The 35-storey Modernist building, originally known as the BP Centre, is situated on Cape Town’s European-style Thibault Square at the end of St George’s Mall. Underscoring its appeal, No 1 Thibault Square has realised excellent returns during a period in which the global financial crisis impacted negatively on all sectors of the South African property market. Of the total lettable area of 36 000 square metres, the vacancy rate is running at a remarkably low 5%.
“We paid what we considered quite a lot when we bought the building in 2006,” says Adam Blow, executive director of Zenprop, “but we had huge faith in the future of the Cape Town CBD and had a feeling that rentals were going to escalate – which is exactly what’s happened.”
Says Zenprop property manager, Janine Coleske: “In the past year, four of our blue-chip clients, occupying about 1 000 square metres each, have increased their space requirements by between 30 and 100 percent, taking up an entire additional floor in two instances, and entering into new five-year leases. And we’ve managed to achieve an average rental of between R115 and R120 per square metre.”
The refurbishment has included work on the six high-rise lifts, which have been modernised at a cost of about R12 million. The Miconic 10/Schindler destination-control system has reduced both crowding in the lobby and travel time in the lifts. The Schindler AC gearless machines offer power savings, and safety mechanisms are cutting edge.
The façade of the building, which consists of precast column and beam liners with an exposed dark Paarl granite (chosen to echo the colour of Table Mountain), is also being given a facelift. Major repairs are being carried out on various concrete panels at a cost of about R6 million.
The parking levels have all undergone a complete upgrade, and refurbishment work is ongoing on the rest rooms throughout the building.
Thibault Square is a favourite chill-out spot for office workers and visitors to the city, who flock to its cafes and coffee shops throughout the day. And while John Skotness’s Mythological Landscape steel-and-bronze sculpture provides a focal point in the piazza, it’s No 1 Thibault Square that always draws the eye. The office block is still the tallest building in the Cape Town city centre, and even when it was designed over four decades years ago, environmental factors were taken into consideration.
The 34-degree diagonal twist, which puts it on a north-south axis, reduces sun loads on the facades, putting less pressure on the airconditioning system. To further shield the facades, a precast screen is mounted on every floor, allowing good air flow and cutting off direct sun rays. This unique orientation also means that all the offices have views of either the mountain or the harbour, and that none stare straight into the facades of the surrounding buildings.
The skyscraper quickly became a landmark, and in 2008 was acknowledged in a national survey by the South African Institute of Architecture to be one of the country’s “good buildings”.