Chris Mulder is no stranger to winning awards. In his illustrious career, Dr Mulder – together with his team from CMAI Architects – has won numerous awards from US and South African professional associations and universities since he founded the firm in 1980.
It comes then as no surprise that the latest honour to befall Dr Mulder is a nod from what can only be described as the Oscars of landscape architecture – the Sir Geoffrey Jellicoe Award.
This award, the highest honour that the International Federation of Landscape Architects can bestow on someone, recognises only the top three living landscape architects whose lifetime achievements and contributions have had a unique and lasting impact on the welfare of society and the environment.
Now in its 10th year, this is the first time that someone from South Africa, and more importantly, Africa, has been nominated as one of the final three nominees.
An achievement that should not be taken lightly, the honour is also well deserved, taking into account the considerable achievements and impact of Dr Mulder’s ongoing work in the South African landscape over almost four decades.
Among them are the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden master plan, the master plan designs of Pezula Golf Estate and Belvidere Estate in Knysna, and Banyan Tree Hotel in the Seychelles, as well as a myriad sustainable rural agri-residential property developments all across South Africa – all based around his unique design philosophy of creating enduring value in property developments.
Perhaps the most notable of these is the team’s involvement as principal designers and co-developer in Thesen Islands – a contemporary multi-award-winning marina set in the ecologically sensitive Knysna River Estuary. With eight years of research, planning and design going into the project before any building took place, Thesen Islands is today a shining example of new urbanist neighbourhood design.
Dr Mulder is hugely passionate about the preservation, rehabilitation and enhancement of biodiversity through sustainable planning and practices, and he continues to advocate the need to reconcile people to the countryside. He calls this concept contemporary rural hamlets and villages, or rural new towns to accommodate the more than 50% of South Africans living beyond the so-called urban edges.
A sustainable alternative for people to live, work and play, Dr Mulder’s latest venture is the groundbreaking Crossways Farm Village near Port Elizabeth. Consisting of 700 residential, commercial and industrial opportunities, as well as 120 hectares of irrigated land, Crossways Farm Village is the first rural new town in South Africa to achieve independence from the nearby municipality to provide sewerage, water and electricity through green-design features like rainwater harvesting and solar heating.
Of course, the nomination is not just for vision and design aesthetics, but also recognises Dr Mulder’s continuous involvement in job creation, training and skills development as well as poverty alleviation – all on display at Crossways Farm Village.