Umhlanga Campus

The Umhlanga Brand Campus in KwaZulu Natal is a facility which houses three motor dealerships: Mercedes-Benz, Chrysler Jeep and Mitsubishi. The project is situated at Gateway Office Park on a five hectare landscaped site which falls within the Morelands development area of La Lucia Ridge. All Moreland developments have to conform to their design guidelines, including the landscape and hard surface treatments.

The landscape brief called for different identities for each motor dealership, as follows: a European experience for Mercedes-Benz, an outdoor African experience for Mitsubishi and an American prairie experience for Chrysler Jeep. The main criterion was visibility, therefore no high planting was undertaken along the frontages of the buildings.

Mercedes landscape

The key words for this dealership are European, German precision, manicured and disciplined and the landscape is geometric with simple lines, which over time will create a classic, formal garden. Duranta ‘Sheena’s Gold’ and Carissa macrocarpa ‘Dwarf’ have been planted to create the framework of the structured garden, with Ficus benjamina placed within 4.0m high stainless frames to create vertical green columns. Murraya exotica creates hedging at the entrance and around the formal external seating area which is shaped and aligned with white marble lines extending from the building’s entrance through to the seating area. The cobbled road surface around Mercedes Benz picks up the colours in the building and emphasises the modern, clean design.

Mitshubishi landscape

The key words for this dealership are African safari, rough textures and organic. Mitsubishi’s landscape is informal, with boldness being evident in the massing of certain indigenous plants, and texture and colour strengthening the African identity. The informal rock sweeps/rivers running through the asphalt have allowed the landscape to meet the building by the ‘rock rivers’ becoming informal Aloe chabaudi features. This resembles a beautiful sea of coral when the Aloes are in flower and the embankment is further covered by Gazania spp, Mesembs, Barleria obtusa and Aloe thraskii. The external seating area is formal and has been landscaped with Euphoria ingens and Acacia xanthophloea, interplanted with cacti, grasses and Gazanias.

Chrysler Jeep landscape

The key words for this dealership are America, forest and colour. The landscape area was very limited and most planting was established within the arrival court and parking areas. Grass-like plants such as Thamnocortus insignis and Chondropetalum tectorum, infused with forests of Celtis africana have been planted, creating a prairie landscape. Colour has been introduced with variegated leaves and flowering day lilies. The external seating area is framed with Princess palms underplanted with Dietes grandiflora, Chondropetalum, Philodendrons and day lilies. The surrounding paving reflects the art-deco geometry of the building.

Common area landscape

The outdoor experience of the campus has been dramatised by the strong identity of the traffic circles between the dealerships and landscape and road surfaces merge by extending the concentric circles from the road into the landscape. The road circles are formed by alternating red brick paving and cast in-situ concrete rings. This geometry has been taken into the landscape by planting Zoysia and Strelitzia juncea concentrically. Large 3.0m high, well formed Dracaena draco, which are about 40 years old, have been positioned in these circles as icon plants, giving form and sculpture.

Stock parking landscape

Stock parking at the back of the development had to conform to Moreland’s policy of visually softening large expanses of parking. This has been achieved by covering a percentage of the parking with permanent shade structures that have a built-in frame to allow climbers to grow onto them. The following climbers were specified: Combretum microphyllum, C. bracteosum, Rhoicissus tomentosa, Senecio deltoides, Podranea ricasoliana and Tinospora caffra.

Landscape installation

The site, steep, exposed and windy, was originally part of Tongaat Hulett’s sugar cane fields which was subsequently designated ro retail development. As a result, the soils (Berea red) were poor and depleted and massive retaining walls were required for stabilisation.

“Brands Campus was a typical fast-track project with tight deadlines, and we worked under scaffolding with all other contractors on site at the same time, carrying out the earthworks, mounding, shaping and adding topsoil and compost,” says Terry van der Riet of Real Landscapes KZN. However despite this, he says, landscape architects Uys and White were on site a great deal of the time and were very hands-on with the project. This was extremely beneficial.

The soft planting is a mixture of indigenous and exotic materials, formal in front of the three dealerships and informal at the backs and sides.

“What I find really effective about this project are the asphalt driveways which have been made to resemble sweeps of rock and rivers, like jagged fjords winding through the roads. Similar to rumble strips, they run from one landscape to the next, breaking up the vast, hard expanses of asphalt and creating points of interest. The landscaping in general has responded very well to the respective dealerships,” says van der Riet.

Natural quarry rocks were brought onto the site and used within the Aloe areas to provide the appropriate atmosphere.

Road circles and landscaping merging. The circles are formed by alternatingred brick paving and cast in-situ concrete rings. Well-formed Dracaena draco are positioned in the circle as icon plants, giving form and sculpture.

Over time, the Mercedes landscape will create a classic, structured gardenAloe chabaudii in front of the Mitsubishi dealership. The boldness is evident from the massing of indigenous plants, with texture and colour strengthening the African identity.


An automated irrigation system was designed by Stewarts and Lloyds in Cape Town and installed by SBS Irrigation.

Spray series emitters are coupled with matched precipitation rate nozzles. The possibility of future extensions to the system made the selection of a suitable control system a challenging one. A control system with the capacity to expand beyond the confines of a conventional controller was needed and an MDC decoder-based control system was chosen as it allows for a single controller to operate up to 200 solenoids. Decoders are essentially simple and reliable switching stations, working just like conventional controllers but they are buried underground, away from the elements.

A simple wiring configuration keeps the cost of installation and maintenance low. Decoders use a single two-wire path which connects to the MDC controller. Each solenoid valve has its own address and this enables the MDC to differentiate and activate each valve independently. Software is shipped along with the controller and together with the MDC’s built-in modem, allows for remote programming and monitoring through any standard dial-up connection. This technology has been used extensively in Europe for some time and decoder systems are quickly gaining popularity in the South African commercial market.

For SBS Irrigation, the most challenging aspect of the project was the installation of 230 static sprinklers along the extent of an almost vertical block retaining wall approximately 250 metres in length. Trenching conditions were difficult, especially along the top of the wall where the area in which work had to be carried out was very confined. Safety harnesses and equipment were used in accordance with current legislation.

Static sprinklers along this almost vertical retaining wall made the irrigation challenging. Sprinkler spacing allowed for an even rain curtain down the face of the wall. The same wall, covered by planting

As the wall was to be planted, even coverage was required across the entire face of the wall and the design was based on LIA specifications.

The area was divided into five zones, with a flow rate of 10 cubic litres per hour at 2.1 bar. Sprinklers were split into two levels, one along the top terrace of the 25m high wall and another series installed on the lower terrace, about two thirds of the way down. Side strip nozzles were installed on 600 mm risers by means of a poly-type male and female elbow with a shrub connector. The riser pipe was installed horizontally, protruding approximately 150mm over the edge of the wall. Swing-pipe was used to connect each riser t the HDPE lateral line in order to obtain the flexibility required. Sprinklers were spaced at 4.5 metre intervals, allowing for an even rain curtain down the face of the wall.

The area is controlled by a six-station field decoder linked to the MDC control unit located in the guard house. As power was not immediately available at the time of completion, battery operated controllers were installed temporarily to ensure that irrigation of the new plant material could begin without delay and assist with plant establishment.

Information supplied by Uys & White Landscape Architects, Real Landscapes KZN, Stewarts & Lloyds and SBS Irrigation. Photos courtesy of Uys & White and SBS Irrigation