BMW Head Office
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It might be buildings of the recent past that are most in danger of being obliterated so as to satisfy the quest for the newest and best in corporate South Africa. So often, we see examples of this approach when it is accepted that it is the only way to stay ahead of the curve. If this approach is not followed, it would seem that corporate entities fear that not conforming to the world's best practice and latest technological standards would be questioned. It is only the brave and confident who may be able to counter such perceived symbols of 'advancement'.
In this instance, BMW (South Africa) has achieved this precisely when they allowed Boogertman + Partners to convince them to retain and update their local headquarters, designed by the much admired and respected Hans HALLEN of the erstwhile HALLEN THERON & PARTNERS of Durban. When designed, it was a bold statement of belief that an office building could be more than a crate housing worker bees efficiently for maximum productivity. It was also a statement of belief that such a building could proclaim the values of a company; that such an economic entity rests on people working co-operatively and that they are worthy of being taken care of architecturally.
It may also be that adhering to these values enabled Boogertman + Partners to retain this architecturally important building, while thoroughly renewing it to conform to contemporary standards and requirements.The adaptation was bold and it fundamentally changed the technological and social workings of the building. However, the changes are in no way insensitive to the original architectural notions underpinning the design. Some of these changes were large and fundamental in the continued operation of the building-for example, the roof was replaced, a new glass facade was installed in the courtyard and most services were upgraded to conform to current sustainability requirements.
In many ways, the result has been a totally new building that retains most of its original spirit and qualities. When this project is viewed in its renewed form, one is reminded of Professor Roelof UYTENBOGAARDT's often repeated remark that time takes a detour around inherently good and culturally valuable buildings. This, then, is their ultimate reason for survival i.e. to be enjoyed and cherished by later generations.
That this act of preservation and revival could come from an architectural firm questioning their important corporate client's desires and requirements is even more telling. And the client's respect for the quality and genius of their colleagues' work is indeed worthy of emulation and celebration.
Equally so, it is the quality achieved in this new incarnation of an important building that should be admired and showcased as a benchmark.
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