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SALI BRONZE: Cape Town International Airport

This project was awarded a Bronze Badge in the 2020 SALI Awards of Excellence.
Let’s look back 10 years to how it all happened.

Cape Town International Airport – First Impressions made beautiful through trees.


It was a proud moment in the country when South Africa won the bid to host the 2010 FIFA World Cup. Various upgrades were planned to get the cities “fan-ready” and Cape Town had to put out all the stops. The Airport is the first impression of the City and it was important to give it a bit of a face lift before the World Cup. 


Real Landscapes which is a division of Servest Pty Ltd was the successful tenderer of the soft landscaping tender known as CT 10/10/AB: Landside Soft Landscape Works. The Landscape Architects from EPLA and Viridian nominated Trees SA as the Mandatory Sub Contractor (MSC) for the delivery of trees, planting and 12 months maintenance on site. It was confirmed that Trees SA was therefore responsible to deliver the trees to site, and plant and maintain them under the conditions agreed with the appointed Main Contractor.

“A total of 210 mature trees were supplied, delivered and installed within 2 months and all trees were monitored for a year afterwards to ensure they establish in the new environment. This was all done through Trees SA.”

Photos from 2011 below.

Working in such an extreme public space, came with many obstacles. To name a few…

  • Tight timeframe – we could not delay the project because the FIFA 2010 World Cup was already awarded and set to start in June 2010. Our contract with Real Landscapes was only signed in April 2010 which left us with only 2 months to install 210 mature trees before the World Cup started.
  • Traffic accommodation and public space – having to work in a very public and busy space of Cape Town required careful planning and collaboration with city officials. 
  • Very poor sandy soil with limited nutrients – The Airport is located on the Cape Flats which has very sandy soil and windy conditions. Only very hardy tree species are suitable to grow in these conditions. The sandy soil also meant that a lot of soil preparation was required to ensure the compost is properly mixed with the soil on site.
  • After tree installations, the roads were also worked on and some of the old tar ended up in the planters – as you can imagine, this caused a lot of damage to the trees’ health.
  • After tree installations, the client also filled up the planters with extra topsoil that caused tree suffocation.
We are proud to say that we overcame all these obstacles and 10 years later, the airport is looking spectacular and the trees are thriving!

Photos from 2019 below.



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