Octopus Garden
Photo Credit: Ian Dommisse

What started as a two-year Mandela Day project in 2019 has seen the beautifully creative Octopus Garden grow and thrive over the years.


Cape Town, South Africa (16 April 2024) – Landscape architect Ian Dommisse has shared some insight into the beautiful Octopus Garden project that was started in 2019 for Mandela Day. Having worked on the project, he has some interesting snippets to share regarding the garden.

The Octopus Garden was initially an underutilised lawn before it was made into a functional, sustainable, communal and beneficial growing space.

Since its installation, the garden has adapted and become a topic of global discussion. Dommisse shares why an octopus shape was chosen and how the project progressed. He also hints at its future!

The garden has produced an outstanding 18,000kgs of food which has been used by charitable causes.

“The Octopus Garden project at the V&A Waterfront has been a story of adaption. We settled on the Octopus as an identity as we originally only had access to the space for a 2 year period, after which time the garden may need to move. So just like the way an octopus adapts to rock pools as the tide changes…

Then the V&A staff at the time (2019) were keen to support a marine protection from plastic waste. So we built raised beds with Felix Holm (from Flat Rock Studio) and Ecobricks and in such a way that the walls could be dissembled and built elsewhere.

Lastly the shape of an octopus tentacles is a nice size for a bed width so that you could reach veggies from each side without standing on the soil.

We only had 4 weeks from the first client meeting to the construction date and what a fun 4 weeks they were. The garden was installed on Mandela Day with the help of the V&A staff who made ecobricks, then walked outside and placed them in the raised beds and planted some veggies.

Once the garden was fully established, we started harvesting every Friday, as the intention of the project was also to create produce for the Homestead youths. To date over 18,000 kilograms of veggies have yielded from just 250 square meters of growing space.

And all of this on a parking lot roof tucked in a hidden corner of the Waterfront.

But after less than two years, and during Covid alas the Octopus needed to adapt to welcome in a restaurant structure – which was to be built using entirely reclaimed materials sourced from within the V&A. So the garden looks very different today.

There’ve been so many connections, partnerships and opportunities that have resulted in this project and I’m chuffed to still have a hand in nurturing this project today. In fact we’re taking applications for a new garden custodian starting in May.”

Photo Credit: Ian Dommisse
Photo Credit: Ian Dommisse

You can see what is growing via the Octopus Garden Instagram page here.

Sources: Ian Dommisse
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About the Author

Tyler Leigh Vivier is a writer for Good Things Guy.

Her passion is to spread good news across South Africa with a big focus on environmental issues, animal welfare and social upliftment. Outside of Good Things Guy, she is an avid reader and lover of tea.

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