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Biophilic building with cascading plants for Cape Town CBD

Biophilic building with cascading plants for Cape Town CBD

by Sharon Sorour-Morris
30 September 2021

A striking new development – Africa’s first biophilic building – is set to redefine the Cape Town Central City skyline, promote sustainability and clean living and elevate Bree Street’s residential offering.

Aptly called The Fynbos, the development in Upper Bree St, is being described as “the first truly living structure on the continent” and will buy into key sustainability features to enable it to gain Green Star certification from the Green Building Council.

The development, which will have 698 apartments over 24 floors, aims to integrate nature into a sterile, urban setting, The Fynbos has been conceived and designed by experts wanting to regenerate the city landscape: add a botanist, sustainability expert and landscaper to the usual team of architects, interior designers and the like. As the website explains: “A philosophy of learning informs all aspects of the design.”

The exterior of the building, designed for high-density living, will come alive with 30 species of trees and 20 species of shrub to produce a green veil that will combine “striking beauty with high functionality”. The specialist team is led by Donovan Gillman, who has been growing plants “in difficult African locations” for 45 years.

The cantilevered balconies – which allow for rainwater harvesting – are staggered to increase shading, reducing the need for air-conditioning. Tastefully integrated PV solar panels will utilise the maximum coverage allowed by the building’s footprint to generate double the electricity quota needed to power the communal areas – with energy savings passed down to the owners through reduced levies.


The Fynbos joins The Barracks heritage development further down the road in offering micro-units that start just under the R1-million mark. The apartments comprise luxury studio, one- and two-bedroom units ranging in size from 24-85 m².

Prices range from R890 000 upwards for a studio apartment (total size ranging from 24-40 m²), R1.36 million upwards for a one-bedroom unit (total size ranging from 34-58 m²), and R4.92 million upwards for a two-bedroom apartment (total size ranging from 82 m²).

Communal spaces include a rooftop fitness centre, rooftop sunset terrace with a lap pool and a co-working space, a 24-hour concierge and on-site basement parking. Each unit will have integrated planters and will have its own mini “garden”.

At street level, the retail offering will include a plant-based restaurant, a tea room, specialist herbalist, a botanical bar, and an organic market run by Justin Bonello.


The development’s vertical garden, the feature that will set it apart from other residential offerings in the CBD, will cover a staggering 1 200 m².

The developers say its success will rest on the configuration of plants and the highly technical water system, “both which are inspired by nature, informed by global best practice and backed by research, testing and protocols”.

Gillman and his specialist team of technical botanists are perfectly placed to pull it off: “Together they have the right contacts, knowledge, experience and global awareness to bring the concept to life.”

Indigenous to the Cape, each plant has been hand-picked for its aesthetic and its resilience to create a look that is “green, leafy, and geometric.”

“The schematic for how the plants are placed across the structure follows the working in-situ example of Table Mountain with trees at the base and lower profile shrubs and cascading plants towards the top. Inside views are tidy and neat, while outside the canopy drapes the entire building.”


IMAGES: Marius Swart Visual Studio, ThinkLAB, Corné von Bratt

Tags: Cape Town CBD development Bree St development residential units in the Cape Town CBD property development fynbos urban regeneration in the Cape Town CBD