Unlocking Joburg’s beautiful skyline

BEAUTIFUL: The Council Chamber was inspired by the Tswana word ‘Lekgotla’, an outdoor meeting space which is circular in form.

The Metro Centre Piazza is set to become the ‘town crier’ for those who live and work in the surrounds of Braamfontein just north of the City itself. Gone is the concrete Metro Centre Precinct. It is now softened by the new and majestic Council Chambers allowing space for a new and modern Piazza.

The heart and soul of every South African beat to the rhythm of the African drum. Its shape and form come to mind as the new Joburg Council Chambers rises in front of the contrasting Metro Centre directly behind it. The drum beats faster as you enter the chambers from the existing Metro Centre building into the newly completed Council Chambers.

Once you enter the Chamber, the transparency of the glass becomes evident in the view of the daily lives of all those who live, work and hope to survive the ravages of city life. And those on the outside can view the roof mounted circular TV showing the sessions as they take place. The striking drum shape of the building together with the glass panels that are shaped to ensure that the audio within does not distort is a world class design and final finish.

STUNNING: Due to the circular nature of the space, it would be challenging to provide optimal video viewing coverage for all seating areas; in addition, as the chamber is a glass walled space, very high ambient light levels would prevent the use of conventional video projection technologies.

Joburg Property Company (JPC) managers of the City of Johannesburg (CoJ) property portfolio have been instrumental in the conceptual design of the Council Chamber which was inspired by the Tswana word ‘Lekgotla’, an outdoor meeting space which is circular in form. Three awards later, it proves that this is not just a building but an iconic work of art.

Last year the Council Chamber was awarded the Five Star Green Award which recognises excellence in South Africa for environmental leadership and this was just the beginning of the awards. This was a unique award in the area of public service and education developments. JPC has also been awarded the Public Services Development Award by the Africa and Arabia Property Awards.

The International Property Awards, in its 26th year, are open to residential and commercial property professionals and celebrates the highest levels of achievement in the property and real estate industry. There were 14 entries in total for Africa and Arabia for the Public Service award and this was split over ten countries and the Johannesburg Council Chamber made it to the top.

NEW TECHNOLOGY: The latest large format full HD LED walls were provided to ensure high-quality video images and presentations can be viewed by all delegates and public participants in the chamber.

The JPC has been further honoured when it was shortlisted in the Other Developments category for the South African Property Owners Association (SAPOA) Innovative Excellence in Property Development Awards because of the very nature of the building and its purpose.

It was no surprise that at the SAPOA Convention, Exhibition and Awards Ceremony held on the June 22 in Cape Town, they received the prestigious award in this category. Up against some strong competition including the Destiny Conference Centre (Kempton Park), the Isivivana Centre (Cape Town), Menlyn Learning Hub (Pretoria) and The Waterfall Public Transport Facility (Midrand-Johannesburg). June has truly been a momentous month for the JPC to be awarded prizes both nationally and internationally for the Council Chamber.

More about the Council Chamber

Conceptually, the essence of Lekgotla is that anyone is allowed to speak and no interruptions may be made during the process. As in all African culture, the drum has been used for centuries to call those from surrounding areas to come together for social gatherings or for important meetings. Therefore the Council Chamber comes together at the north end of Rissik Street, reminding those that gather inside to make important decisions, who they are representing and why they have been selected to be there.

Another one of the key features to a chamber like this is the quality of audio and acoustics achieved to optimise communications. In any parliamentary space, if the video stops you can still continue the service, but if the sound stops you have to stop the session because when it comes to making laws, debating and decision making, it’s all about the spoken word.

The Chamber has been designed in such a way that it provides seating capacity for 361 councilors and 158 seats in the gallery for the public and media – 80 seats more than is currently required, in order to cater for future expansion. The state-of-the-art audio-visual and delegate system is fully programmable and completely customisable to be updated in line with any future changes in the way that the chamber operates.

ELEGANT: The breathtakingly lit Council Chamber is a daily reminder that the Jozi skyline is undergoing a massive change.

From floor to ceiling, each facet of the building has a story and a reason for being designed in a particular way. From the architectural drawing to a reality, the common thread has shown community involvement and produced excellence in every way. Community, togetherness and transparency has been the key to unlocking the doors to the growing rejuvenation of the City of Johannesburg.

The architect wanted to celebrate African principles of space making, while incorporating smart technologies and green building systems. The open air Piazza alongside that encourages the local community to come together and enjoy the various aspects that have been built for their leisure and enjoyment such as the outdoor gym, children’s playground and a chess set.

The art that was selected for the inside of the building has in its simplicity and design, has been selected to ensure that a story is told from past and present using not only art forms but also different forms of material from copper to steel, from canvas to glass. As the years go by the story will still be told in the way that it should be that of the journey of Johannesburg and its residents to that of freedom within the city.

One of the unique features of the building was the Council Chambers Totem Art Competition 2016 which was open to both young and old, professionals and hopefuls and invited artists to submit drawings, paintings and prints that told a unique story about their community and their community’s history. The winning designs have been translated into wooden totems placed inside the Council Chamber building. These totems will stand as testaments to the people of Johannesburg and their heritage.

GLASS: With a new and flexible design this space can be transformed to suit the changing seasons or events that invite the community to mix and relax in a friendly environment with the whole family.

During the design phase, attempted researches of similar facilities around the world found no known circular fully glazed glass chambers similar to the design of the new Johannesburg City Council Chamber that could provide a very high degree of speech intelligibility and acoustic functionality. The acoustic and audio qualities achieved in the new Johannesburg Council Chamber is truly a reference level standard that can be appreciate by most untrained ears, not just sound professionals.

Due to the circular nature of the space, it would be challenging to provide optimal video viewing coverage for all seating areas; in addition, as the chamber is a glass walled space, very high ambient light levels would prevent the use of conventional video projection technologies. To overcome these challenges, the latest large format full HD LED walls were provided. This ensures high quality video images and presentations can be view by all delegates and public participants in the chamber. The video information can also be view by council delegates through their individual 15-inch touch screen video displays.

The touch screen information system can provide preloaded meeting information, council rules and all other information relevant to the council proceedings. It can also be used by individual delegates to call for assistance and services. An emergency evacuation system was installed to facilitate fast evacuation when required.

With a new and flexible design, this space can be transformed to suit the changing seasons or events that invite the community to mix and relax in a friendly environment with the whole family. The Piazza allows for daily use and weekend chill sessions and a large outdoor digital screen will not only showcase the speaker sessions in the newly built Council Chambers above. It will also screen features of national interest such as soccer, world news and on the odd night, a movie under the stars.

As the sun sets and whether you are arriving at the Joburg Theatre to watch ballet or a local production or you are going home using the newly developed Gautrain from Park Station, the breathtakingly lit Council Chamber is a daily reminder that the Jozi skyline is undergoing a massive change. Thanks to the Joburg Property Company whose vision and drive to make a difference is becoming apparent to those who not only live here but those who choose to visit Johannesburg.

READ:

WATCH: Get a taste of diverse cultures this July in Jozi

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  AUTHOR
Shernovia Reddy
Journalist

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