Designing African blue-green cities for all

November 21, 2022
The CRC for Water Sensitive Cities first engaged with the water sector community in South Africa in 2018, when Professor Tony Wong visited Cape Town. Subsequent use of the Water Sensitive Cities Index commenced Cape Town’s water sensitive cities transitional journey. Now, the #cocreateDESIGN FESTIVAL 2022 in South Africa is celebrating water’s role in shaping healthy, equitable and sustainable blue-green cities for all African citizens.

The festival culminated in an awards ceremony that acknowledged people and institutions who have helped shape and design blue-green cities in South Africa. The #cocreate Blue-Green Cities Design Awards recognise projects that promote water sensitive design, develop resilient and water sensitive cities and showcase the value of building in harmony with nature for all citizens.

Professor Tony Wong (Chair of the Water Sensitive Cities Think Tank) was delighted to be asked to speak at the awards ceremony.

“The Water Sensitive Cities concept operationalises 3 key principles of practice:

  • Cities as water supply catchments
  • Cities providing ecosystem services
  • Cities comprising water sensitive communities.

These principles have been expressed in one form or another among the 10 finalists,” he said.

“I visited Cape Town in 2018, when it was on the brink of running out of water. I am delighted to see the development of water sensitive initiatives in Cape Town, and South Africa more broadly, since then.

“The power of demonstration cannot be underestimated. Each of the 10 finalist projects does this by demonstrating socially, institutionally and physically how the principles of water sensitive cities can be operationalised.”

The 10 entries were grouped under 3 categories:

Best community-based projects

  • WINNER: Place, People, Purpose Khayelitsha combines waste removal, art and green spaces to form a water sensitive urban design for along Hlontlo Street in Khayelitsha. 
  • RUNNER UP: Papenboom Meadow transformed an inhospitable area into a green open space via local indigenous plants and sustainable stream management.
  • Youth Visions in Changing Climate uses arts-based approaches to engage with young people and develop positive visions for urban centres. 
  • Table Mountain Water Source Partnership aims to improve water security by highlighting the importance of groundwater to the community, managers and other stakeholders. 

Best use of water as a design informant

  • WINNER: Europe Informal Settlement Water Point Upgrade created public spaces that also capture and drain water.
  • RUNNER UP: High Street, Hermanus replaced a failing conventional stormwater system with a sustainable hybrid stormwater solution that mitigates flooding and creates a more attractive street.
  • Patterson Park renaturalised a reach of the Norwood Stream, providing a natural surface flow and a connection between surface flow and shallow groundwater. 

Best student or research project

  • WINNER: Knowing Water aims to improve surface water management, by incorporating water sensitive design into existing stormwater retention/detention ponds. 
  • RUNNER UP: Islamic Tirthas re-imagines a new heritage pilgrimage route along the Eerste-Kuil River that provides environmental, social and cultural benefits.
  • Urban MAR in Retrofitted Infiltration Basins developed and validated a low-cost and replicable nature-based method to capture and harvest stormwater for aquifer recharge.