Old Mutual Properties commissioned the largest Shopping Centre in the Southern Hemisphere at the time. The Gateway Theatre of Shopping or more fondly referred to as Gateway is located in Umhlanga, a once sleepy town, just north of Durban, in KwaZulu-Natal. Construction commenced on 3 March 1998 and the mall officially opened in September 2001.
GBI was enlisted for the design and installation of all soft landscaping of 55000 sq meters. Foresight of the client allowed enough lead time to propagate materials required for the project, even to the extent of creating its own compost from waste from surrounding areas.
The Centre has a central hub with extensions at 45 degrees to both sides. Vehicular access from two diverse approaches enabled a bank of parking on the south east side and a visually inspiring palm court leading to a great hall.
The Great Halls are lined with 20 massive multi- stemmed Bamboo palms. These palms were individually sourced throughout Durban and carefully rigged into position at Gateway
The Palm Court is the main entrance to the Great Halls and shopping malls.
16 Stately 10 meter high Royal palms were planted on either side of a lily pond which leads up to the cascading pot fountain.
At the heart of the Centre is a courtyard that is over looked by the Centre management.
Here a lush retreat was created for staff to relax and enjoy a quiet moment.
The landscaping around the outdoor surf arena and skate park included thick lush boundary planting, an avenue of palms, large shade trees and lawn areas.
In order to increase natural light and boost the Centre ambience natural light and planting were requested inside the Centre. The limited amount of light dictated the species of plants that could survive in the arcades.
A two hectare nursery was established on site to propagate the enormous quantities of plant material required for this project. Half a million groundcovers, bulbs and shrubs were propagated in 12 months.
The plants were watered and fertilized by a fully automated irrigation system.
Under permit from the Natal Parks Board, various indigenous bulbs and forest ferns were successfully propagated. Many Clivias and Arum lilies were also grown.
A 1000 sq meter shade house was constructed to grow all the indoor and shade loving plants
The main groundcovers propagated, which were to form a common denominator throughout the site were Ophiopogon jaburan and japonicus. They were chosen for their plain green, lush, grass-like foliage which would create an all-year-round low maintenance green carpet.
4000 cubic meters of compost were prepared on site.
All the raw material was delivered to site where it was mixed and tipped into wind rows to mature.
Once the waterproofing was completed the huge palms were rigged into position, and the planter opening was closed with concrete.
The 16 Royal palms in the Palm Court were individually rigged into their final position.
The 10 meter high specimens weighed up to 6 tons and were carefully placed, according to specific grid lines, so that the palms would eventually tie in with the paving patterns.
55 000 sq meters of external landscaping was graded and prepared with compost and fertilizer prior to the planting.
The standards of the landscaping contributed immensely to the financial success of this project.
The Gateway Theatre of Shopping is home to almost all of South Africa's most well know retail stores as well as many major international brands. Gateway sees more than two million visitors per month.
Originally a sugar cane plantation, the establishment of the Gateway Theatre of Shopping on the site has led to the development of a new Town Centre as well as various commercial and residential developments within the area.
It was an honour to be involved in such an amazing project, the biggest shopping precinct in the Southern Hemisphere, it pushed our propagation and landscape design skills to the next level and afforded us the opportunity to put into practice some new and exciting methods of developing landscapes.