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March 2014


Made at GREENinc in the last month : a rendering of a pool deck for a proposed hotel in Limpopo Province

Since the last newsletter, someone (?) posted a link on our Facebook page to an article on Inhabitat that reports on a study that claims that white (painted) roofs are better at combating climate change than green (planted) ones. The latter are more expensive (we knew that, I think), but the article concedes that over their longer life span, the additional cost of green roofs is insignificant enough that it shouldn’t influence your choice. The climate theory is that white roofs reflect sunlight, whereas dark-coloured ones absorb heat and so contribute to the urban heat island effect. The article refers to another study at Stanford University that suggests that although white roofs result in a cooler lower atmosphere, they also decrease the temperature difference half a mile up, and this might decrease cloud formation which would mean more sun getting to the earth and a net heating effect. So, green or white, then? The author can’t say, but does point to the additional storm water control benefits of the green, so whichever you prefer, as long as it isn’t a dark painted roof.

The next thing that got someone excited enough to post something was that Freedom Park was featured on Landezine. You may not get it, but this is very exciting! Check out the article.

Then, just yesterday James posted a link to an article on 7 record-setting streets, and I must agree with him, the nested turning circles in Swindon (the worlds most confusing intersection) are the funniest. They must also be the most dangerous – confusion at an intersection is never a good thing.

Facebook sent me a note a few weeks back saying that in future it will name anyone who posts on behalf of GREENinc. I haven’t seen that happen yet, but I am looking forward to being able to tell who posts what.

’til next time

February 2014


Perspective sketch for the University of Pretoria

Four days after I posted the last newsletter, our beloved Madiba passed away. What an emotional and exhausing last two weeks of 2013 those were.

During a quiet and philosophical builders’ break, the facebook page saw two quotes relating the place-making. The first, from Fred Kent : “If you plan cities for cars and traffic, you get cars and traffic. If you plan for people and places, you get people and places.” Profound, no? The next quotation was from Jan Gehl : “Cultures and climates differ all over the world, but people are the same. They’ll gather in public if you give them a good place to do it.” Both admirably illustrated by the most recent post, a link to an article on recent road transformations in New York City.  Use the sliders in the middle of the images to get the full effect!

James spotted some of our work while browsing in Exclusive Books in Nelspruit – yes, GREENinckers holiday in exotic locations. “New Landscapes 2 : Commercial and Public Landscape” features articles on Forum Homini and the Environmental Education and Research Centre at the Johannesburg Botanic Gardens,  and “New Landscapes 3 : Leisure and Tourism Landscape” includes Freedom Park and the Sharpeville Memorial. Freedom Park also featured in “Open Space – Urban Public Landscape Design”.

There is also a link to a “kinetic drawing” video clip featuring artist Heather Hansen.

We have been fortunate to have eager new faces in the office, as Abby and Mikael joined us for some vac work; they went back to school today, and we know they will do really well this year. Also, Wouter joined us at the beginning of the year to fill Elize’s shoes, she has taken a job closer to home, and we wish her all the best in her career.

And to everyone, all the best for 2014!

’til next time.

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December 2013


The rooftop garden at the Agrivaal building

So November is over and so, pretty much, is 2013.

The installation at Bank City for FNB was one of the most exciting things we did this year, and it’s still getting posts. It also featured on the cover of the November issue of Real Estate magazine.

Staying urban, early last month I attended the Transformative Urban Regeneration Conference, which was hosted by the African Centre for Cities and the City of Ekurhuleni. There were some really engaging international speakers (three of whom are South American, one Dutch and one Indian) complemented by equally fascinating local ones. When talking to them privately, all of the foreign speakers were most struck by our boundary walls here in Jozi – even more so than the weather! Obviously, this is partly a response to the crime levels we experience here, but it seems that they are also symbolic of our society’s predilection for private space over public. And it’s not only in the previously-privileged suburbs, either, the walls are ubiquitous in the more sociable “townships”, too. There is one going up in front of the building accross the road from our office as I write this, to replace the wall that was taken down by the previous owners some years ago. Luckily, we don’t have a wall in front of our office, so traffic could be diverted through our driveway when a brick truck for said building site blocked off Sixth Street last week. Andrew sent me an abstract on a conference on European squares held a decade ago, and it drove home the fact that an outdoor public place has formed the heart of every European town for hundreds – if not thousands – of years. We might not have that kind of heritage, but surely we still need places we can come out from behind our walls to socialize in public in, and we don’t have enough of them. We should break down as many of the walls that we can, too, like the Goethe Institute here in Joburg did a while ago. Anyway, I’ve digressed, but it was a fantastic conference and I think I will try to tell you more about it in a special newsletter.

The Botswana Innovation Hub was another of our big projects this year, and our friends from SHoP Architects came to visit us here in Joburg. We posted some new renderings of the Innovation Hub, as well as a presentation on the “cycle of mediocrity” by Gregg Pasquarelli of SHoP. We also posted an article on how great it is here in Jozi ahead of their visit, just so they wouldn’t wish they were rather visiting Cape Town.

We also posted new renderings of the Agrivaal building – one of them appears at the top of this article. Here’s the other one. And someone posted a video of the Wind Portal by Ned Kahn at the San Francisco Airport – look at his other work, too. Finally, we posted an article on boxes in museum design and asked our friends to share their favourite box project. We got two suggestions : the Flederhaus in Vienna and the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art in Cape Town. We added the Olivetti store by Carlo Scarpa in the Piazza San Marco in Venice.

We are here for another two weeks, but as this is the last scheduled newsletter for 2013, I will use it to say thank-you for your support in 2013, have a great year-end break (I hope you’re taking one!) and all the best for 2014.

’til next time.

November 2013

Brian McKechnie mentioned our FNB project in a recent TED talk that he gave on how Joburg is like Kate Moss. And Anton posted three interesting photos : a screen-shot of a molecular structure, me and Elize and some stainless steel rings, and a mystery pair of legs with some bits of the structure on a lovely old carpet. It seems like it was all part of some kind of teaser campaign (he didn’t tag the legs) and one person’s interest was piqued. Hopefully this project will make a supermodel of the building it’s intended for, too.

I posted a link to an Archdaily report on the Sagrada Familia because two people told me how wonderful it is looking, one of them being Lewis Levin, whose carpet it is. James and Annamari both posted pics of Santa’s Shoebox project presents in the office, and I posted a link to an article on how edible insects are going to transform our diets. I’m not sure why I posted this, really, but if it’s true I suppose we should know about it. The photo did look tasty. The packaging has a clean look to it and there are no legs or feelers in sight. Yuchh, sorry.

Then we got excited about railway yards being transformed into parks. The idea of decking over the shunting yards in Joburg pops up its head periodically, so hopefully it will happen eventually. But going ahead is a new central park for Valencia, Spain designed by Gustafson Porter in collaboration with Borgos Pieper.  And the Park am Gleisdreieck in Berlin was completed in 2011.

Anton posted an article that looks at the additional role of mitigating climate risk that landscape architects should start to play and an interesting project on a Hong Kong public stairway called the Cascade Project.

In terms of our own work, there were several new images of our Two Rivers project in Kenya and some of the southern amenity garden at the Botswana Innovation Hub.

Molecular supermodel

Model of a shade structure

’til next time.

October 2013

On 19 September, James went back to Bank City to see the event that all the work was in preparation for – FNB’s 175th birthday celebrations. He posted some photos of the space properly occupied! A client representative said to him that it wouldn’t be a good day to take photos because there’d be too many people to see the landscape properly, but we love photos of our spaces being used to their full potential.

Elize posted a video of the stompstone song, I think she may be considering specifying some of the chime tiles featured. On the other hand, looking at her comment, maybe not! Still, they are an interesting landscape element and look like they take some skill to play. But yes, the practice sessions must be hell! Also on a musical note, James posted a link to an article on an inflatable concert hall. It looks like it works on the same principles as a jumping castle, but one that you can actually go inside. Elize also posted some pics of a tyre park in Tokyo. It has tyre swings of course, but there’s much more, all made from tyres. The sculptures are especially cool! And Annamari posted a curvy, boxy, forward-thinking retro house in Hollywood Hills with a LEED silver rating.

Aerial Installation at Bank City - photograph by Barry Goldman

Aerial Installation at Bank City – photograph by Barry Goldman

’til next time.

September 2013

A week ago on Saturday, GREENinc was awarded its 8th (I was battling to spell eightth there, so went for the shorter version) ILASA Award of Excellence for its role on Freedom Park’s second phase. James was in charge of the excellent awards function at the Rand Club. Did you know, they let women in now? Welcome back, James, time for some landscape architecture. He didn’t have anything to do with the judging, he says.

The canopies and outdoor lounges at Bank City that I wrote about last month are complete. If only all our projects happened so quickly! Lots of in-progress photos went up on the facebook site in the last month. One of the photos has been seen by 1,774 people to date, our record for a post so far. Click here to see it. Also see the video clip of one of the canopies dancing in the wind. They give a really festive welcome into the CBD from the north. Congrats to Anton and the whole team!

Also have a look at the pool areas of the apartments being built on the Houghton golf course. Andrew has dedicated a significant chunk of his life to these spaces, and it shows in the detailing. There is also a link to the website of Candy Chang, who is “an artist who is passionate about the ways our public spaces can help us make sense of our communities and ourselves.” And James shared an article about putting a green roof on a bus. Why not?

’til next time.


The crocodile water feature at the Sentlhaga, Freedom Park

August 2013

Well, if you’ve visited our facebook page in the last month, you might have noticed that we’re quite excited about an installation we’re working on for Bank City in the Johannesburg CBD. It’s to celebrate FNB’s spring festival, and James and Anton are busily preparing for spring, as you can see from all the photos. In fact, you will note that there are no other posts by these normally prolific posters, so busy are they.  I complained to James about this lack of other things to write about, and he undertook to post some interesting stuff, but – nothing. So maybe this will be a short newsletter. But this spring promises to be more exciting in the Joburg CBD, with a couple of other events planned for the end of this month and in September. These are the Joburg City Festival and the Arts Alive festival – joint the countdown on the Arts Alive’s facebook page.

I posted something about a set of plantable stamps issued to celebrate 50 years of Singapore’s green movement. I’ve seen business cards that can be made to sprout before (a landscape architect’s, of course), but I liked the fact that you could send these and if your letter wasn’t delivered, at least it would might grow along the Braamfontein Spruit. Of course, in Singapore, it would be delivered, in the same way as all the amazing green infrastructure in the last 50 years. Like the Gardens by the Bay.

I also posted a link to an article about a brick system that allows niches for house sparrows to nest in walls. Isn’t that great? At last, built acknowledgement that we share the planet with other animal species! I was more aware of birds’ nests because a week ago I got around to putting up a nesting log that had been knocking around my house for years, and a Crested Barbet has already started modifying it, hopefully with a view to moving in. I just hope it doesn’t drill through the bottom, as they are wont to. And Anton has been chastizing the Masked Weaver trying to nest over our deck here at the office about the mess he is making.

’til next time.

Leonotis at Freedom Park

Leonotis at Freedom Park

July 2013

Happy July, and welcome to the second half of 2013!

We posted a link to an article on Houzz about a mixed-use development in the UK called BedZED by the Zedfactory, who specialize in carbon-neutral design. It has a forest of brightly-coloured cooling cowls on its rooftops, which shows that responsible can be fun too.

I posted an interesting interview from someone from the US Forestry Service on the effect that the removal of 100 million trees in the eastern and mid-western US had on the health of people living there. The trees were killed by the emerald ash borer, and it seemed like an ideal opportunity to carry out a study on the effect of removing trees from people’s environment since the beetle had taken out the trees for them – a “natural experiment”.

We also posted two renderings that Andrew did for our Two Rivers project in Kenya, one of the activity deck and one of the promenade.

Then there’s a link I posted to the fabulous desk that turns into a bed. Now, our desks here at GREENinc are the right size to sleep under, and, as I said in the post, we’ve often said they could be used for this. We need them to be because of the amount of time that some people around here spend at the office rendering things, for instance. But this new desk looks much better than ours. For one thing, it lacks the deep support beam on our desks that would brain you if you were to wake and sit up before remembering where you where. This has happened to my wife at home when our son has displaced her to his bunk bed. The new desk even has a spot for your monitor at one end. It looks a bit like a pod hotel room. I don’t think we’ll be ordering any soon, though, as I am concerned that we would not be able to convince anyone to use the desk in its workaday confirguration. Especially in winter.

June 2013

A few days after I posted the last newsletter, Anton, Abby and I went to a talk on urbanism at the University of Pretoria by alumnus Kobus Mentz. Anton posted one of his key messages from the lecture hall : “Travel is the enemy in good urbansim.” The most striking of the precedent studies Kobus discussed were of his work in Auckland (he now lives in New Zealand) after the earthquake. I don’t think anyone in the audience had realized quite how devastating that earthquake was. Check out Urbanismplus’s website.

Anton also posted the first concept for the landscape at the hotel to be developed at the Houghton Golf Course. Elize counterbalanced that rather serious post with something a little sillier – well, it was on a Friday, I suppose.

I posted an article called “Some of My Best Friends are Germs” from the New York Times, because it backed up another recent article that I read in Time magazine and also because disinfectant soaps are one of my pet hates. Luckily I’m not a surgeon. The Time article said that we each provide a habitat for microbes that together weigh as much as our brains, about 1.4kg, which far outnumber our human cells, and which we need to be healthy. This was all verified in the NYT article – we are superorganisms! Those soaps ARE useful if you want to change the microbe population on your hands to one that can’t be killed by any known disinfectant, though.

I also posted a link to the BMW Guggenheim Lab’s 100 Urban Trends website. This contains glossaries of “contextualized definitions that apply to the way we understand, design, and live in cities”, looking at New York, Berlin and Mumbai. It’s all very interesting, and there was a photo of them using post-it notes to sort the trends. We’ve also used post-its to sort ideas here at GREENinc, so I thought I’d better post this. Not to be outdone, again, Elize posted a link to a music box made out of a “massive soil compactor”. These things used to be called steam-rollers, didn’t they? Until they stopped running on steam, I suppose. “Steam-roller” was more descriptive than “soil compactor” though, wasn’t it? The new term leaves out the bit about rolling, which I would have thought was quite important. Anyway, I think this news blog is finished now. Thanks to Urban Genesis Management for posting our pigeon pic. James is going to make us famous.

’til next time.

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