The Victoria & Alfred (V&A) Waterfront in Cape Town is one of the world’s top waterfronts, and one of South Africa’s major tourist attractions.
When I took these photos in late 2010, Auckland had its Viaduct Harbour and Princes Wharf, but Queen’s Wharf was still closed to the public, and the first stages of Wynyard Quarter were at least six months away from opening. We’ve come a long way in the last three years, and Auckland’s waterfront will keep improving as Wynyard (and other areas) continue to develop.
Table Mountain is visible from most parts of Cape Town (well, the parts that tourists go to at least), and provides an impressive backdrop when looking back towards the city from the V&A. Please excuse the photobombing seagull.
There’s a good night-time shot of this office building on Wikipedia.
Trees are often lacking in waterfront settings, but can add some real warmth and colour, and help to make spaces seem less artificial. I’m pleased to see that Wynyard Quarter is getting a better dose of plant life than Princes Wharf and Viaduct before it.
A stage for performances and cultural displays is always popular; when I was there, the Diwali festival was on.
Cruise ships, charter yachts, and working vessels rub shoulders in their berths: the V&A Waterfront, like Auckland’s one, is a working waterfront, with a major port nearby.
The V&A Waterfront is also home to a major shopping centre, Victoria Wharf, which is strongly oriented towards tourists, and includes a large number of high-end and luxury retailers. And a Canterbury of New Zealand store, funnily enough. Jimmy Choo was selling shoes for NZD $2,000 or $3,000; I don’t think I was the target market. Eating and drinking, though, was a bit easier to afford, and allowed for more of an interface between the inside and outside of the shopping centre.
The photo below shows well-utilised public seating along the water’s edge, and an admittedly uninspiring part of the shopping centre.
There are useful parallels for Auckland; while Wynyard Quarter won’t have as strong a retail focus (based on the master plan for the area), it does incorporate a significant amount of public space amongst what will eventually be plenty of private space – apartments, offices etc. With the bars and restaurants in the various waterfront precincts, Auckland is already spoilt for choice.
I haven’t shown many shots of the private space at the V&A Waterfront (apartments, hotels etc), because I didn’t really visit it. I understand that it’s more separated than we would expect here; a symptom of South Africa’s higher crime rates, and residents’ and guests’ need to feel secure in their home environments. Or the massive divide between the haves and the have nots, if you prefer.
The private and public spaces at Wynyard Quarter are much more integrated than this, although of course the apartments and hotels will be top-end, and there will still be some degree of separation. Although Auckland developments like The Parc and Lighter Quay are more separated than the norm, they still relate to the street, and you can walk right up to them. In South Africa, you’d expect to have fences and armed security guards between you and luxury apartments!
There’s some fascinating background on V&A Waterfront here, written by the waterfront’s former Executive Manager – Planning & Development. The article talks about the V&A’s history, how it was financed, its design principles and international context, and it’s recommended reading for anyone who is interested in large-scale, master planned development.
Fifteen years ago, those who lobbied for what is today Cape Town’s Victoria and Alfred Waterfront were regarded as idealistic dreamers. When the V&A Waterfront Company was formed and work started in 1989, most Capetonians said ‘it will never happen’. Today, the project receives 22 million visitors annually and commercially it has been one of South Africa’s biggest real estate success stories.