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What makes a building more than just a building? A place where office workers enjoy being, and that says something about your company? How can an office block go green?
Gray Todd, architectural director at LYT Architecture, explains the design principles behind Old Mutual’s new headquarters in Sandton.
Old Mutual Limited has a new home, having moved its Johannesburg Head Office from Mutual Square on Grayston Drive to the heart of Sandton, directly opposite the Sandton Gautrain station.
Here, in the ‘Richest Square Mile in Africa’, the new 12-storey mixed-use office building is a striking addition to the Sandton skyline and representative of Old Mutual’s strong position in Africa.
‘The brief was aligned to the work that Old Mutual is doing to reinvigorate its brand as a whole,’ says Gray Todd, architectural director at LYT Architecture, the company that designed the project. ‘The building achieves this through engaging and welcoming the public to its spaces where they can interact with the building and in turn the company. This has been achieved through the polite design of the ground floor and the flow between the inside and outside spaces.’
A large portion of the ground floor will in future house retail shops to further engage visitors. ‘We also felt that the building and precinct should provide opportunities to easily utilise the spaces which are clearly identifiable on the podium, and the stair and ramp arrangement on the corner of Rivonia Road and West Street where you’ll find more retail space, a small amphitheatre and seating,’ Todd explains.
Vuyo Lee, Chief Marketing Officer at Old Mutual, says that No 1 Mutual Place stands for so much more than just a new corporate head office. ‘Old Mutual Limited is the new holding company that serves our customers in South Africa, the rest of Africa and in a select few emerging markets. Our primary listing on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange in June underscores that we are now firmly anchored in Africa, together with our ambition to become a Pan-African financial services leader. Our new head office in Sandton demonstrates our commitment to this continent.’
‘The modern design of our new HQ at No 1 Mutual Place also needed to reflect the importance of collaboration and our customer-centric culture, and yes, our employees love the vibrancy, too, in line with our refreshed brand!’
Adds Todd: ‘We understood from the start that the company saw the building as an opportunity to bring together the various business units that make up Old Mutual for the first time. This impacted our approach to improving the circulation in the building and communication between staff.’
The team tapped into the latest design trends to create a living, breathing, human space, where people are encouraged to interact. This is expressed in the design of the pause areas. ‘When designing these areas, we took the line of sight, transparency and the ability to communicate between floors into consideration. We also wanted them to double as informal meeting areas and alternate work areas,’ Todd explains. Each area has a coffee shop and informal seating to encourage this.
‘The orientation was optimised to maximise natural light and minimise excessive heat gain,’ Todd says. ‘The specification blinds and solar shading were important considerations too.’ It is the first time the specific glass used in the glass façade is used in South Africa and it was chosen to prevent the building from getting too hot and over-relying on air-conditioning.’
Roof gardens, column-free multi-use spaces, an auditorium, staff restaurant and gym provide further opportunities to socialise or meet.
Underlining Old Mutual’s connection with its people and its community, No 1 Mutual Place achieved a five-star rating from the Green Building Council of South Africa.
Old Mutual’s new Sandton Central HQ is certainly eye-catching, with its inclusive, future-focused design carefully shaped to be responsive to occupants’ and visitors’ lifestyle. But Todd and the LYT design team had even bigger aims. ‘We did a study on what makes a building or place iconic,’ he says. ‘It’s generally not the form or building use, but its memorability. A way to ensure this, is to make the building available to the public and integrate the design to improve the urban fabric.’
In other words, Old Mutual’s new home is truly a place where everybody’s welcome to visit.
By Mark van Dijk, an award-winning freelance writer and editor who has written for publications such as Sports Illustrated, Time Out and the official magazine of the Johannesburg Stock Exchange.