When Bongani Rainmaker Logistics, a successful service company with extensive logistical expertise, had outgrown its premises, the company consulted with Johannesburg-based Architectural practice, Architects Of Justice, to assist with its new office fit out. Having been the designers responsible for the previous offices, the architects had existing knowledge of the company and its ethos and were well placed to match the client’s needs with a modern, functional design.
Met with an empty shell at the new premises at the Westlake View Logistics Park in Modderfontein, Gauteng, Mike Rassmann, partner at Architects Of Justice notes that while initially the project took a while to get off the ground, the actual implementation on site was incredibly quick. “We had a month to complete the fit out of the main office, yet the project grew considerably from there in the sense that we also added a number of offices within the warehouse for the operations side of the business.”
The initial thoughts of both the tenant and Architects Of Justice when they viewed the building, with its raw interior and exposed services and concrete, was to implement an ‘industrial chic’ look in the more public areas of the building, such as the reception area and the call centre, and then, as one moves upstairs to the legal and financial departments, along with the director’s offices, present a more standard, corporate look and feel. “Fortunately, one of the directors of the company is very design minded and had a clear vision of what he wanted. The appearance of his business is very important to him and he wasn’t interested in skimping. Although Bongani Rainmaker Logistics is a logistics company, through the nature of their work they have become very tech-focussed and moved away from being purely a logistics company to more of a solutions company. With this in mind, the directors wanted an almost Silicon Valley feel to the interiors which assisted in formulating our design and reinforced the notion of doing the more public areas with an ‘industrial chic’ look,” he says
Architects Of Justice began the process with a breakdown of the entire operations and the businesses requirements. In total, across 1300m² of primary office space over two floors, 70 staff members are accommodated on the lower level (including eight private offices), and 30 staff on the upper office level (including nine private offices). A reception, meeting rooms, main boardroom and executive kitchen were also included. Furthermore, 1000m² of operational office space for 70 staff is located in the warehouse, comprising individual offices, open plan offices and a 100 seater conference facility. “For the warehouse component, we created operations offices on the warehouse floor, as well as offices on a central mezzanine level to give the managerial staff a bird’s eye view of the warehouse activities,” says Rassmann.
Due to the short timescale of the project, an interior design firm, On Target Interiors, was brought on board to assist. “This allowed us to focus on the space planning of the project and the basic look and feel, and the interior designers were given certain spaces and aspects of the project, such as the accent lighting in the reception spaces and boardrooms,” explains Rassmann, noting that the interior designers could focus on these spaces without having to worry about the implementation of the rest of the project. “We wouldn’t have done the project any other way because of the timeline, and you can see the results; the lighting, in particular, is striking and the ceiling finishes above the main boardroom and the staircase are fantastic,” he says.
Acoustic tiles were specified throughout due to their sound quality properties, and flooring-wise, hardwearing vinyls were used for high traffic areas and carpet tiles for the office spaces. Indoor planting contrasts with the industrial feel of the spaces, softening them and adding a natural element, while the colour palette was largely dictated by the client’s corporate identity. The company already had a selection of good furniture from their previous office, but have been supplementing furniture in the new office as the need has become apparent.
“From a sustainable point-of-view, we installed motion sensors and LED lighting in all the spaces, as well as a low energy air conditioning system,” notes Rassmann. Hard-wearing and easily replaceable materials were used, along with a strong element of re-use. “In fit outs such as this, the tenants often have an allowance, or ‘TI’, and any costs above this needs to be covered by them. This usually only permits a small amount of glass internally, but obviously more glass in an office gives a more light and open feel, especially in an office such as this with quite a high concentration of individual offices. Usually a tenant would end up paying in for glass partitions, and if they move in the future, these would be left behind.” A demountable glass partitioning system, that the tenant had begun using in their previous offices, was incorporated into the project, and a large part of their exercise was designing the proportions of the partitions so they could have the best reuse in future offices of the company. “This was one of the biggest hurdles,” explains Rassmann, “As not every office building is identical, so we had to determine the best module which would most likely be able to be reused in the future.”
Another element of the project which required extra thought was the reception area. “The original reception space in the basement wasn’t conducive to creating the type of welcoming area which the tenant wanted,” notes Rassmann. The architects identified a dry walled space between the staircase and the receptions current location, removed the wall, and created an intermediate lobby from the lower level which leads visitors up to the reception area. “The initial design of the building separated the reception vastly from the rest of the office, so we brought it back up and integrated it into the space. A focal point of this space is the wooden element which was introduced as a screening element, to ensure that all visitors, no matter which department they are going to, must directly report to the receptionist, in order to avoid unscheduled walk-ins,” he says.
“Having a client who is knowledgeable about design made it a very nice project to work on,” says Rassman, noting that while there weren’t too many embellishments cost wise, the exposed services were a lot harder to deal with than originally envisioned. “Because offices aren’t always done in this manner, the original contractors don’t lay every conduit and cable tray perfectly straight, so that took a bit of work to ‘beautify’,” he says. “Overall, we have a very happy client and this was achieved with the help of the contractor, Abbeydale & Civil, who allowed us to execute the project quickly, along with Quanticost Quantity Surveyors, because, especially with the tight timeline, any design decision we made, we had to go back to the client timeously with the costs,” he concludes.
Despite a tight timeframe, the joint design team of Architects Of Justice and On Target Interiors have delivered a modern, industrial inspired interior to the offices of a company which has not only grown its staff complement in recent years, but also shifted its business focus. The new offices allow Bongani Rainmaker Logistics to consolidate their operations in a new home which reflect the company’s philosophy, but also take cognisance of their role as a responsible corporate player.
Developer – Fortress Income Fund Ltd
Tenant – Bongani Rainmaker Logistics (Pty) Ltd
Architect – Architects Of Justice
Quantity Surveyor – Quanticost Quantity Surveyors
Contractor – Abbeydale & Civil (Pty) Ltd
Interior Designer – On Target Interiors
Fire Engineer – Chimera Fire Protection Consultants
Electrical Engineer – MNS Consulting Engineers
Structural Engineer – BSM Baker Consulting Engineers
Photographer – Dominic Barnardt Photography