This project was undertaken in the framework of an extraordinary collaboration of the developer/landlord/contractor, tenant, architect, interior designer, branding alchemist and technical team. Somewhat of a ‘rescue operation’, we engaged by the developer to redesign a new corporate head office for RCL Foods after construction had commenced on the site in Westway Office Park. With a semi basement parking structure well underway for a generic commercial office block designed by another architect, the tenant decided that a bespoke design solution was imperative and the project entirely changed course. Key to advancing the conceptual approach for the workplace was an appreciation that the building was to be a pivotal part of creating a new culture for an amalgamated business of five individual corporate acquisitions. Driven by a desire to create Africa’s best and largest food company in the future, the directors of RCL Foods commenced weaving a non-corporate culture around the principles that people are the business and that the workplace environment should attract and retain the best human resource talent available. Working with the branding alchemist and the tenant engagement of our interior design company from the inception of the design proved to be an excellent decision as the stage was set for a fully integrated concept origination.
The new offices required to accommodate 700 people with an emphatic directive to create a bespoke environment exuding the culture of the business at every possible level. With growth and space planning flexibility demands being central to the physical programme, the need for a multiplicity of different meeting and collaborative spaces and a focus on food were imperatives. A desire for spatially connected workspaces with emphasis on providing a focal and legible public interface was expressed together with the need to create a variety of functionally usable external spaces.
APPLICATION + USE OF STEEL
The concept of the building delivers a significant linear atrium connecting all spaces and operations of the office building. This space is entirely given over to circulation, spatial connectivity and acts as the heart of the building. The application of steel, envisaged from inception, is expressly utilized in many primary and secondary components in the atrium space and is intended to be on show as the ‘theatrical’ material.
The functional and visual focus of the atrium is the cascading staircase which extends from the entrance area to the uppermost floor and connects all levels. This is created from a single 450mm diameter tubular section which almost impossibly spans up to 13m between bridges which connect the floors on either side of the atrium. This stair displays cantilevered treads and is carefully crafted to connect to the bridges comprising universal beams and other sections to produce visually light elements in the space.
Steel is deployed variously through the building internally to produce an architecturally dynamic environment. Its sometimes subtle presence, is almost unperceived and this amplifies its extraordinary role in this building as both a ‘star actor’ and ‘cameo parts’! The extensive balustrading is a composite of delicate perforated steel plate and both steel and stainless steel sections. This delivers a lightness and transparency which is rarely evidenced in such components. The exposed lifts in yellow lift shafts exhibit the workings of a standard lift and this displays the importance of steel components in a lift. The flush glazed atrium enclosure is neatly supported in slender universal beam sections set unconventionally to accommodate blinds.
SPECIAL INTERIOR APPLICATIONS
In an office which is unusual in nearly every way, all internal space divisions are unconventional. Curvilinear glazed meeting pods, which precariously cantilever into the atrium, rely on curved steel tubular sections to support internal roofs and glazing, delivering a light and delicate support system. All internal meeting spaces and cellular office are created of freestanding steel framed structures where light tubular sections are deployed to support walls, glass and ceilings in many cases. Steelwork is seldom hidden and consistently treated in a dark charcoal colour, it demands both visual appreciation and indeed in its main roles, a ‘take your breath away’ awareness.
While RCL Foods is a fundamentally conventional wet-trades construction externally, many solutions to create the architectural outcome demand the use of steel. Hidden steel posts embedded in glazed enclosure, substructures for the signature perforated aluminium solar screens and giant tubular supports for impossible concrete cantilevers offer subtle and functional solutions through the building. Sporadic application of Corten is evident to selected and focal elements externally in the curved planters, gates and deck seating screens. This delivers a warm and crafted quality contrasting the cool grey and white exterior fabric.
CHALLENGES + TEAMWORK
This was a fast track project where the office building component was designed on a parking podium already under construction. So while the primary structure was being erected, decisions around methodologies to facilitate a near impossible completion date had to be made. Within the framework of a relatively conventional construction solution, the atrium usefully served as the concourse of construction. To allow efficient construction to proceed, the atrium roof demanded a soft roof using steel beams and lightweight sheeting as opposed to reinforced concrete. This decision, eliminating a forest of scaffolding then allowed the challenge of erecting a 70m long stair and series of connecting bridges to become manageable. Consistent and intense collaboration between Engineer, Architect, Interior Designer and Steel Fabricator became the hallmark of the design and construction process. Early involvement of the Contractor, Fabricator and Structural Engineer with significantly detail concept design at initial stages ultimately delivered a timeous and a remarkable outcome.
Tons of structural steel used 255 +
Structural profiles used Tubular and U.B.
|Project Team Role||Company|
|Client/ Developer||JT Ross|
|Structural Engineer||BPH Engineers|
|Engineer||Not provided by nominator|
|Quantity Surveyor||MLC Quantity Surveyors|
|Project Manager||Not provided by nominator|
|Main Contractor||JT Ross|
|Steelwork Contractor||Rebcon Engineering|
|Steel Erector||Rebcon Engineering|
|Cladding Manufacturer||HB Interiors
|Cladding Supplier||HB Interiors|
|Cladding Contractor||HB Interiors|
|Not provided by nominator|
|Not provided by nominator|
|Photographer, Photo competition||Not provided by nominator|
|Photographer, Other submitted images||Not provided by nominator|
If you were a part of this project, and your company details are incorrect or missing – please notify the SAISC so that the error can be corrected.