CLIENT: Calgro M3
PROGRAM: Linear park, NMT network, sporting and cultural facilities, nature centre
INITIATED: 2015 | COMPLETED: Masterplan
LOCATION: Fleurhof, Johannesburg, Gauteng
Architect and Urban Designer | Local Studio
Landscape Designer and Environmental Consultant | Azzurro Environmental
Civil Engineer and Quantity Surveyor | Bigen Africa
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Freedom Walk consist of a linear park, an NMT network, sporting and cultural facilities and a nature centre. It involves the redevelopment of a stormwater canal which runs between two suburbs, Florida and Fleurhof and across the historical mining belt. The existing canal connects two bodies of water: Florida Lake in the north, a highly developed public park and Fleurhof dam, a largely undisturbed wetland. The project is the brainchild of the local ward councillor, who envisioned the canal as a new NMT spine which would bring much-needed rejuvenation to the area. The two suburbs were historically classified as two different group areas during Apartheid – Fleurhof being coloured and Florida being white – which explains the mining belt as a buffer zone. Ironically, where Fleurhof was traditionally poorer than Florida, in recent years the area has been significantly invested in by housing company CalgroM3 and the opportunity for Freedom Walk would be to use the new population density as a catalyst for the revitalisation of the now crumbling Florida CBD. The project required significant input from the environmental consultant because of it predominantly being sited on former mining land which presents great challenges from a toxicity perspective. From the outset the proposal was to use phytoremediation to remedy this.
Local Studio were approached by the local councillor who had seen Thomas Chapman present at a public meeting. They were inspired by the landscape design work of firms like James Corner who have pioneered the concept of landscape urbanism. Here, ideas of urbanity and the natural world are combined to bring users of the public space closer to nature. Apart from the phytoremediation strategy, Local Studio's proposal consisted of four different path types on either side of the canal, ranging from concrete for already disturbed areas to light-weight decking over wetlands. Challenges mainly stemmed from the lack of commitment of the city to contribute funding for this project, which had partially been committed by CalgroM3.