Today on our Around the World Wednesday post, we’d like to applaud Curbed for their unique, monthly series that invites an emerging architect to redesign an existing structure in his or her city.
The Curbed article we’re highlighting today looks at the redesign of three buildings in Johannesburg, South Africa’s downtown business district. (Read the full article here).
Here’s the short version:
Since the crumbling of the apartheid and the introduction of South Africa’s democratic government, businesses deserted downtown Johannesburg for the “safer” suburbs. The left-behind downtown skyscrapers became home to the city’s poorest.
GASS Architecture Studio, a Johannesburg-based firm, reimagined three of the historical, downtown buildings while addressing the area’s gentrification. With the goal of giving the buildings “back to the city”, the architects envisioned a mixed-use block with a school, offices, apartments, retail space and a hotel, all above a public plaza.
The current owner planned to convert the buildings into luxury apartments. The bid was unsuccessful.
Rather than resorting to the downtown district’s pre-apartheid business identity, GASS Architecture Studio’s design calls for friendly streets with civic space for community use in the form of a flexible performance and civic square, as well as development space for tenants.
This idea of introducing public/mixed-use space to “give the buildings back” to city cores can be applied to places all over the world. Even in Atlanta, we have worked on projects that give green space back to the public. For example, we are working on expanding Chastain Park’s sidewalks and narrowing the surrounding streets to slow down traffic flow and encourage walkability. Can you think of another example?