Island Club

Project Team
Developer: The Island Club/Rabie Property Projects JV
Construction Project Mgr: M On Site Project Managers
Architect: Mark Harries Architects
Landscape Architect: Planning Partners
Civil & Structural Engineer: De Villiers Sheard

Quantity Surveyor: Forsyth Vermeulen & Partners
Land Surveyor: David Hellig & Abrahamse
Landscape Contractor: Real Landscapes (Cape)
Palm Transplant Contractor: Fastfell
Irrigation Contractor: Cape Irrigation Systems
Main Contractor: Murray & Roberts

The Island Club is situated in the heart of Century City, Cape Town, surrounding two circular canals. A residential development, it is a short distance away from the Canal Walk shopping and entertainment complex, and the Mediterranean style apartment blocks are centered around two landscaped islands.

The brief to landscape architects Planning Partners was to create an oasis, an island paradise in an urban setting. Extending from this, the landscape design philosophy emerged as one which created protected outdoor spaces, mitigated harsh winds by dense tree planting and minimised the scale of the buildings, also by the planting of numerous large trees. The circular design of the islands also assists in creating a protected environment.

There are three components to the landscape design:

  • the canal edge (or public component);
  • semi-public areas (parking) which are required to be read as landscaping; and
  • private access to the island.

Water proved to be both an advantage and a disadvantage on the site. Because it is abundant, it is recycled (a stipulation of Century City), filtered several times and used as the main water supply for the project. No municipal water is used. The disadvantage is the fact that there is a high water table on the site, which creates problems during the wet winter months. Approximately 15 years ago, the area was a giant swamp invaded by alien plant species.

Landscape and building relationship

All the landscaping elements are placed along the Canal Walk axis and fit appropriately into the urban pattern. The landscape strengthens this and responds to it, for example large transplanted palms relate instantly to the scale of the project. Some existed previously on the site and were lifted, re-located to an on-site nursery during construction and transplanted back into the landscape. They form the structure of the project and are part of the entire Century City theme. The palm species that help to create a secluded area, sheltered from the prevailing winds, include Phoenix canariensis, P.dactylifera, P.reclinata and Washingtonia robusta.

The use of vertical elements such as gazebos and pergolas relate to the architectural form of the buildings, which although is mainly Mediterranean, also has a neo-Venetian character.

Soft landscaping and plant design

Plant material is mostly locally indigenous, but as the theme of the development is Mediterranean, exotics which are appropriate to the microclimate of the western Cape have been used. The soft landscaping is concentrated around the parking canal edges and on the islands themselves.

The brief for the plant design was to establish screening on top of berms and to introduce bright colour. Blues and yellows are prominent. Wind-tolerant and waterwise plants have been used, as well as reeds which are well-suited to water edges. Cynodon dactylon, an indigenous lawn, was chosen because of its waterwise properties and fine texture.

The planting is primary, intermediate and perennial and works by encompassing height, texture, colour and flowering types. Plants such as Plectranthus neochilus have been used as stabilisers on embankments.

The overall planting design is informal and has been effective in softening the hard architecture, hiding paving and canal edges, and covering retaining walls.

Hard landscaping

The garden was designed to be used by residents and hard landscaping items such as walkways, bridges and pools, are all connected by the garden. A continuous two metre wide pedestrian promenade provides access all the way around the development and is intended for walking or jogging. Low walls and benches along the pathway around the island encourage sitting and enjoying the lush greenness.

Water plays a prominent role at The Island Club. “It adds delight to the experience, appeals to the senses and creates memorable places,” says landscape architect Trevor Dix. Water features are both formal and informal. The two formal ones are Moorish in design, connecting with the Mediterranean style of the architecture.

The canals form the largest body of water and surround the densely landscaped islands. Timber bridges which cross the canals in several places have been designed so that paddle boats can move easily underneath them. The arched curves of the bridges compliment the rounded shapes of the canals which encircle the islands.

A water sloot in a semi-public landscape area has been turned into an attractive informal water feature surrounded by large boulders.

Moorish style formal water feature along the walkway. Its low wall encourages users to sit and enjoy the lush surroundings
A water sloot in a semi-public landscape area has been turned into an attractive feature

A trio of palm trees breaking the scale of the buildings

The repetitive use of circles is a connecting thread throughout the development


The irrigation system was installed by Cape Irrigation Systems and was designed to ensure100% coverage, as far as possible, of all landscaped areas.
Sprinklers were spaced at 85% of the recommended radius to ensure watering through the dense planting and to try and target water to specific areas due to the high wind conditions.

The system was designed with HDPE piping and static pop-up and shrub sprinklers only as the intricate detailing of the planters and landscaped areas provided limited options during the design stage.

The system is fed from the Century City wetland/canal treated water scheme and also has a potable water supply as a back-up source. Automation takes place via three control units to run parallel, ensuring a minimum watering window and simplifying future programming alterations.

In total, the system consists of 6700m HDPE SABS piping, 1650 static sprinklers, 70 solenoid valves and three controllers. Installation took place over an 18 month period and the project was divided into five phases.

Masterplan of The Island Club

Enhancing lifestyles

Bruce Plane of Rabie Property Projects says: “The integration of three elements – building, water and landscaping – brings a new type of energy to the urban lifestyle of The Island Club. The beauty of the surroundings has been achieved through attention to detail and the creation of interesting features by combining soft and hard landscaping elements. The overall effect draws the eye to focal points. In this age of expanding urbanism and densification, it becomes increasingly critical to use landscaping as a tool to enhance the quality of lifestyle, and in so doing, to reward the human spirit.”