damage left by past industrial activities and suggests incorporating these into the cultures of surrounding areas, particularly in an urban context.
According to Corobrik’s Peter Kidger, the award was created in recognition of the contribution landscape architects make in pursuit of built environments that are not just functional and sustainable but have the ability to inspire those who use them.

“This thesis project does all that, while giving direction to the rehabilitation of urban areas and quarries in particular. The latter has considerable resonance with Corobrik’s own quarry rehabilitation programmes and approach. Most importantly the thesis highlights the way in which rehabilitation of Corobrik’s worked-out quarries, may be further enhanced within the framework of the company’s stringent environmental policy, to go beyond just adhering to the requirements of the Minerals and Mine, Health and Safety Acts,” he says.

He adds that the thesis is important for its potential to contribute to the evolution of quarry management practices in general, given that the innovative approach, and ideas it contains, are founded on sound sustainable environmental practices.

While Corobrik has well developed per-formance assessment procedures at its 31 mining quarries to monitor the effectiveness of its environmental management programmes, Kidger points out that there will always be room for finer tuning and improvement, whether the worked-out quarry is being rehabilitated for use as a nature reserve around a pollution-free dam, a recreational area, or land for commercial or residential development.

Hedley explains that her thesis explores what she has termed ‘the archaeology of beauty’ – using design as a medium to inter-rogate the perception of damaged landscapes and to investigate techniques of creating the experience of place.

She said that the principles of experience and perception that were explored in this thesis were those that captivated the partici- pant, as they created the possibility for appre-ciating a landscape that is not conventionally pretty.

“The neglect of the Glencoe quarry in Cape Town provided a project and a site in which an attractive landscape was found. In the design of such a project, two central questions arose. Firstly, at which point in an intervention do you lose the inherent qualities and character of the site? Secondly, why would one retain these qualities in the first place?” she explains.

Her thesis attempts to answer these ques-tions. She points out that there was a general tendency for designers to reincorporate these marginalised and disused landscapes back into the functioning city, by transforming them.

The value of these places is found in their state of ruin and the lack of ‘function’.

Hedley said that her strategy was to docu-ment the use of principles with interventions.

“This process began with the mapping of the existing site, using a layer-cake technique, highlighting the ‘informants of beauty’ to which the designer responds.

“This method of design becomes a tool in which to aid the participant to experience the unique qualities that make a ‘place’, to guide the future user and to highlight why a place is beautiful,” she says.

Hedley recently completed her master’s degree in landscape architecture. After attain-ing an undergraduate degree in architecture, she switched to landscape architecture.

This was the result of working with a non- governmental organisation in various infor-mal settlements around Cape Town, which helped her realise that public spaces were vital as a connector of people and that, where these boundaries are intended to separate and segregated, they should become bridges.

She believes that the Corobrik award high- lights the importance of creative and respon-sive design to the varying contexts provided by our contemporary urban environments.

“This award has encouraged me to pursue a career that seeks to find innovative ways to respond to ‘damaged’ landscapes, exploring new ways in which these abandoned sites can be reused. This is vital in light of the need to prevent urban sprawl and repetitive harm to our landscape,” she states.

Edited by Megan van Wyngaardt
Creamer Media Contributing Editor Online


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