Ramping up and sitting down

Local retaining block facilitates pedestrian traffic and offers informal seating at a new public transport centre in Athlone.

Strategically situated at the intersection of the N2 and Vanguard drive, this “one stop shop for public transport and vehicle related issues”is a first in South Africa. A R100 million provincial government initiative, it will allow taxi drivers to apply for their permits (temporary and permanent), motorists to renew vehicle and drivers licences and will house a new Public Transport Operating Entity (OPTE). A CCTV Control Room will be able to monitor Cape Town’s traffic flow focusing especially on taxis and buses, ensuring effective control of the city’s public transport system.

The centre will benefit all Cape Town residents and will especially uplift housing values in the immediate vicinity. Combined with the existing Vanguard Mall next door, the centre effectively creates a growth point of modernity in Athlone, the early stages of which are already visible to the south of the mall.

Another advantage, which will be highly appreciated by the taxi commuters, is the envisaged introduction of a cashless “Smart T”(T for transport) card system, which will render the troublesome taxi “guards” obsolete.

The Vangate commercial development to the east of the site has set up a number of urban design informants including a sense of scale and a primary pedestrian friendly activity spine in a west/east configuration. The site currently forms an anchor to this pedestrian spine and establishes a key focal point and anchor presence on the eastern edge of the site. The implication was therefore the establishment of a civic presence at grade on the east edge of the site.

To accomplish this goal, MDL, in association with Jakupa Architects & Urban Designers, planned a raised forecourt and ground level that allows for natural ventilation to the semi-basement level, creates a flow of traffic between the large entrance hall and parking area, but also allows for “spectator” seating for informal netball played after hours, on a paved parking square.

With this in mind, the forecourt was designed as a combination of retaining structures to serve as ramps, stairways and informal seating, as well as to facilitate the large number of people expected to pass through the centre. These were constructed with two Terraforce products, namely the L18 retaining blocks to provide the risers for the seating areas, and the 4×4 step block for the stairs, seats and the matching details around the column bases. In total, 1700 4×4 Step blocks and 800 L18 blocks were used to complete the installation.

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