Keiskamma waterfront

Project Team
Client and Developer: Intrax Investments
Landscape Architect: JJ Hosten Garden Design
Landscape and Building Contractor: Artistique Builders and Landscapers
Town Planners: Urban Dynamics, Middelburg

Gazebos serve as podiums for meetings and social gatherings

The Keiskamma Waterfront is an upmarket residential estate in Middleburg, Mpumalanga, catering to A-income group buyers. What is interesting about the project is the fact that the landscapingwas installed before any of the properties were marketed. The reason for this is to entice prospective home owners to buy into the development by presenting them with an established landscape theme which increases the value of the properties.


The two dams located in the centre of the site are smaller versions of the nearby Kruger Dam, the natural catchment dam of the area
Two pillars in the same material as the Roman arches frame the ‘source’ of the canal-like water feature


Landscape architect Johan Hosten formed his own brief for the project, together with the town planner and client, as he was brought into it in the early stages, therefore being able to suggest green corridors and proposing how the open spaces could be used to their best advantage. The site’s strong north/south and east/west axis draws people into the central open spaces and Hosten’s vision includes conservation and recreation areas (active and passive), children’s play areas and social entertainment nodes such as gazebos which function as gathering places with podiums for community meetings.All open spaces between the private residential properties have been developed into park or conservation areas.

The central open spaces feature dramatic entrances consisting of either ornate pillars or a series of arches “with a Roman look,” says Hosten. They are of brick, with a concrete sandstone cladding and serve as gates or portals which appear at every entrance to the site in order to emphasise the open spaces and invite people in. The arches, purely aesthetic, are structured and bold and form a tunnel walkway. They establish a sense of place for the project, framing and emphasising the vistas through to the main fountain located in the largest central dam. They also accentuate the views into the central park areas. From a design point of view, they accentuate the importance of the open spaces and provide a strong sense of rhythm.

The hardscaping of the project is dominant in both a structured and natural way and the Kruger Dam, adjacent to the site, sets the tone for water features on the property. These consist of two smaller dams in the centre of the site, from which very long, narrow, straight canals flow. The two dams are linked by a natural stream. Water is pumped from the Kruger Dam (which is the natural catchment dam of the area) to the highest point from where it flows through the entire site in alternating formal and informal modes of waterfalls, rapids, canals, streams and dams. The entire feature is almost one kilometre long and acts as a natural biofilter reticulation system. The water is also aerated and kept clean by a series of steps creating waterfalls along the canal. These steps, together with the white water streams and waterfalls, also create the pleasant sound of moving water which will be audible from most homes. Small circles protruding out at various points along the canal break its long, narrow structure. The idea is that most homes will front onto some form of water feature.

Another unique aspect of the project is that there are no straight roads, rather all are meandering and there is a full winding pedestrian route on both sides of the main road – this is used as a running and strolling path. The road reserve is unusually wide so as to resemble a park rather than a sidewalk.All these pathways are linked to the circular pedestrian routes inside the central open spaces so as to facilitate their active use.
Hosten specifically requested works of art to be part of the hard landscaping. A number of sculptures by Anton Smit are strategically located all over the site and serve as focal points and landmarks to guide vehicular and pedestrian traffic.


Community entertainment node
Art is part of the landscaping at the specific request of landscape architect Johan Hosten



Formal and informal water features in combination on the site
The Roman-style arches frame vistas and provide a sense of rhythm and place. They serve as gates or portals to the site



Plant groupings on slopes act as erosion controlling elements. Plant groupings on slopes act as erosion controlling elements.
This gazebo on a hill has a view over the dam and is reached via a pathway of logs



Waterside planting along the canal
Canal-type water structure with steps which create pleasant sound and keep the water clean. The curves of the Roman arches (left) connect with the circular theme in the design of the project and its water features


Soft landscaping and green spaces

The following are key points of the soft landscaping:

• there was no specific planting design theme and because the areais very cold, windy and prone to frost, landscape contractor HanlieGordon looked at what was available from the supplied planting listto suit the site conditions;
• the soft landscaping combines informal planting with formal avenues;
• a sidewalk on the outside of the property is a patchwork of colourin the form of indigenous material, planted in triangular shapes whichfollow patterns on the exterior walls;
• steep slopes have been stabilised by natural rock rather thanretaining walls, combining an aesthetic and engineering approach;• although the hard landscaping is presently dominant, this will bebalanced out when thetrees are bigger;
• Hosten’s entire approach was to ensure that the landscaping did nothave an urban feel to it and the open spaces assist in attaining this;
• he tried to satisfy different buyers by designing different plantingthemes of exotic and indigenous material, linked by the use ofcolour and blending natural shapes with more formal planting. Thisechoed the hard landscaping approach;
• waterside planting features strongly, as do trees that enjoy water;
• different plant groupings on steep slopes act as erosion controllingelements, for example Convulvulus and Erigeron between the rocks;
• some plants have a screening effect (adjacent to homes, passiverecreational areas and children’s play areas) and others have beenused to define spaces (sense of enclosure);
• a savanna area with indigenous grasses has been seeded with RyeGrass and fast-growing pioneer species; veldgrasses were establishedby hydroseeding;
• organic materials used include logs, rock and gravel;
• open, larger lawn areas can be used for active recreation such as ballplay, social functions etc;
• a ‘forest’ section has been created on a hill, moving down towardsthe dam. A gazebo on the hill with a view over the dam is reachedvia a pathway of logs and gravel;
• a path goes down the other side of the hill and two sections of lawnare communal and play areas;
• the created forest is a relaxation area which imitates an actual foreston the opposite side of the Kruger Dam.

Team work

For Hanlie Gordon, the most rewarding aspect of the project was seeing it come together. “Johan’s design was good to work to and it was satisfying to see how everything fell into place, especially since there were so many different elements involved, such as the formal canals, natural rock, open areas and arches. It is a visual and physical experience to move through the finished project.”
It is the combination of all these elements of hard and soft landscaping which contain the site and bring it together, ensuring that the ultimate goal of the project was reached, namely a spirit and a sense of place in which people would want to invest and live.

Text by Karyn Richards

Photos courtesy of JJ Hosten Garden Design and Artistique Builders and Landscapers

Return to the top of Keiskamma waterfront