Culross on Main Office Park, by M/Architects, was designed without a tenant in mind. But at the end of construction, Facebook viewed the building and decided immediately to make it their Johannesburg headquarters – a testament to the design of the building.
The brief was to design an office building as a part of the existing Park, commercial in nature and flexible in floor design so as to accommodate a variety of tenants or alternatively, just one. And in a highly competitive market along Main Road. Each façade has been carefully considered and there is no “back” to the building. Proportion is a feature of each façade, as is the bold use of colour.
The style is modern and the concept bold. It follows a theme established in the rest of the office park, only it is more individual than the other buildings and bolder in the use of colour. Signage to the Main Road was also a consideration on the blank west walls. “The inspiration behind the design is actually a continuation of the design of the earlier buildings in the Park. This was influenced by the De Stijl movement of the early 20th century in Holland, particularly the work of Gerrit Rietveld. It was a striking break with traditional Dutch Architecture of the time,” says Schlapobersky.
“This building, no 6, is the last in the Office Park located at the corner of Main Road and Culross Road in Bryanston Johannesburg,” explains Ivan Schlapobersky of M/Architects. “Over the years our firm has specialized in the design of office parks in South Africa and Zimbabwe. This one is the fifteenth such park, most of them bigger than Culross on Main.” The site was formerly a large private home with a well-established garden, which had become quite out of place recently facing onto what has developed into a major arterial road, Main Road. The building is 2447m2 and three storeys in height. The total area of the Office Park is 9778 m2 and 104 parking bays are accommodated on site (a ratio of 4.3 bays/100m2
“The major issue with the site was that, if we wanted the building to be visible from the road, it had to be west facing. We thus adopted a balanced approach of solid walls and shielded floor to ceiling glass facing west,” notes Schlapobersky .The glass though is well shielded by overhangs of 1m plus, meaning that only in late afternoon in summer (after 4.30pm) does it become a problem and blinds need to be used for the rest of the working day. On the shaded southern side of the building, they used extensive glass. A large 270m2 covered terrace is accommodated on the top floor; the view from this terrace is over northern Johannesburg as far as to the Magaliesburg mountain range.
The topography of the site was a bonus for the architects. It falls steeply from the road into the site and was ideal for site planning as it enabled a parking basement under the building, which is not visible from the road, without much excavation.
The most noticeable feature of the building is Design Balance. The balance of solid and glass. Each façade has been carefully considered and there is no “back” to the building. Proportion is a feature of each façade, as well as the bold use of colour. “This is not always allowed to us, but in this case the client, as well as the tenant, gave us a free hand, and so as in most of our projects, colour features prominently,” he says.
Sustainable initiatives implemented include the use of light sensors throughout; limited direct North sun/blank brick walls on the west; a large covered terrace on the top floor with sliding doors opening onto it, equipped with kitchen equipment and built-in-braai; and a central triple volume core providing maximum flexibility.
“Challenges on this project were few,” says Schlapobersky, “Mainly because the client and the contractor, barrow Construction, is a firm we have worked with for many years and with whom we have developed a close understanding. Looking back, we believe the project went smoothly. It was completed in nine months including snagging. The building ‘presents’ itself to Main Road even though it is only accessible from the main entrance to the Park on Culross Road,” he concludes. And the fact that Facebook were so quick to snap it up is proof of the design and the construction all coming together perfectly.
LOCATION: Bryanston, South Africa