AMA Architects have achieved an incredible honour by winning a 5-star award for best mixed-use property by the International Property Awards, for our mixed-use project, Towers Main.
Johannesburg is in desperate need of decent and safe mixed-use accommodation for all income levels. AMA wanted to ensure that a mix of people can live, work, play, shop, gym, enjoy child-care, entertainment and exclusive dining overlooking the city.
We intended for the public space on the plaza and ground floor to introduce a pedestrian-sensitive, human scale to a previously vehicle-dominated environment, connecting people and places and encouraging public transport use. Urban furniture and ample landscaping create an oasis within the harsh inner-city environment, while local sculpture art used throughout the space will reflect characteristics of local culture and identity.
The plaza has been transformed into a ‘village park’, with planted landscapes, outdoor furniture, public sculpture and an outdoor bleacher for street entertainment. This activated public space will draw people out onto the street and create a new focal point for the ABSA precinct.
Common and public spaces will be maintained at the highest level, while contributions to area improvement organisations will ensure that the immediate and surrounding blocks are clean and safe day and night. The development will substantially increase the density of residents, workers and visitors, and spur further development that reinforces the sustainability of the area.
A compact and walkable neighbourhood with activated street edges
AMA employed principles of successful mixed-use development to create a compact and walkable neighbourhood with activated street edges. By opening the existing façade on ground level, we achieve a livelier public space and improve movement across the site.
This movement also generates interest and foot traffic for the retail stores. An increase in passive surveillance is accomplished by greater visual connections across the site on ground level, promoting a safe, open and comfortable environment.
Connecting this mixed-use facility through the newly developed Jewel City, to the well-developed Maboneng Precinct creates much-needed foot traffic to the area.
Visual connection from the village park to the retail space was created with a clear line of sight at pedestrian level required from the street through to the entrance of the shops. The interiors of these spaces are designed to express the urban nature of the site’s outdoor public spaces. Preference is given to sustainable, locally manufactured materials wherever possible. Designing in this way ensures that this campus incorporates the fundamentals of excellent contemporary South African interior design.
The coffee bistro, placed on the northern edge of the ground floor, promotes social activity and creates atmosphere. The outdoor area of the coffee shop connects to the amphitheatre, encouraging street performances and serving as a resting spot with shading trees.
An art gallery is placed right next to these spaces. ABSA runs an annual art competition called the L’Atelier Awards, showcasing Africa’s best artistic talent. The works of South African crafts people are showcased in the building’s interiors, with preference being given to ABSA L’Atelier artists. Complementing this are large sculptural works of art from the ABSA Art Collection, strategically placed across the park.
A modern and flexible space
A state-of-the-art ABSA lobby and business lounge is on the first floor of the building. At the top of the escalators, one will move directly into a formal reception desk area, and thereafter through access control and either into the lift lobby to office floors or into the business lounge.
The fit-out of the business lounge was led by ABSA, so AMA Architects proposed a modern and flexible space, with casual lounge areas for employees, open-plan desking and collaboration spaces for teams, playful seating and pause areas, and formal meeting rooms to hold larger meetings or host guests. We envisioned the space as a mix between a formal business lounge and creative co-working space.
The office floor leads out onto an outdoor terrace, situated above the existing auditorium, and overlooking the green landscaping of the village park. Adjacent to the exit, AMA created a small food and drinks bar and with seating both inside and outside. The perimeter of the terrace is planted, contributing to the greening of the building as a whole. Views of this planted terrace and the urban landscape below are seen from all internal vantage points, offering a continual connection to nature and the city beyond.
Residential units for people seeking an urban lifestyle
The residential units are targeted at young ABSA employees and other young inner-city workers, including families, who are seeking an urban lifestyle offering. The units were designed around a pin-wheel corridor to prevent dead-ends and open to light, breezy corridors that have planted elements at the openings.
To improve residential density, AMA increased the residential floor count by three. We believe that the market for inner-city coworking space is still limited, and that this change improves the long-term sustainability of the building. A large residential community is key to a lively neighbourhood. This allows prospective tenants with a range of incomes to access the building.
To create a truly mixed-use experience in Towers Main, AMA Architects almost fully opened the 15th floor, on the north-eastern side, with a glass balustrade giving unobstructed clear views of the city. The rest of the floor is clad with full-height windows with more city views. The 15th floor restaurant is a dual-purpose space, intended as both an offering to the public but also as a clubhouse for the residents. The interiors are airy, and fresh. Intricate tiling and bold colours are softened by planting.
Co-working spaces, gym, child-friendly areas
AMA Architects designed co-working spaces, close to a cup of coffee or food after a meeting, or just a work-session. Child-friendly areas are provided in enclosed play centres – plus a small indoor soccer field. With child-minding taken care of, residents are free to take care of other needs, and children have safe areas of play.
A gym is a modern necessity and this one has been installed with spectacular views. Opening the floor at the centre of the Tower changed the whole feel of the building. Johannesburg has gorgeous all-round weather, spectacular sunrises and sunsets, and minimal wind. Why not have an unobstructed view of the city? Who needs a television in the gym when the city provides all the entertainment? It’s not a feature found in any other skyscraper in Johannesburg – it creates excitement and energy, and a feeling of openness in an often-crowded city.