Originally a diamond-polishing facility in Joburg’s diamond district in the CBD, Hallmark House was designed in the 1970s by architect Greg Cohen for developer Mark Markovitz, who would go on to build his own empire across the United States and Israel. Markovitz was still the owner of the building 45 years later when developer Jonathan Liebmann approached him, wanting to buy it.
‘It’s quite unusual,’ says Liebmann. ‘I normally buy buildings from people on their fourth or fifth cycle. I’d never bought one from the person who built it.’ He goes on to explain his belief that no two buildings will ever be alike, especially when one is being refurbished, and that his key philosophy is to respond to the original architecture of the structure, an approach seen in Hallmark House. Maboneng’s latest hotel-and-beyond property will offer a 17-floor luxurious living space that includes residential apartments, a boutique hotel and retail stores as well as wellness and leisure facilities.
When Markovitz learned of Liebmann’s plans for the building, he was willing to pass on its legacy, which Liebmann placed in the hands of British-Ghanaian architect Sir David Adjaye, who has gained fame for his work on the Nobel Peace Center in Oslo and the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington DC.
Hallmark House is Adjaye’s ‘first big project’ in Southern Africa and as such, he chose to reinterpret the integrity of the building by adding subtle elements that speak to contemporary African design – from massive steel diagonals that cross the facade as an ode to Ndebele patterns to the undersides of each floor overhang having an alternating wash of four muddy colours that pay homage to traditional housing techniques and the building’s natural surrounds. The most dramatic structural change was a response to Joburg’s sunny climate: the original facades were pulled back to create balconies with hanging gardens.
‘I don’t appoint architects – I’m not like a property owner or a landlord in that sense. I collaborate with them, because I’m very design focused, almost obsessed,’ says Liebmann. This intense interest finds its way into the decor, for which he worked with interior designer Aimee Henning of Malica Design, who took inspiration from the structure’s colours and the architectural ethos of combining old and new to create nuanced interiors.
The lobby on the west side of the building is a blend of dark and warm hues, and features elements created out of moulded concrete, ceramic tiles and repurposed steel panels from the property walls. But it’s Henning’s use of different seating that brings the most texture to this space: you’ll be able to choose from designs by Pedersen + Lennard, Dark Horse, Gregor Jenkin, Weylandts and Southern Hospitality, as well as vintage buys from The Modernist, choice pieces picked up at auctions, and Soldier stools by Dokter and Misses that double as occasional tables.
In the two-storey hotel, each of the 46 rooms is unique, with alternating colour palettes for the beds and panels of Vlisco fabric on the walls. The rooms are airy and styled to take advantage of the sweeping cityscapes, which you can admire from hanging chairs Henning created with Katherine-Mary Pichulik. ‘I try to be a conscious shopper and use local design whenever I can,’ she says.
Alongside the restaurant lobby, Hallmark House hosts a bar, barber and jazz club on the lower ground floor, and is the new home of the Nirox Foundation art collection, which will turn every floor into an art gallery. The roof will boast a spa, pool, gym, restaurant and bar, and above the hotel rooms are levels on which apartments are for sale, from 35m2 studios to a 300m2 penthouse.
It is this clever combination of facilities and their usage that Liebmann wants to bring together in several properties across the country with the H Collection, a series of buildings linked together with a membership system that gives residents access to all facilities in the stable, and potentially gives you the option of living between the buildings. The next H Collection unveiling is Hyde Park House, which is set to open this month. Watch this space…