Luthuli Plaza in Cape Town, named after South African Nobel Peace Prize winner, Albert Luthuli, was built to connect the transport hub where people catch taxis, trains and busses to the Artscape precinct, but today it is mostly unused.
With a vision of transforming the dreary, grey plaza into a cultural hotspot in town, LOLA Landscape Architects, in collaboration with bamboo building guru Olav Bruin of Nomadic Resorts and Hydroponics Nederland, designed a Dome of Plants as the centrepiece of an urban public garden that starts at the Cape Town taxi rank and ends at Artscape. This innovative idea was presented by Peter Veenstra, landscape architect and partner at LOLA, at the recent Design Indaba Festival.

A shell covered with plants
Centrally positioned on Luthuli Plaza, the 20m wide and 15m high open-shell structure will be constructed of mainly biological materials (bamboo, wood and plants), and will be covered with beautiful indigenous vegetation such as fynbos, as well as air-purifying plants, forming a sphere-shaped botanical garden.

Underneath the vegetated shelter there is 175m² of indoor space featuring a stage and podium. Intended to offer an inviting garden-like space for urban encounters, this will provide space for discussions, events, workshops, exhibitions, meetings, lunch or a quick coffee outside the big institutions, accessible for everyone.

The front elevation of the dome. Courtesy of LOLA

Watering the green dome
Cognisant of the water crisis that Cape Town is facing now and in the future, the design is water-neutral. The plants that make up the green dome as well as the extended garden will be watered by a system designed to filter, purify and re-use urine and waste water.

A diagram indicating the different uses of the dome. Courtesy of LOLA

Why a dome?
LOLA Landscape Architects points out that all over the world architects and enthusiasts are building domes, from tiny houses to airport-sized biodomes. “This trend appeals to the need for protection in its simplest form – a shell that divides the outside world from a protected interior one, a communal bubble.”

However, the one disadvantage often associated with domes is that they exclude the exterior much more than any other form of architecture. But in this case, Cape Town’s moderate climate allows creating a half-open membrane rather than a closed surface, creating a more open and inviting structure, appearing as a half-transparent hanging garden. At night it will cast a mysterious green glow on Luthuli Plaza.

A visual of the dome installed on Luthuli Plaza and the external surroundings. Courtesy of LOLA

A sustainable icon
With its position in the city, the bold and lush appearance, the innovative construction and application of technology, and its minimal ecological footprint, the Dome of Plants is envisioned as a sustainable icon for the city.

If approved by the City of Cape Town, the project is set for completion by February 2019.

Full thanks and acknowledgement are given to LOLA Landscape Architects and Design Indaba for the information provided.

Caption main image: A visual picturing the inside of the dome.
Courtesy of LOLA
For more articles on innovation, download your free magazine on www.freemagazines.co.za or sign up for our newsletter: http://www.buildinganddecor.co.za/register/.