GOOGLE INC AFRICA
FITNESS, FOOD AND THE FUTURE OFFICE
PROJECT STATUS: PROPOSAL
LOCATION: ARCADIA, TSHWANE, GAUTENG, SOUTH AFRICA
Fitness, Food and the Future Office
Digital Design Assessment
“There are those that use computers to generate form. But for me it doesn’t help me make ideas … you can’t use them without an idea … in the end you have to make a building stable and stand up … that’s what makes architecture very rich. There is complexity with so many layers and so it makes creating architecture and thinking about architecture very difficult and very exciting,” Zaha Hadid (Futagawa, 2007, p.10)
Google Inc Africa is a digital retrofit of an unbuilt design, embalmed in a roll of dusty hand-drawn plans from 1994. The unbuilt structure would be 29 years old today and in (desperate) need of a make-over. Using the proposed column and concrete slab layout, the retrofit incorporates a slanted roof. An overarching design concept commenced with the question: “Can the needs of office user be met in this building where they will presumably spend a considerable part of their lives?” Vertical circulation is always a challenge in any building, especially with tightening regulations and requirements regarding fire safety and universal access. A three storey rise, spanning 2458 m2 posed both challenge and opportunity. Challenged to make it not look like the add-on that it was and with opportunity laying hidden in the ability to increase the user’s personal fitness levels. With an approximate 10 to 11 meter rise in altitude which the average office user will willingly or unwillingly commit to, stairs gained new significance in the design. A fitness route was designed into the building’s structure, layout and functionality, with a focus on the roof’s gentle inclination. Roughly 100 Cal can be burned by traversing the full exercise course. That’s half a doughnut!
The addition of an on-site coffee and whiskey bar, pizzeria and café, a mini auditorium and gym with lap-pool makes for a desirable office set-up. Although the use of concrete is not viewed as sustainable, it does have some contributions to consider. The hope that we will create low-carbon emitting concrete (lower than the current option), concrete that requires less soil and aggregate while still maintaining its strength and function, processes that capture and channel carbon emitted during construction and that uses less water. Properly constructed and maintained concrete can last very long (think Roman Era) and it can carry tremendous weights of ecological systems planted on green roofs for example as well as the weight of passive rainwater-harvesting systems such as is incorporated in the building. Wall infill of the Google Inc building is proposed to be done using reclaimed bricks.
Bosman, C (2023). ‘Google Inc Africa’. OKU 320 Assessment. University of Pretoria. Unpublished Assessment.