Bringing an old battery to life

Contemporary design preserves a historical landmark at Battery Park

The V&A Waterfront is one of the most visited tourist destinations in Africa. Located at the edge of the Cape Town CBD, it is a vibrant mixed-use environment characterised by contemporary architecture standing alongside remnants of the area’s industrial, marine and archaeological past. One of the city’s oldest coastal fortification structures, the Amsterdam Battery, is located in the gateway Canal District of the V&A Waterfront. The district connects the V&A Waterfront and the CBD. In 2015, an urban design framework was developed to reinvigorate the area.

The challenge was to create a cohesive urban realm to preserve the historical landmark within a contemporary urban design solution. The historical battery stands eight metres above the canal below, and so Battery Park was the centrepoint of the framework – a 12 000m2 (1.2 hectare) publicly accessible urban park, designed to stitch the new district into the surrounding urban fabric.

The elevated park features landscaped gardens, multiple new pedestrian routes, a skatepark and basketball court, all framed against the Cape Town cityscape. A grand concrete staircase leads to a piazza below, where retail units and water sports facilities encourage people to visit and linger. The elevated park tapers towards the piazza, and in turn, the piazza gradually steps down towards the canal, offering glimpses of both. Waterwise and indigenous fynbos plants soften the gabion walls. Stone excavated from the construction site was used throughout the design.

An interpretation pavilion at park level features three historical cannons facing towards the canal, representing the battery’s historical function. An elevator is built into this pavilion, providing access to the piazza and underground parking.

Photography: Dave Southwood