WORDS Graham Wood
A new kind of corporate architecture is going a long way towards making our cities better. The Club precinct in Hazelwood, Pretoria, is a good example.
There was a time when office parks behind high fences proliferated, leaving nothing but roads and pavements to our cities’ public spaces. These days, what’s springing up instead is the much more exciting concept of the mixed-use precinct, and with it a shot in the arm for city life.
One of our new favourites is The Club precinct in Hazelwood, Pretoria. Its recently completed second phase is home to a Planet Fitness Megaclub, offices, shops and restaurants. Across the road is The Club Advocate Chambers and an almost finished day hospital. Property developer Atterbury liked it so much it moved its new headquarters into the building.
From the street, The Club Two has a striking urban presence. Swooping canopies project outwards, making it something of a landmark, yet also breaking up its mass and giving it a friendlier face than the looming blank facades typical of corporate blocks. In fact, it’s the opposite: Those canopies create inviting sheltered spaces, which change the character of the urban landscape around them.
Tony Hofman of Hofman Architects, who designed the building, says the concept evolved organically, starting with the brief for the new gym. “The ideal space for a gym is a kind of warehouse structure,” he says. That starting point found expression in the modern industrial aesthetic of the building, divided into segments to let in natural light and fresh air. “We started to push [canopies] in and out [from the core of the building], creating covered spaces over the entrances on the eastern side.”
The high curtain window over the multistory atrium creates “a seamless transition from inside to outside”, says Tony. Steel beams painted black, exposed timber ceilings and terrazzo flooring continue the industrial aesthetic, which is picked up in a retro-style lift with see-through mesh sides and shaft.
As you step out of the lift into Atterbury’s HQ, you find yourself in the centre of a free-flowing office space. One of the most striking features is a wooden dome by David Krynauw that serves as a breakaway hub – even the interior works against the stark divisions of traditional corporate space. It all comes full circle when you enter the boardroom with its gigantic Pierre Cronje table and servers.
The room connects beautifully with the courtyards, overlooking the buzz of street life in the newly awakened public spaces outside.