WORDS Phendu Kuta PHOTOS Paris Brummer
For its new headquarters, local advertising agency Grey’s brief was to combine a contemporary South African feel with a fresh, modern, vibrant aesthetic. And the architectural design firm nailed it.
Designed to inspire, Grey Advertising Africa’s new headquarters is a space to breathe, dream, and invite creativity and collaboration.
The agency moved from the bustling Sandton CBD to a new location in Bryanston – an area that has always been regarded as one of Johannesburg’s most attractive and verdant suburban spaces, and one that the team felt had the best prospect of developing as a new corporate headquarters hub.
The project was a revamp of a four-storey office building that was redesigned and given a facelift by architectural designer Julian van der Linde and his team. The re-imagined building consists of three floors of spacious offices, and a mezzanine café with views of Midrand and the Magaliesberg mountains. It’s a space that aligns with CEO of Grey Africa Paul Jackson’s vision of building a creative business culture that inspires others to be the best they can be. It’s something he describes as their “Open” work culture.
“With this Open philosophy in mind,” says Paul, “we wanted to evolve the agency from a collective of old, closeted individual offices into a state-of-the-art, open and collaborative workspace. We wanted to bring the beauty of nature inside. And we wanted to reflect the creative energy and spirit of our beautiful country and its people.”
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One of the key design features, therefore, was blurring the boundaries between the building’s interior and its surroundings. The natural light that streams into the double-volume atrium provides dramatic light movement and shadow effect, along with serving a very obvious energy-saving function.
Items such as the reception desk, the red screens, the conversation pods, the custom boardroom tables and the centre- column features are all bespoke design elements courtesy of Julian and his team, and incorporate the design brief of reflecting the creative energy of Africa and inviting open collaboration. Julian’s use of a bright, Afro-modern colour palette throughout the space, combined with the locally designed contemporary furniture, has made for a free-flowing space that oozes positivity and creativity.
One of the biggest challenges of the construction was that most of it took place during Covid lockdowns. So while offices were closed and the staff were working remotely, Julian and his team were working frenetically to re-invent the space. “When the Grey staff returned to the offices post-lockdown, they were delighted with their newly re-energised space, which worked to lift spirits after a particularly difficult period,” he says.
And that’s hardly a surprise. Julian’s design team has created a wonderfully optimistic working environment that promotes hope and confidence – sentiments that the designer describes feeling every time he interacts with the inspiring and creative people of Grey.