De Beers Headquarters & Support Services Unit
GAPP ARCHITECTS and URBAN DESIGNERS: Architect
LUCIEN LE GRANGE ARCHITECTS: Architect
The global headquarters of De Beers is located in Ormonde, South of Johannesburg. This was a conscious decision taken by De Beers – placing the building on the then existing De Beers Industrial Diamond Division Campus, next to the existing HQ in an area regarded as the home of the diamond mining industry in Johannesburg.
In summary, the brief to the Architect was; "the building should be an A – grade – plus building that reflects De Beers' position as a global company with its roots firmly in South Africa…be of a first class contemporary design that is both restrained and sophisticated and befits a company of the stature of De Beers".
At commencement, the Architects requested that De Beers arrange a visit to the mines – in order to familiarise themselves with "the product" and gain an insight into the working of the company.
A trip to the UK and the continent was also arranged in order to visit and study the latest developments in office and space planning. ("The New Office", by Francis Duffy was also referred to).
The brief also required that the new facility, the 'Cornerstone' building, be located adjacent to the existing HQ and contribute to and be integrated with the overall campus-like context of the site.
The resulting design was an Atrium building. The atrium, flanked on two sides by utilitarian wings of flexible office space, creates the entry into Cornerstone and contributes externally as a linking device with the existing HQ. The atrium is the central holding idea and space of the building. At ground level it is surrounded by facilities such as flexible meeting rooms, a travel office, a convenience shop, a corporate gifts store, the dining & cafeteria spaces, a bar/functions area and a virtual library which displays facts about mining and diamonds. Tables in the atrium are wired for IT requirements.
The atrium is the primary circulation space for the building, containing the main staircase, suspended steel bridges linking the wings of the office accommodation and two glass elevators in steel framed 'shafts'.
The office space is free of structures allowing for maximum flexibility with partitioning – which is predominantly transparent. Each floor plate of office accommodation contains two 'pods' – spaces containing photocopying machines, binders, notice boards, tea/coffee stations and space to sit and relax away from the workstation. The 'pods' are personalised – each being furnished in a unique way and colour coded. In line with today's business needs requirements, the building has various formal meeting rooms of varying sizes as well as an abundance of informal venues for person-to-person interactions.
Water is an essential component of the diamond mining process. A water trough at the atrium reception slips beneath the entry façade and contrives in the linear direction, established by the atrium, out and past the entrance to the existing HQ building.
A terrace at the north side, (also accessible from the atrium), and terraces at eaves level under the overhang of the flat and over-sailing roof, provide views of the Johannesburg CBD in the distance, as well as mine dumps and the headgear of past era mines.
Landscaping, predominantly to the south of the new group of buildings, recalls the natural landscape of the Highveldt – long grasses, acacia trees and outcrops of rock – the landscape which gave birth to the industry.
All truncated references not fully cited below are those of Joanna Walker's original text and cited in full in the 'Bibliography' entry of the Lexicon.