Originally the site of FNB in the 1970s, 24 Cradock Avenue is now home to a formidable successor, The Bank. With its vibrant pedestrian and café culture, art galleries, tree-lined avenues, and thriving commercial life, Rosebank is a unique combination of Art Deco charm and contemporary metropolitan style.
The Bank seeks to be representative of this rich heritage. The use of local materials to create a landmark that fits into its context was done through the careful use of colour, volume, landscaping, and texture. By building with custom-made black bricks that were locally manufactured specifically for The Bank, the façade retains its strength and stoicism, whilst giving warmth and charm through texture. The subtle use of brass on the façade, art-deco-inspired steel and balustrade detailing as well soft landscaping and lighting meant that the building exudes a metropolitan art-deco aesthetic.
To enhance the impact of the building, the form begins to defragment at the top into a minimalist contemporary crown, which creates deep landscaped roof terraces and balconies in which to enjoy the sweeping views of the Johannesburg city skyline. The Bank has been used as a hinge pin to further pedestrianize the Rosebank CBD. Providing a wide pedestrian-friendly pavement along the western street-facing façade was key. The privatized road has been resurfaced with a cobblestone-styled paving brick instead of the usual asphalt and tar, which softens the roadway and prioritizes the pedestrian.
The ground floor contains high-end retail and an open restaurant concept with an integrated coffee shop that spills out to the streetscape, followed by 4 floors of vibrant co-working spaces, with an additional 2 floors of premium penthouse office. The remaining program houses a contemporary business hotel with a unique South-African luxury aesthetic. This hotel will be the new home of the first boutique Voco Hotel offering in Africa - a bespoke branch of the International Hotel Group. To create the envisioned design within the parameters of the complicated existing building, through an intensive design development process, the structure was viewed as an opportunity rather than a hindrance.
The minimal design aesthetic, mixed with the strange structural grid, created some very unique spaces in the building. These areas were celebrated and integrated into the internal floor planning. Where possible, major demolitions of the existing building were kept to a minimum, so as to not impact the safety of the surrounding buildings and pedestrians. The new staircase and elevator circulation core were integrated through an existing building atrium. One section of the building did have major demolitions in order to get access to additional natural light.
In the rear South-East corner, far away from pedestrians, a large hole through 3 existing floors was cut out. This created a dramatic 4-Storey tall courtyard light well. To highlight this space, the existing slab edge beams that were not demolished were used as shelves for cascading landscaping and a local artist was commissioned to cover the internal walls of the courtyard with a stunning mural.
The building has revitalised a site that was for all intents and purposes dead, so much so that the landlord across the piazza had built a wall to hide it from view. It reactivated this part of Rosebank and its surroundings. In terms of form following narrative in the design of The Bank, we tried to bring back in a contemporary fashion a lot of the heritage of Rosebank that had been lost because all of the Art deco buildings in Rosebank and Oxford road had been bought and demolished over time.
Our consideration in the design was to bring back in a contemporary key some of the Art Deco language. Especially for South Africa, this project incorporates art in a way that is unique and unparalleled by any project in our country. There are thousands of original artworks throughout the hotel and building, as well as two Eduardo Villa sculptures donated to the public space. There has been a major revamp of the public space not only of the site itself. It is unusual in Johannesburg that a developer would give generously to the concourse surrounding a project, more typically they’d close off the building with parking on the ground floor whereas here not only is there a great activation of the retail area within the building facing the pavement, but also a big investment in upgrading the road, rehabilitating the trees, creating an Uber lane, relooking at the traffic flow and how we could connect this building with the surrounding buildings that were very separated before.
Technically this was an incredibly difficult project because we retained the structure and built around and on top of rather than demolishing it so the engineering of this project was extremely complex, the energy aspect was also challenging because we didn’t have enough reliable power available to the site so we had to come up with innovative solutions such as trigeneration, solar, HVAC and insulation to make sure that the insufficient existing power supply could be upgraded and moved off the grid enough to make the whole building function.
The retail solution is innovative because we insisted that the functions of retail would not be separated internally but rather flow one into the other so although there are 4 different activities on the ground floor they are all seamlessly connected. While it is an outstanding principle from a sustainability perspective that the building is mixed-use; housing co-working offices, a hotel, restaurants, and so on, because half of the building is countercyclical with the other half, it adds another level of complexity in integrating all of these different functions from the point of view of access control, energy, flow of people, interaction and not disturbance between all of these different functions.
It was a very challenging, highly complex project that has been resolved technically and aesthetically with respect to the heritage and history of the area while breaking ground aesthetically in its environment on the Highveld and at the same time being sustainable.