Ad Outpost is an ultra modern, futuristic building situated along the Pretoria highway near Midrand, where the M1 North intersects with the Western Bypass. The architects attained the ultimate in simplicity and strength of design, and this was carried through to the landscape design, which reflects the starkness of the building.
The building, which forms part of Waterfall City, is a strong, highly visible landmark along the highway, with an enormous billboard facing it. Its design resembles two sails in flight, and the billboards form a cantilever which creates the impression that the building is floating. In line with the billboard is a strip of gravel fill surrounded by a steel edge.
The landscaping is minimalistic, its most prominent feature being a raised, precision-shaped “table top” embankment planted with All Seasons Evergreen lawn, on either side of a walkway leading to the main entrance. This walkway has the effect of being “cut out” of the mound and walls on either side of the pathway create the feeling of a bridge or the sense of “cutting through a mountain”, says Bertha Wium of Ekslusiewe Tuine.
According to architect Petronel Moolman, the form of the prism-shaped grass mound in the oval landscape is a direct and logical response to the building form in the space formed by the building façade. The entrance walkway dramatically “cuts” through the mound, with the trees placed on a radial grid between the mound and the building, opening up vistas towards the façade as one approaches the building.
Rows of sandstone-coloured dump rock, narrow on one side and widening towards the other form a binding element in the landscape and the shape complements the façade of the building. The Acacia trees on either side of the entrance to the building compliment the curved rock strips and the curved lines of the trees reinforce the curved design of the building.
The double rows of A. sieberiana trees flank the parking area and extend into the dump-rock shape on the western side of the entrance to the building.
The Acacia xanthophloea trees on the eastern side of the entrance are well-suited to the modern shape of the building as they are upright, simple and sculptural, and even when fully grown will not obscure the unique architecture of Ad Outpost. “Acacias are the absolute in sculpture and modern Africa,” says Wium.
In a sense, the embankment forms a green velvet foot to the billboard, which ends in a grey brick mow edge line. The western side of the landscaping was excavated to ensure an embankment at the foot of the building. This then flows out onto a homogenous veld grass area, which is on the outer perimeter of the site.
The landscaping facing the highway is designed on levels fanning out from the building edge down towards the highway. It aims to form a pristine green base to elevate and celebrate the building as a free-standing sculpture on the land. All Seasons Evergreen was used to achieve the faultless, manicured lawn necessary to form such a base. The only colours incorporated into the design are those from trees, grasses and gravel.
A natural rock outcrop occurred on the western portion of the site. This was excavated and additional rocks added to the natural rock outcrop to extend it and define the embankment. The mow edge ends in the rock outcrop and can be seen from the highway.
A detention pond on the eastern side of the site, amongst the veld grass, was designed by KSS Consulting Engineers and relates to the storm water catch pits on the highway. It was to stay within the main erf and its shape was aligned with the mow edge by Eksklusiewe Tuine. The strong triangular shape of the pond mirrors that of the building and it (the pond) is surrounded by seeded veld grass.
Maintenance is critical to ensure that the landscaping retains the same preciseness of the building’s sharp-edged design.
Curved rows of dumprock move towards the main entrance of the building in an off-centre pathway. The Acacia trees are simple and sculptural, like the building.
Triangular shaped detention pond and veldgrass on the outer perimeter of the site. The veldgrass forms a strong contrast with the manicured All Seasons Evergreen lawn.
Background to Waterfall City
Waterfall City is situated on the northern fringes of the Johannesburg Metro, closing the gap between Midrand, Woodmead, Sunninghill and Buccleuch.
A key feature of it is the “blend of stern religious conformity with commercial exploitation, which will channel profits to the education of underprivileged children.” It also endorses large-scale leasehold over freehold ownership, underlining the developers’ long-term commitment.
Waterfall City is located on property owned by Witwatersrand Estates Ltd, which was formed in 1934. The company was used as wealthy trader Moosa Ismail Mia’s vehicle to buy the 3000ha farm, Waterval, in the same year, because the Asiatics Tenure Act prevented him from owning property in his personal capacity.
He bought it as a charity on which to educate underprivileged children. All proceeds from the development will go to the Waterfall Islamic Institute, run by the Mia family.
They initially resisted developing the property because Muslim convention gives it holy status, prohibiting its sale.
The Mia family is devoutly religious and wealthy from large mining, retail and other business holdings.
The extended family lives on the property and their devotion to Islam has also determined that much of Waterfall City must make a contribution to the community. Sustainable development is also important to the family’s beliefs, according to spokesman Ibrahim Mia.
The project owes its existence to Werner van Rhyn, head of Property Management and Development, who first approached the Mia family six years ago to develop the land. The idea was initially rebuffed but van Rhyn persisted and slowly won the family’s trust and involvement in the planning of Waterfall City.
Text and photos by Karyn Richards, with article contributions from Cornelia King and Petronel Moolman
The information relating to Waterfall City was extracted from an article in the Financial Mail, February 2006, and has been used here with their permission. The authors are Ian Fife and Xolile Bhengu.