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Location: Thesen Islands, WC, RSA

Completed: 2008

the design

The Thesen Islands Marina development is situated on the southern coast of South Africa, in the heart of the Garden Route, the marina is set in the ecologically sensitive context of the Knysna River Estuary.


Thesen Island was previously owned by the Thesen family (early settlers in Knysna) and used as a timber processing plant for more than 80 years.  In 1974 the island was sold to Barloworld and the factory was enlarged.  By the early 90’s there was growing community concern about the environmental and industrial pollution and in 1991 CMAI, proposed a complete redevelopment of the island.

The New Urbanist principle of Traditional Neighbourhood Design underpins the design of the development.  The layout incorporates a variety of stand sizes in order to appeal to a spectrum of potential buyers - setting the basis for an authentic community.


New Urbanist liveable neighbourhoods are built to reduce dependency on cars, provide easy access to public and commercial amenities, increase community interactivity and provide a simplified but higher quality of lifestyle. Emphasis is placed on the creation of quality public spaces.

As a result, one of the delights and successful aspects of Thesen Islands is its cohesive system of open spaces.  A network of tree lined and pedestrian friendly streets link the neighbourhood amenities such as the commercial village centre – called “Harbour Town”, complete with communal mooring facilities, open space and sports facilities which are favoured by the entire community.

Today, Thesen Islands is viewed and acclaimed by many people as one of the premier Marinas and Waterfront developments in the world.

The project, and the design team has won numerous local International Awards.

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