WORDS Zanele Kumalo
Aiming to build a community rather than just create apartments, Sandton’s new BlackBrick Club development is – hopefully – also coming soon to a space near you.
BlackBrick Club’s meditation garden was planted as a jungle oasis. The library is filled with carefully selected books to support a regular programme of talks. The cinema will screen documentaries and old classics. The bar faces west to provide great views of Joburg’s urban forest. There’s a spot for rooftop yoga, a bike station, electric car rental facility, gym, restaurants, work spaces, 75 hotel rooms and 208 apartments to rent or buy.
But unlike an apartment building with similar facilities that sometimes never get used, BlackBrick Club wants to build a community, using events to bring people together. Founder Moritz Wellensiek calls this integrated live-play-work experience a “vertical village”. It’s an interesting project – even more so now, as Covid-19 speeds up the shifts in the way we live and work. A New Yorker cartoon by David Sipress signals some anxiety around it when a character asks, “I can’t remember – do I work at home or do I live at work?” Published years ago, it has recently been doing the rounds again.
BlackBrick Club, housed in the old South African Breweries building at 25 Fredman Drive in central Sandton, might offer a solution to this conundrum. Here, you can choose which setup works best for you with four tiers of membership: investor (buy an apartment), tenant (rent), club (work and socialise) and guest (hotel guests are temporary members). The club membership costs about R10 000, and gives you access to the BlackBrick accelerator programme, including mentorship workshops and cross-country conferencing, access to all communal facilities, and discounts on hotel stays at their network of clubs still to come in Rosebank, Umhlanga, Cape Town, and abroad in the US.
The developers are also offering leisure experiences in partnership with Curiocity – so guests can spend a night at BlackBrick, then stay at Curiocity in the Cradle of Humankind, and end the weekend with a walk through Nirox Sculpture Park.
There are plenty of other collaborations too. One of the restaurants is Soul Souvlaki, famous for Greek street food. Weylandts and Modernist provided the furniture and decor. Performance artist Manthe Ribane is one of the guides offering inspiring talks about their career journey – and she’s had input into the staff uniforms too.
Architect and urbanist Andrew Makin worked with the developers to create a space that uses landscaping and muted accents to contrast and soften the urban context and stark architectural aesthetic.
Sensitive to concerns around communal living while Covid-19 is still an issue, BlackBrick has designed a booking system on their app that allows members to book spaces for private use. With many of us left feeling isolated during the lockdown in less-mixed living situations, a suitably safe vertical village might just tick all the boxes.
For more information, visit blackbrick.club.