• AFGRI Headquarters Office Building/ Paragon Architects

Architects: Paragon Architects  
Location: Centurion, Tshwane, South Africa  South Africa
Project Team: Anthony Orelowitz, Bruno Coelho, Estelle Meiring, Brent Rahme, Yumna Ismail
Project Year: 2010
Photographer: Paragon Architects

Building occupation: Office Block Development

The AFGRI headquarters building signals a new thought process, at least within the African architectural context. It provides for a brief departure from the gritty and tenacious look that dots the landscape to a more feline flowing from that almost seems to wrap itself upon the user. It is a statement of concrete and glass embedded in Tshwana history, one that Paragon architects have been making with several others of their buildings and the AFGRI is no different to that result.

From The Architects
As a catalyst for a new office park along the fast developing stretch of highway between Pretoria and Johannesburg, the AFGRI head office building became a significant talking point during its construction. The developer wanted to raise the design bar in their extensive commercial portfolio and the tenant needed to shed an old-fashioned corporate image.

The building features a four storey atrium with vertical and horizontal connectors, a pedestrian entry that is flanked by the same and a south block oriented to maximize views over the wetland.

Set between a busy highway and low-key residential housing, careful consideration was given to how the building would occupy the site. It had to provide pleasing facades on both sides without jarring with the aesthetic of each area, which was solved with a transitional flowing, sculptural form. The ‘soft’ forms of the design distinguish the building from its hard, semi-industrial environment and balance the residential architectural elements.

The design features strong references to Brazilian modernism, with two office pavilions joined by continuous concrete curves set at distinct angles. Shaded glass lines also permeate the facades, allowing for abundant natural light while shielding the interior from weather and noise. A second skin of aluminium louvers cover glass areas where the building is overexposed to the harsh African sun. The louvers edges form subtle wave-shaped patterns using simple techniques of laser cutting and structural offsets.

Office space is elevated on a series of pilotis, separating it from the corporate lifestyle areas on the ground floor. Generous use of glass and light creates a spacious interior for a more comfortable work environment.

The building is wrapped in a broken ceramic tile facing or “azulejos quebrados”, popularised by other modernists such as Santiago Calavatra, which creates a defining architectural statement on the landscape of Centurion. It is a building that provokes debate, in all directions that the thought may be. And in that right, it seems to provoke and invite thought.

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