The client brief for the refurbishment of The Firs Office lobby was to convert the existing pedestrian thoroughfare with reception desks and furniture running on the sides of the walkway into a dedicated space for welcoming tenants’ visitors. The shift to making an aspirational, engaging reception with a place to interact with clients or get a cup of coffee is, in part, a competitive response to the growth and allure of collaborative workspaces. Conventional multi-tenanted office suites such as The Firs can enhance their value proposition by reviewing the usage of common areas and creating rewarding and useful shared spaces.

By closing public access to the courtyard outside from the road on the Western side (Craddock Avenue) with a glass wall and a raised podium water feature skirting the pavement, and placing a central reception desk and entrance on the inside of the lobby on the Eastern side, a dedicated enclosed space is formed for The Firs Office tenants with visitors gaining access through The Firs Mall. The glass wall maintains transparency and perspective through the outdoor space for viewers from the street while keeping the enclosed courtyard light and spacious.

The interior design for the lobby pushes the brief to make a welcoming space further by creating a luxurious lounge with different settings that invite tenants to use it as a shared workspace.

Individual chairs and setees with coffee tables are discreetly set into corners for conversation, custom-made seating banks are fitted with power points for working sessions, and an four-seater meeting table is separated out with a tailor-made serving cabinet for informal meetings. The outdoor terrace provides the opportunity for some fresh air while having a break or catch up with a visitor or colleague.

The use of rich fabrics, wood panelling, and a range of textured finishes provide a sense of comfort and intimacy and aligns with the overall upmarket, niche proposition of The Firs. Oversized pendant lampshades covered in a warm grey match the existing high-end marble and stone finishes in the atrium yet visually surprise with the contrast of the colourful, ornate shapes of botanical fabrics on the inside. Over and above the soft ambient light these feature lights add to the naturally lit space they create a sense of intimacy and place in the triple volume lobby while functionally providing acoustic comfort for informal meetings in the setting.

Old Lobby with light feature

Refurbished lobby with reconfigured light feature

The Repurposed lighting feature creates a floating grid in The Firs lobby

A noteworthy design intervention in the refurbishment highlights that inventive design and repurposing can be better than replacement. The original spiral chandelier of brass tubes was repurposed as an angled geometric grid that spreads lighting throughout the space while shaping a unifying framework for the mixed-use areas below. The pattern and rhythm of the suspended lighting feature are picked up in the design detail of the slats of the purpose-made central reception desk.

Supporting local design and manufacture

The Firs Office and Mall form part of the Rosebank district in Johannesburg which is known for its focus on high-end local fashion and design. To connect to this aspirational aesthetic, over 80% of the fit-out is provided by local designers and manufacturers. Each piece was carefully chosen and detailed for how it would contribute to an ambience of elegant comfort and some items such as The Houtlander four-seater table and chairs were stained to match the overall colour palette of The Firs lounge.

While the design was proposed and the project commenced before the pandemic the extended use of shared floor space, with natural light provided by the triple volume window and access to fresh air, provides tenants with more comfortable socially distanced working opportunities.

Appointment 2019
Dveloper Investec Property
Completed 2020
Project Manager 3D Projects
Quantity Surveyor Oudmayer & Associates
Principal Contractor MCS
Shopfitter RS Wood and Tartan Studios
Images Graeme Wyllie
Model Bisi Sowemmo | Ice Models
Stylist Karen Orzol