KwaZulu Natal Tourist AttractionsDurban's Rooftop Garden
Where? Durban Central, Durban, KwaZulu Natal
How? Call Wendy Taylor or Sylvia Burger on +27 (0)31 332-0441
A couple of blocks up from Rivertown – a private inner-city urban regeneration project that is converting Durban's city centre into a trendy living and working space - and just over the way from the International Convention Centre (ICC), is a rooftop garden worth visiting.
From the road the offices of Urban Management Zone (an urban renewal regeneration initiative) are rather unassuming (the faded signage still reads Priority Zone, the project's initial name). The project, whose mandate is to 'transform Durban's inner city from a crime and grime-ridden area into a pleasant experience for all', looks closed until you realise there is a recessed entrance alongside the building.
The garden, on the building's rooftop, gives no hint of its existence from the street. All you can see are a couple of succulents in pots perched on the edge of the flat roof, two storeys up.
But once inside the roof top is clearly the organisation's signature piece. Wendy Taylor, Sylvia Burger and their gardeners have transformed their working space.
The garden may have began as a project for COP17, held in the ICC across the road, but today it makes its presence felt the minute you step out of reception into a passage that leads to the roof.
More of an urban farm, than a garden, Urban Management Zone's roof serves as a showpiece for how to grow food without space. The garden is an example of what to do with your recycling. Plants are grown in shoes, buckets, handbags and up walls in old two litre plastic bottles – proof that you can plant anything, anywhere. A couple of old bus shelters invite visitors to sit awhile, out of the fierce sunlight.
Wendy will tell you how the garden has used only recycled items. All the vegetables and herbs are organically grown, with daily crop monitoring and rotation to make sure that the soil is kept fertile. It's a flourishing city farm that isn't just for show. Fresh produce gets sold to local restaurants, food markets, and a lot is donated to charity.
The water to maintain the mainly indigenous plant garden comes from rainwater tanks that collect water run-off from the building, and a neighbouring building.
What's more it is open, free of charge, to the public between 8am and 4pm. Schools and gardening organisations visit as part of education programmes, and the garden serves as inspiration to other companies in the inner city to achieve similar.