Steyn City: A Design for Life

Steyn City

WORDS Graham Wood

Bryan Charters, one of the key architects behind Steyn City, worked closely alongside the master creator, Giuseppe Plumari, who interpreted visionary Douw Steyn’s dream for Steyn City, Gauteng’s 2,000-acre luxury residential lifestyle estate. Charters reveals how this acclaimed development was conceptualised and designed.

Steyn City, a groundbreaking development heralding the era of luxury residential lifestyle estates in South Africa, stands as a testament to the collaborative efforts between visionaries Douw Steyn and Giuseppe Plumari and a team of skilled architects. At the forefront of this endeavour is Bryan Charters, a key architect in the creation of Steyn City, Gauteng’s expansive 2,000-acre residential lifestyle estate. Working closely with the visionaries, who possessed a clear blueprint for the future of city living, the SCAD (Steyn City Architectural Design) team, comprised of Nsika Architecture & Design, DBM, and Boogertman + Partners, embarked on a journey to craft a living environment that draws inspiration from the lessons of old cities and the principles that foster community living.


Steyn City may be known for its extensive luxury lifestyle facilities – from the award-winning Nicklaus Design championship golf course, Equestrian Centre, 300m lagoon with endless water activities, to 45km of safely lit pedestrian promenade and 50km custom-design off-road cycle track, children’s play areas, outdoor gyms, a soccer pitch, tennis and padel courts, skate park and the like – but these are underpinned by two fundamentals.

Steyn City

First, explains Bryan, 1 000-acres of wooded parkland (half of the development has been dedicated to green lungs) was developed to rehabilitate the landscape in conjunction with the legendary landscape architect Patrick Watson. “More than a million indigenous trees, shrubs and ground covers (endemic to the region) were propagated on site and there are literally kilometres of treed green belts throughout the estate.” Every single residence has views of parkland, tree-lined streets and the remarkable network of creeks, wetlands and dams conjured from the grounds of the disused quarry that once occupied the site.

Secondly, he adds, a meticulously planned road system creates the most pedestrian-friendly environment possible. “Our vision was to design an environment where children could ride their bicycles safely, and people could walk or jog without having to encounter a car.”

An arterial ring road and a system of carefully organised cul-de-sacs and crescents restrict vehicular traffic to the periphery of the estate. “We have made it possible for residents to traverse the entire estate without having to cross a single main road,” says Bryan. Well-placed pedestrian underpasses make it possible for walkways and vehicles never to meet.


The masterplan was designed so that every residence, from the apartments to the most luxurious freehold homes, has direct access to parkland. “Each green belt is linked to the next,” says Bryan, to form an uninterrupted, meandering parkland extending throughout the estate. The quality of the shared public space is further elevated with the addition of artworks and other points of interest, including reintroduced wildlife such as springbok and impala.

Steyn City

Unlike conventional estates, Steyn City’s architectural guidelines were drafted to specify that none of the residences has a front boundary wall. This openness, combined with an emphasis on public security, establishes a convivial, socially cohesive environment where children can roam freely and play safely, and, as Bryan puts it, “you get to know your neighbours”. Nonetheless, he notes, each stand has been ingeniously positioned to ensure absolute privacy, a sense of seclusion and undisturbed vistas.

Steyn City

Time to enjoy this luxury and comfort, too, is built into the very fabric of Steyn City. “We designed Steyn City to reduce time spent commuting and enable residents to prioritise quality time for the things that really matter,” says Bryan. Proximity to every amenity that residents might require, from schools and office space to retail, restaurant and hospitality offerings, sports and leisure facilities and even a helistop are available on their doorsteps.


The ideal of the traffic-free communal environment has been reconceptualised for a luxury urban neighbourhood in Steyn City’s newest flagship apartment development, City Centre. Bryan describes it as a “contemporary hill town” with cobbled streets, piazzas and even a central park.

Steyn City

City Centre’s design draws on the advanced structural engineering of its seven-hectare, 2 000-bay parking basements to jettison the typical grid-based system of columns in the basement that results in bland, monolithic buildings above. Rather, a “transfer slab” frees the structure above the basement. As a result, the City Centre’s intricately articulated facades create a richly varied architectural tapestry reminiscent of the best “old-city” environments around the world.

Steyn City

Underlying the lock-up-and-go convenience and simple “above-the-shop” charm of City Centre is additional infrastructure that includes 18 lift cores, plus a wide variety of other residential offerings, from the most luxurious penthouses with custom interiors by South Africa’s most sought-after interior designers to single storey and everything between. City Centre’s infrastructure includes service measures from biometric security to hidden chutes so that as Bryan notes, residents “never have to see so much as a garbage bag or bin”.

Openings reaching to the very lowest basements incorporate gigantic planters open to the sky, which allow natural light, fresh air and pockets of lush greenery to flourish – birds have now taken to nesting in the trees. Views of the surrounding urban landscaping features are drawn into the basement, too, to ensure direct lines of sight to the lush environment outside. In addition to such visual connections, Bryan has worked in intuitive wayfinding features that orientate residents and visitors, including bulkheads, lighting and distinctive natural materials on each lift core, to create an unconscious sense of security, comfort and ease.

A new realm of lifestyle facilities has been introduced to this section of Steyn City, including a  Pack Life gym, retail, restaurants and co-working spaces and more.

Steyn City’s unfolding evolution offers more and more to its residents as development progresses, amply demonstrating the power of design thinking and visionary planning to realise the long-term quality of life and a sustainable legacy.

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