News from - Dennis Fabian Berman Architects


Dennis Fabian and Berman Architects have been presented with a specially made trophy by Auto Atlantic BMW/Mini in recognition of the leadership role they played in helping to create “a world class dealership facility” on the Cape Town Foreshore.

Expressing his thanks for this, Dennis Fabian, Senior Partner of Dennis Fabian and Berman architects, said,

“The motor showroom formed part of a far bigger project, recently completed, which genuinely takes the environmentally appropriate concept of recycling to a very worthwhile level. I believe it took a far-sighted developer to get it off the ground and to get tenants to buy into his vision.”

The developer, the Bloemfontein-based Sage Investment Trust, had, said Fabian, realised ahead of the pack that the new Cape Town International Convention Centre was destined to become a transforming catalyst in the Cape Town CBD precinct at the foot of the Heerengracht.

“The CTICC is now widely recognised as a success aesthetically and functionally, the proof of which is that it has never been short of bookings. The challenge, therefore, was to upgrade old obsolete buildings in the area to the point where they complemented the new facility and in a sense could benefit from its fame.”

Nowhere did this architectural challenge seem more daunting than in the three buildings on the corner of the Heerengracht and Hertzog Boulevard. These were formerly known as Monte Carlo, Broadway and Medi-park, Medi-park more recently having had the name 44 Hertzog Boulevard.

Medi-park had three floors of parking on levels one to three topped by nine floors of offices, while in the Monte Carlo and Broadway there was a three level parking garage (which had replaced the former cinemas here) topped, again, by nine office floors. All three buildings had unattractive small mixed-use attractive retail shops on the ground floor.

All these buildings had begun to lose tenants, the most notable of which was the prestigious US Embassy, which in 2005 gave notice that it was planning to move out to Constantia.

The growing wave of unpopularity that enveloped this formerly fashionable office node is said to have stemmed from the fact that all three buildings had 1950s/1960s designs. In that era open plan offices were very rare in the corporate world, the privacy and wasted space of cellular cubicles, approached by long corridors, then being considered obligatory - today’s large open plan floor plates with their economic use of space and simplified communications had not yet caught on as the logical next step.

The façades of the buildings were also badly in need of an upgrade, on that would complement not only their new, more flexible interiors, but also the striking contemporary image of the CTICC.

Dennis Fabian and Berman Architects tackled these negatives head-on. The revamped buildings have, Fabian believes, overcome the negative aspects of the former buildings and now form one unit with 37 000m2 known as Media City.

The complex also now has 600 parking bays and a 20 000m2 showroom and workshop – and most interiors are open-plan. The façades on the former Monte Carlo and Broadway façades, seven floors are now boldly framed in aluminium panel cladding which is complemented elsewhere by Marmoran plasters, flushed glazing and extensive balconies. These balconies add aesthetic appeal to most floors, particularly on the corners, and on an additional set-back top floor which has wraparound glazing – and they also make it possible for smokers to get outside without time wasting.

The colour palette on these new façades has been deliberately chosen to tie in with that of the Cape Town International Convention Centre. Medium grey and silver colours with a strong metallic look give the buildings an ultra-modern, chic impact.

In creating the balconies and reconfiguring the window proportions, every second column had to be removed from the Monte Carlo and Broadway buildings, but the structural integrity of these buildings has been ensured by the use of horizontal steel beams. On 44 Hertzog Boulevard a decision was taken to extend the set-back façades of the upper floors so that they now line up with the former podium block. This called for considerable extra piling which had to be carried out within the confines of the existing building. The extended floors now have 5 500m2 each. Floors one and two here now form a BMW/Mini showroom and the floors above were degutted to create workshops and extra parking levels. On top of the eight floors of parking Dennis Fabian and Berman provided new corporate office space for Shell SA who relocated from the Shell building.

The parking floors are approached by a nine level spiral ramp, the highest in Africa, which was built into the space between the Monte Carlo/Broadway buildings and the former Medi Park.

All office floors are now linked to a central air-conditioning system, but they have individual controls, and the fire protection systems and lifts have been upgraded.

Long before the building was completed, the developer was able to sign up tenants for all the available space - a testimony to the enduring appeal of this area when the buildings are attractive. Those who agreed to come in were, as indicated, Auto Atlantic, who moved from the V & A Waterfront, FNB, who have taken over 5 000m2, Media 24, who expanded from their existing premises, the Cape Town City Planning offices (5 000m2), and the Shell SA head office (12 000m2), who in moving to the former Medi-park section are now able to work on only three floors, whereas in Shell House they occupied anything between 13 and 15 floors, making communication difficult.

Dennis Fabian said that with other good buildings now completed on this section of the Foreshore (his own firm was involved with both Investec and the Protea North Wharf Hotel) this area has regained its former appeal.

“I believe that large parts of the Foreshore are now a pleasant environment in which to live, work and entertain,” he said. “The vision for this area conceived some 90 years ago is at last becoming a reality - for which we can all be grateful.”

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