The natural choice made by Paragon Architects
Anthony Orelowitz, Vivien Yun, Amir Livneh (Paragon Architects)
Leaving behind us the leafy residential suburb of Atholl Gardens, we turn into West Street in central Johannesburg. For those who are not accustomed to driving on the left-hand side of the road, every intersection is a challenge. Our old four-cylinder VW Beetle gives a jolt, then begins crawling forward again slowly. But Mike, accompanying me, knows what he is doing and doesn’t bat an eyelid. Before reaching the intersection with Katherine Street, he stirs and points at our destination: the new headquarters of the financial group Alexander Forbes.
We park and gaze for a moment at the building from the sidewalk opposite. It’s always important to establish an empathic relationship with architecture and I enjoy the privilege.
Consisting of two parallel buildings connected by a large full-height atrium, the complex enjoys a certain iconic status. It was designed by Anthony Orelowitz, Vivien Yun and Amir Livneh from the firm Paragon Architects and is an extremely high-efficiency building compliant with South Africa’s new energy legislation.
We enter the visually-striking, luminous central volume which serves as a distribution point for accessing the various levels. Along with offices for around 2500 employees, the building has many different facilities, including a crèche, canteen, bar, gym, medical office, prayer areas and a 200-seat auditorium.
The atrium in which we are standing is filled with greenery, while a series of aerial walkways suspended from the roof structure serve to connect the offices. Looking up, you can see twelve skylights that allow plenty of natural light to enter. Looking down again, you can appreciate the important compositional and functional role played by the ceramic tiled parterre. Porcelain slabs from the Granitogres line, Pietre Rare collection, colour Monviso in sizes 60×120 cm and 10×120 cm with a non-slip finish were chosen as the floor coverings in all the pedestrian areas, atriums and entrance zones, canteen and bar, as well as on the aerial walkways, the spiral staircase and the rest and relaxation areas on all floors. Every third and fifth slab alternates with offset strips made of the same material interspersed with Unicolore inserts in a white «Bianco assoluto» colour with a polished finish that act as a counterpoint to the lights and the design of the false ceiling.
As the architects from Paragon explained to us during the award ceremony for the tenth edition of the Grand Prix international architecture competition promoted and organised by Casalgrande Padana, where they won 3rd prize in the Shopping Centres and Offices category for the Alexander Forbes Headquarters: «The choice of ceramic tile was dictated by the needs of the client. Forbes is a leading supplier of financial services in South Africa and combines cutting-edge technology with a strong presence in the country. With this in mind, our client asked us to find a tile that would represent both natural elements and technological innovation. The solution from Casalgrande Padana fit the bill perfectly, so it was the natural choice.»
Pietre Rare, Unicolore
Monviso, Bianco Assoluto
Water absorpion (ISO 10545-3): ≤ 0,1%
Chemical resistance (ISO 10545-13): compliant
Resistance to deep abrasion (ISO 10545-6): compliant
Stain resistance (ISO 10545-14): compliant
Frost resistance (ISO 10545-12): compliant
Modulus of rupture and breaking strength (ISO 10545-4): 50÷60 N/mm2
Slip resistance (DIN 51130): R9
Thermal shock resistance (ISO 10545-9): compliant
Crazing resistance (ISO 10545-11): compliant
Linear thermal expansion (ISO 10545-8): compliant