Urban designs for future cities5th Apr 2017
Founded in 1996, with offices in Durban and Johannesburg, Iyer has been involved in numerous large-scale projects such as Sibaya Coastal Precinct, Moses Mabhida Stadium Precinct and Cornubia, to name just a few.
With a diverse range of interdisciplinary specialisations, lyer Urban Designs dynamic approach weaves together planning, urban design and architecture. At the heart of everything Iyer sets out to achieve is connecting people with their environments and maximising quality of life for users.
Alongside Nathan Iyer, the founder and chief creative director, is Kamalen Gounden, director of planning, and Glanville Jacques, architecture director. The trio is complemented by a 25-strong studio of planners, urban designers, architects and other professionals.
Iyer is fully committed to promoting environmentally sustainable development practices and carrying these forward through each and every stage of the urban design and planning process.
For holistic, people-centred urban design, Nathan stresses that “responsible planning means looking not only at benefits on a localised level, but also at how each development uplifts the broader city and environment. We achieve this through careful consideration of where people are employed, their socio-economic context, and how connected they are in terms of transport.”
Iyer begins the planning process with an analysis of the site in an effort to understand the space from a contextual perspective. The next step is chiefly concerned with concept development.
“From one stage to the next, the planners, urban designers, architects and landscape architects are in continuous consultation until all issues around the project have been examined from every possible angle.”
The required consultants, including civil and traffic engineers, electrical engineers and environmentalists, are brought into the planning and design process.
“Once we have established the framework plan for the site, networks and nodes are assigned, and development rights are secured. The order in which we develop nodes is dependent on their location and factors such as whether the current market demands residential, retail or commercial land use and the right fit with context”
So what about Iyer’s approach sets it apart from its competitors? Their mandate fundamentally recognises their role as being a proactive movement for social upliftment as much as agents in the creation of positive built environments.
“We endeavour to create buildings that respond to their environment, bring dignity to people and serve today’s users as well as those of the future.”
Iyer’s holistic approach to planning and development extends even further, to connecting communities previously separated by past policies.
The firm has been appointed to create an urban design and town plan on a greenfield site where approximately 25 000 units of housing are to be built.
Their plan for this mixed-use development, called Cornubia, completely restructures the northern parts of Durban by creating an almost brand-new town in a space which was previously a buffer between two communities.
“This project is revolutionary. We designed a sustainable urban development based on our understanding of the specific role of public transport in the lives of its users. Cornubia has become one of the country’s best examples of a connected, sustainable city of the future.”
Iyer’s holistic urban design model also incorporates novel ways of thinking about environmental planning.
The 1000-hectare Sibaya Coastal Precinct on KwaZulu-Natal’s North Coast is a mixed-use development which Iyer designed to create a reciprocal relationship with the natural landscape, where the surrounding ocean and coastal dune forest give character and value to the precinct.
Placing the natural environment at the centre of Sibaya’s urban planning was a vision shared by all stakeholders from the earliest concept development stage. This integration allows the natural and built environments to complement each other in terms of aesthetics, sustainability and livability.
“There is an emphasis on public space and, around these areas, on building density. By compacting development, we reduced our footprint. Instead of carpeting the land with an even spread of developments, we clustered them together to create larger corridors of open space.”
Tongaat Hulett Developments, who appointed Iyer to the Sibaya coastal project, has now tasked the firm with creating a self-sustaining attraction in the coastal dune forest, with plans to build a visitor centre and boardwalk.
In his profession and role as an urban planner, Nathan recognises one of the biggest challenges as motivating parties outside his own boardroom to be as dedicated as he is to finding the Holy Grail –getting their project to meet all the socio-economic needs of users.
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