The overall landscape architecture concept for BMRI was to craft a modern, contemporary landscape, in harmony with Roelof Rabe Argitekte’s new building design, aimed at creating spaces that offer a significant reprise from the intense campus environment.

Further to this concept it is recognized that it is within these outside spaces that social interaction takes place. Our goal was to design welcoming areas where students could gather, unwind, and enjoy one another’s company. The design concentrated on promoting and facilitation positive outdoor space that can be enjoyed by all. Every visitor to these spaces holds significance – even the chickens that reside on campus were thought of as users.
In realising the concept, Terra+ Landscape architects focused on the design of the following areas: East entrance, West entrance, the park, dean’s garden, atrium, courtyard, parking lot – all the spaces in-between the new BMRI building. TERRA+ Landscape Architects were responsible for the layout of the space and the design and detailing of the hard-landscaping elements such as pergolas, paving and other landscape elements.

Through-out the design process there was a focus on allowing the outside spaces to permeate the inside spaces with echoes of the paving patterns reflected in the floor patterns of the atrium space, strengthening the indoor-outdoor connection. Careful selection of trees for the atrium space was considered to ameliorate the space for human comfort.

The planting palette was carefully considered to use endemic species where possible and an overall indigenous plant palette from the rich fynbos floral kingdom of the Western Cape. The diversity of the fynbos biome provides seasonal change and interest which contributes to the sense of place and identity. The selection of plants is also water-wise and resilient to the climatic changes typical of the context.

The project faced several challenges. First, the duration of the project lasted years, from 2017 – 2023, this required continuous attention and focus over a period of time. Another challenge was the fact that the project was phased. This is particularly challenging in soft landscaping as there were varying completion dates. Then, site conditions were a challenge: windy, limited water supply. And finally, to work within the bounds of a university was also challenging at times as one had to maintain an open for use policy in certain area and as certain portions of the building was completed and occupied.

The greatest triumph of this project was to see how students are starting to use and enjoy the spaces after completion of the project! It was really rewarding to be able to create a significant change in outdoor spaces that were previously unwelcoming and residual spaces. Also, it was quite enjoyable having a client in support of planting more trees than initially anticipated. The stormwater management was also a triumph as all stormwater is managed on site and integrated as an amenity to the spaces.

The BMRI project is an outstanding candidate for the LILA – Landezine International Landscape Award 2024, with a distinctive focus on Landscape Architecture’s pivotal role in shaping social space. The BMRI project is not merely a landscape intervention but a thoughtful narrative that actively fosters social engagement and well-being in its carefully designed spaces between buildings.

Architecture offices involved in the design:
Roelof Rabe Argitekte

Francie Van Zijl Dr, Tygerberg, Cape Town, 7505

Design year:
Design conception started in 2017

Year Completed:
February 2023


LILA 2024 Sponsor