A1 Grand Prix, Durban

The landscape design is contemporary and is based on a strong Zen theme, with various landscaping elements forming a blend of textures.


A1 Grand Prix, Durban

Rorke Shirley of Signature Designs and Jo-Anne Hilliar of Jo-Anne Hilliar Landscape Design Consultants were contracted to design and install the temporary landscaping for the international areas of the A1 Grand Prix held in Durban in January 2006.

The area covered the team offices as well as the team dining marquee and most importantly, the Pangaea Club Marquee, from which VIP’s and team bosses watch the race and entertain their invited guests. The focal point of the installation was both sides of the red carpet, on the approach into the Pangaea Club.


Project Team
Main Client: A1 Grand Prix Hospitality
Sub Client: Chattels Event Management
Project management: Jo-Anne Hilliar Landscape Design Consultants
Landscape Design and Installation: Signature Designs

As this was a fast track project, Rorke and Jo-Anne presented a full landscape plan with costings to the client, just three working days after receiving the brief, and their proposal was accepted 10 minutes after their presentation! Work was scheduled to start almost immediately, allowing them only eight working days to procure material, establish the site and get specialist items manufactured and delivered on time. All this had to be carried out with numerous other contractors on site, providing services such as electrical, plumbing, catering and large screens, not to mention the contractors trying to finish the actual track in time!
Says Rorke: “There were three other contenders that we knew of, also vying for the project, and it is worth mentioning that our costing proposal was approximately four times more than the client’s initial budget for the project. This goes to show that if you are confident in your abilities and you give the client a thorough presentation of what you intend to do, the budget can always be stretched!”

Site location

The site was positioned on a grassed area adjacent to the ablution facilities along Snell Parade. It is on the sea side of the race track, known as Battery Beach. As it was very uneven, approximately 30 cubic metres of media had to be brought in to obtain the necessary levels to match those of the floor of the double decker marquee. On the site were a few Cocos nucifera palm trees, scraggly beach aloes (A.thraskii), as well as a beautiful specimen of Euphorbia ingens which was incorporated into the design.

Brief and design philosophy

The client was not exactly sure what he wanted, but his brief called for a design that was visually appealing, with pebbles and stones. Rorke and Jo-Anne took these comments as a starting point on which to build their proposal and were provided with a CAD outlay of the position of the marquees and general landscape areas.
The design is contemporary and is based on a strong Zen theme, with various hardscaping elements forming a blend of textures which provides an uncluttered but visually appealing display.
Two water features on either side of the walkway were the focal elements from which two bands of pebbles emanated, leading the eye towards the features from both the entrance and exit side of the walkway. These two bands ‘returned’ on themselves and were anchored by three shot-blasted concrete balls of varying diameters. The A1 Grand Prix logo also featured prominently in the display and was represented in brushed aluminium. It was adjacent to the pathway and set in the small white pebbles.

Temporary landscaping

Temporary landscaping is very different from permanent landscaping in that the material that goes into the design has to be in perfect condition and look as natural as possible, as if it had been growing there for years. Material had to be packed in to fill up all the spaces, which meant that normal planting densities of 6-8 groundcovers per square metre very easily became 20-30 groundcovers per square metre to bulk up the planting area. Material that would fulfill these requirements was therefore used.
Material is usually “planted” into a media while still in bags but for this project it was necessary to try and hide the plant bags without making it appear obvious that this was done . “The old trick of using hessian in front of the bags just doesn’t cut it any more and we tried to raise the planting areas so that we could actually ‘plant’ the bag, thereby avoiding having to mound media up against the front of the bag to hide it,” says Rorke.
Another factor to consider was the amount of time that the landscape would be on display and it was therefore possible to use material that would generally be unsuitable for a more permanent landscape. Hence the use of clear glass tubes and coloured gel, with pure white stones which would otherwise discolour in a permanent feature, or require a great deal of maintenance.
Temporary landscaping provided Rorke and Jo-Anne the opportunity to experiment with new materials and textures and very often, things that were unthought of as landscape elements previously have found their way into more permanent features, with some slight modifications. In this regard, temporary design can be seen as fairly cutting edge in the industry, as clients are often apprehensive or unwilling to experiment with new ideas. Temporary or exhibition landscapes give designers an opportunity to showcase new ideas.

Soft landscaping and planting scheme.

The following plant material was used as a backdrop to the hard landscaping elements on both sides of the pathway. Chlorophytum saundersii (was Anthirricum saundersii), Felicia ameliodes, Freylinea tropicana, Ophiopogon jaburan, Ficus nitida (standard), Crassula ovata, Aloe thraskii.
Planting was also placed in a small circle of paving around which golf carts dropped off guests at the Pangaea marquee. Although plant material was only used as a backdrop, it was still important for it to convey the chosen theme. When shown off against a bamboo screen, it further heightened the quasi-oriental design and anchored the large Euphorbia, providing more substance (to the design). The Freylinea was also used to provide a screen and hide the air conditioning units to the side of the marquee, along with Ficus nitida standards in large fiberglass pots.
No irrigation was necessary due to the short amount of time that the plants were on display, but they were watered every morning to ensure that they remained lush and did not wilt.
When it was time to remove everything after the event, it was necessary to ensure that the area looked like it did before the landscapers came onto site. With this in mind, the entire area under construction was covered with bidum cloth to prevent mixing the media and stones with the underlying sand and grass.

Hard landscaping

The water features had eight nozzles of water that shot out from an opening in the aluminium ‘leaves’, and were set to fill the glass cylinders in the centre of the pond (two nozzles per cylinder). The tall central cylinder did not have water shooting into it, and instead contained various tones of coloured water and crushed glass decoratively displayed inside it. The remaining five cylinders also contained a decorative element, but to a lesser extent. The entire sump of the feature was buried under the pebbles, allowing only the water shooting out to be seen. It then fell back, disappearing between the pebbles again.

From a technical perspective, the feature worked off an octagonal ring main of 32mm class 6 PVC pipe, with adjustable 6mm clear water brass nozzles pushing the water in an arc to the centre of the feature. The ring main ensured that the nozzles each produced the same pressure so that individual adjustments (on each nozzle) were not necessary. The feature was run off a single 6 000l/h submersible pump. The smooth brass nozzles ensured that the stream of water was clean and held its shape for the majority of its arc without distorting. The water features also contained an auto top-up device, which meant that any water splashing out or evaporating during the day was quickly replenished.
The balance of the hardscaping consisted of river pebbles in midnight blue which formed a curving line from the water features and along the red carpet, separating a band of brown duzi gravel at the back from crushed white limestone in the front. This crushed limestone further highlighted the red carpet.

Successful synergies

Rorke Shirley says that he and Jo-Anne brought the different aspects of landscaping and business management to this project. Jo-Anne took on the administrative “behind the scenes” role, ensuring that deposits were paid on time, checking that everything ran smoothly, liaising with the clients and ensuring that they were satisfied. He concentrated more on the overall design and procurement side of the project, as well as the management of the installation on site.
“With the responsibility shared, we were able to concentrate more on our specific tasks in order to achieve the end goal with very little stress and ‘eleventh houring’. When a project is under such tight deadlines, it’s comforting knowing that you have professionals working in their particular areas with the same end goal in mind. This ensured that the project succeeded right from the beginning,” he concluded.

Pangaea Club layout plan


The project received a gold award in the 2006 SALI Awards of Excellence. It was entered in the category of specialised landscape construction.


Information supplied by Rorke Shirley and Jo-Anne Hilliar. Photos by Rorke Shirley