In South African architecture, there’s a growing list of modern structures that transform the spaces they occupy. We look at five inspired contemporary buildings that exemplify how an edifice can stand out, yet complement its surroundings at the same time.
1. alice lane towers, johannesburg
Also dubbed the ‘dancing towers’, Alice Lane Towers in Johannesburg is an ultra-modern construction that has notably enhanced the Sandton skyline. Comprising a pair of towers each 16 storeys high, the building was the project of Paragon Architects, who employed cutting-edge glass technology (not used in South Africa at that point) to embellish the north- and south-facing towers. Their facades are patterned with layers of clear, dark grey and translucent glass. The east- and west-facing sides are highlighted with sculptural, handformed aluminium boxes set around deeply incised glass lines, creating a playful ‘dancing’ yet sophisticated design.
2. 88 on field, durban
Since its completion in 1986, the skyscraper on 88 Field Road in Durban has held the title of the city’s tallest building, at 146.5m, with 25 floors. Sometimes known as the Southern Life Building, its angled glass facade glistens in the sunlight, making it one of Durban’s most distinctive architectural gems.
3. bosjes chapel, wellington
Bosjes Estate lies at the foot of the Waaihoek Mountains in the Western Cape’s picturesque Breede Valley. The estate’s chapel has become an attraction in itself, largely for its unusual and elegant design – the work of Steyn Studio of London, which took into consideration the surrounding range of mountains in the process. From inside, you can take in sweeping views of the valley, and the reflective pools in front give the building the illusion of weightlessness, as if it’s afloat.
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4. zeitz MOCAA, cape town
As the largest museum of contemporary art in Africa, the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (MOCAA) building in Cape Town is as spectacular as the art it houses. Fashioned from an abandoned grain silo and its accompanying building – which were gutted, reinforced and refurbished – the museum and hotel above it stand as a distinguished centrepiece in the new Silo District at the V&A Waterfront.
5. 11 diagonal street, johannesburg
11 Diagonal Street in Johannesburg is an iconic statement in the city centre. Designed by acclaimed architect Helmut Jahn, its chiselled facade resembles a multifaceted gem, hence its oft-used moniker: the ‘diamond’ building. The aesthetic is enhanced by massive glass sheets placed at varying angles to reflect its surrounds.