A visible success

Strong visibility from one of the busiest arterials in Johannesburg is a key facet of Bryanston 88, the new M/Architects-designed Barrow Properties office development set on a prime site overlooking the N1 ring road at the William Nicol off-ramp


Bryanston 88, a building which is hard to ignore, was recently completed by Barrow Construction on the prime site overlooking the William Nicol off-ramp to the N1 ring road. The building, with its 4 600m² of competitively priced rentable area, is ideal for a single tenant, but was designed to cater for flexibility. It is set to become a landmark building, offering exceptional branding and corporate identity exposure. The ‘visibility’ aspect is further enhanced structurally, with the east and west facades, slightly canted from the vertical, providing an excellent opportunity for corporate signage.

The building incorporates quality finishes and features a terrace, impressive reception area, ample open and under-cover parking bays and fully secured access. Internal floor areas are some 17m deep, allowing for either open plan or cellular working environments. “We went for deep office spaces in order to achieve the bulk,” says M/Architects partner, Ivan Schlapobersky. “We fitted a core of lifts and toilets in the centre of the building, offering huge flexibility of space and allowing for the building to be easily subdivided.”

The three-storey, two-basement structure will be energy-efficient, reducing tenants’ costs. M/Architects incorporated extensive features in this respect, so that the building requires only about 50% of the energy normally needed for a project of this scale. Measures taken to achieve this include the use of solar water heating, energy-efficient lighting systems with occupancy sensors and the latest technology in air conditioning and control systems which switch off and shift load away from the system during peak demand periods. 

“From an energy efficiency point of view, external walls, where they exist, are all 350mm cavity walls,” notes Schlapobersky, adding: “The lighting is fairly low lux and voltage throughout, and all the lighting fixtures are energy-efficient fluorescents. Although internally the space is quite a deep one, both ends are lit and flooded with natural light. We had to design the building to be as energy-efficient as possible due to the fact that Bryanston currently has a severe electricity shortage.” To further exacerbate the problem, the site didn’t initially have zoning rights, and when these were approved, electricity couldn’t originally be provided.

Ease of commuting and strategic access from areas such as Bryanston, Sunninghill, Fourways and Douglasdale add to the attractions of this development. Bryanston 88 is in the residential heartland of many of Johannesburg’s top executives, as well as a residential pool of high-level staff, all of whom will be within easy reach of the office. Travel time and costs can thus be expected to be reduced, and productivity enhanced. Around 300 staff members are catered for in the building, while the lower basement consists of 60 car bays, the upper basement has 63 bays and 103 bays are catered for outdoors. 

Architecturally striking

Structurally, the north side of the building has floor slabs extending beyond the window line, forming shelves that shade the glass curtain wall below. Vertical structural ‘fins’ project from the northern aspect, ensuring that very little direct sunlight strikes the vision glass, while the east and west walls are solid concrete, further controlling internal ambient temperatures. “The client, Barrow Properties, was taken by the look of off-shutter concrete buildings and thus expressed a desire for its use in this project,” notes Schlapobersky.

The east and west facades offer tenants the advantage of high visibility on one of the country’s busiest arterial roads, and will be slightly canted from the vertical to provide an excellent ‘canvas’ for promotional visuals. The strong visibility makes it ideal for a single corporate tenant with the added kudos of naming rights, and according to Schlapobersky, it was one of the client’s requests to utilise this tremendous visibility.

Vision glass on the north and south side has been limited to 50% of the floor-to-ceiling height, and all external windows of the office space are double glazed and tinted to insulate the building as well as cut out the noise from the highway. Of the southern side, 30% is insulated by the self-contained, triple volume atrium space with its various facilities. “The purpose was twofold: to enhance the whole entry experience and also to insulate the southern side of the building from the cold,” says Schlapobersky. Wherever external glass is not shaded by the structure, reflective mirror glass is used, while the top floor balconies and sliding doors are protected by a sunscreen. Moreover, the concrete slab roof is highly insulated. The building will also be equipped with heavy duty generators that make it self-sufficient if necessary.

Rainwater is gathered off the roof and directed into an underground tank about the size of a domestic swimming pool. This grey water will then be reused for flushing toilets and watering the landscape. The collection tank has an overflow mechanism which diverts excess water into the N1 storm water drain. Conversely, in times of water shortages, a borehole is located on site.

The contemporary features of the office building include an internal atrium and a coffee bar on the ground level, ample open and under-cover parking bays and fully-secured access.

Use of colour

Colour, a signature inclusion of M/Architects in many of their buildings, is brought into this project in a number of areas. The grand exterior entrance sees a splash of red on one of the walls to break the grey and charcoal finishes of the other facades, while a tiled blue water feature dominates the landscaped entrance. Inside, the main feature is the west-facing window of the atrium with blue, red and yellow panels of varying sizes interspersed with clear glass. As the sun moves through the sky, so the coloured pattern plays out on the neutral wall.

On the floor, tiles of cream, beige and grey adorn the building, with the cream tiles following a curved theme which is evident on the exteriors as well as the internal landings. “We did have to tone some of the colours down from our original design and replaced the yellow bands on the north façade with-silver Alucobond bands,” says Schlapobersky. Internally, touches of wood panelling and wooden doors add a natural flavour, while the wood is offset by the introduction of steel balustrades. Five large, strong pendant lights hung from the high ceilings complement the blue fluorescent up-lighting in the entrance foyer and lifts.

“It’s the kind of building which is a little bit off the wall,” Schlapobersky concludes. “We never design office buildings to be tenant-specific – tenants change, but the building remains – so designing the building without a tenant in mind did not affect us adversely. I learnt this lesson the hard way a long time ago when designing a building for Shell in Rosebank. By the time it was completed, the company had decided to relocate their headquarters to Durban. One of my principles is never to design office buildings that are client-specific.”

Photographs by Chad Cocking

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