Building? Plan your land

Private Property South Africa
Martin Hatchuel

So you’re building a new house: you’ve appointed your architects and an engineer, and the last thing you need is the cost of another professional, right?

Well, it depends. How well do you want this house of yours to work?

Cape Town-based landscape architect Peter Dayson lives by the headline on his blog: “A landscape is a work in progress … forever”.

Peter qualified at the University of Pretoria in 1976, and practiced in Johannesburg for 18 years before moving to Cape Town, where he continues to serve both domestic and corporate clients - so he speaks with authority when he says that the landscape architect is possibly one of the most important consultants on any new building project.

Unique assessment

“Landscape architects are uniquely trained to assess site conditions, and to relate the house to the piece of ground in terms of levels, orientation, and so on.

“While architects are concerned with interior spaces and the aesthetics of the exterior of the buildings, landscape architects are concerned with siting the buildings correctly - both to achieve an integral flow between interior and exterior spaces, and to ensure that the house and garden work sensitively together with the site.”

A good landscape architect, he said, will have a broad knowledge of structure in the landscape.

Different to a garden contractor

“A garden contractor will help you with the soft elements of the garden (the lawns, planting, trees, and so on) but the landscape architect brings a wider perspective to bear, and will concern him- or herself with aspects of the garden that need detailed planning - like earthworks, paving, swimming pools, water features (ponds, rills, dams, fountains), and so on.

“Also, the landscape architect will help you save money by using the building contractor to complete the structural work in the landscape (those water features, walls, and so on) which will often mean that you won’t have to bring in specialists during the landscape installation.”

Peter said that one of the things that surprised him most when he first began working in Cape Town was the need to know about soil conditions, and the types of plants that grow on the different soils found there.

“You can plant anything you like in the rich, red earth of the Highveld, but here you’ll often find different soil types on a single plot of land.

Technical knowledge

“This kind of technical knowledge makes an enormous difference when it comes to selecting the correct plants for the site, and for creating a sustainable garden that will require as little maintenance as possible - or at least for pointing your maintenance energies in the right direction.”

Above all, he said, his blog’s mantra will inform the landscape architect’s decisions in the planning and execution of your project.

“When you’re building or renovating your home and garden, it’s natural to want to use your money as wisely as possible: having a landscape architect on board from the start will ensure that you do that both during the construction phase, and for many years afterwards,” said Peter.

Contact Peter Dayson on, or visit his blog:

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