Cape Town CBD: Portside Building

PHOTOS Jan Ras PRODUCTION Sumien Brink WORDS Tracy Greenwood

This tastefully appointed office tower in central Cape Town deserves its green credentials.

On a clear day you can see forever. Or so it seems when you’re standing on the top floor of the new Portside building in the north-western block of Cape Town’s CBD. The distinctive mesa-topped mass of Table Mountain looms in the sky in one direction and then, if you turn your head, you find yourself looking at the curved blue swathe of the Atlantic stretching into the distance.

At close to 140m high, Portside is the tallest tower in Cape Town’s CBD and the seventh-tallest in the country.

A joint venture between FirstRand Bank and Old Mutual, the R1,6 billion project ticks a number of green boxes. It was built with sustainability and responsible development in mind, and even existing trees on the land were retained. An efficient air conditioning system reduces energy costs, rainwater and grey water are collected for use in toilets, and recycled reinforcing steel was used in the construction.

Even the azure double-glazed facade is there for a reason beyond the aesthetic: to maximise available natural light and reduce the need for artificial light sources. LED lighting is used throughout and motion sensors switch lights on and off as needed, further reducing energy consumption.

In the parking basement there are 1440 bays, including 70 spaces dedicated solely for hybrid or alternative fuel vehicles, charging stations for electric vehicles, 70 motorcycle bays and ample safe bicycle storage, alongside changing rooms and shower facilities.

Mixed use in the greatest sense of the word, the building has two separate entrance plazas, one for FirstRand Bank on one side of the building and the other for Old Mutual on the opposite side, and the ground floor comprises a vibrant mix of cafés, coffee bars and restaurants, all open to the public.

The internal aesthetics on the FirstRand side are a study in harmony. Clean lines, natural textures and wood tones contrast with the steel and glass of the structure.

Workstations are compact and business-as-usual, but the changes are rung in the chill-out spaces on every floor. Coffee machines, armchairs, board games, soundproof booths, balloon-inspired beanbags and even a pool table add an unexpected air of fun. Bold colours and patterns add a vibrant look and feel while harmonising with the clean lines and natural textures that are at the heart of the building’s interior design philosophy.

But that’s not all. There are “scrum” areas, a professionally equipped staff restaurant – it would be criminal to call it a canteen – complete with a vast open-air patio, and even a wellness centre offering some of the best views to work out to in the Mother City.

All things considered, it’s little wonder Derick Henstra from dhk Architects calls this structure “a timeless 21st century building – a modern classic”. And it’s no surprise the Portside has been awarded a 5 Star Green Star SA certified rating by the Green Building Council SA, making it the greenest tall building in South Africa.