By Hugh Fraser

When the lease of the Paragon Group’s offices in the iconic Norton Rose Fulbright building expired in September, the practice needed to find new premises and, because it had expanded, needed quite a lot of extra space too.

Heeding the estate agents’ well-worn refrain of “Location, Location, Location”, Paragon’s operations manager, Cindy Faux, and associate, Estelle Meiring, scoured different parts of the city in a search for something that would be appropriate.

After searching for a while, they were able to locate offices at 33 Fricker Road in Illovo. It offered some exciting opportunities, but there was insufficient space, so creative thinking had to be applied to resolve this. The solution was to split the offices into a production area of 815m2 and a meeting suite of 335m2.

The existing structure, originally designed by GAPP in 1999, comprises a three-storey building with a single parking basement. Clad in a corrugated metal cladding, the building has a “Catherine wheel” plan clustered around three alcoves/courtyards. The interior common areas are well lit and airy with bridges joining the different wings.

The Paragon Group’s production offices occupy an L-shaped space, which is well lit from the east, north and west. Entrance to the production side of the offices is directly into the breakout space, which has a restrained expression of dark tiles and furniture and fittings recovered from the previous offices to reduce waste. Some new furniture was added to fit in with the new space.

A play on black and white, dark and light, with the raised platform (floor finish silver-ash timber vinyl from the Earthwerks Harmonie Collection) and dropped bulkhead on one side, form an intimate space, with the dual function of being a design space and break-out space.

The fittings above the Pierre Cronje table in the break-out space are copper-coloured Plumen lights.

Service activities are restricted to the west side of the offices, which includes the sample room, offices for the operations and financial managers, IT room and print room.

The balance of the space contains workstations, which wrap around and terminate in a “brainstorm” area with telephone booths embellished with covers of the office newsletter, the Tea Time Romeo Delight.

The think space offers an opportunity to sit back in the Fat Sak beanbags and Blocs and either contemplate a project or discuss something with colleagues at an informal collaborative meeting table. Brightly coloured Burmatex carpet tiles form playful, geometric patterns on the floor, demarcating the space.

Technological developments in print and wallpaper technology offer an opportunity to explore the graphics that are constantly being generated by the offices. Sketches have been attached to room dividers and maps, and graphics have been attached to the glass separating the services areas.

The floors are carpeted with Interface Suits U carpet tiles and the ceiling is the existing one, but has been removed in the break-out space where the soffit is painted black with the services exposed.

The meeting suite has a completely different feel. It comprises a single darkened arrival and circulation space, enclosed to the west and north with four light meeting rooms.

The arrival space has been blacked out with dark carpets (Interface Lipslide), black walls (and flush black doors to the meeting rooms), a black ceiling and black block-out blinds.

Three glowing pods occupy the centre ground to accommodate a kitchenette (for clients and visitors) pod and two informal meeting pods. These have green carpets by Interface Urban Retreat with Danpalon walls and recessed lighting to provide the titillating glow.

This central area also provides a space to display the Paragon Architects models and two monitors, which play a reel of Paragon people and projects over and over again. The green kitchenette floor is Marmoleum Global 3 Chartreuse.

The idea was that as you open the doors to the formal meeting rooms, there is a strong contrast as they are light and bright. There are white painted walls, white tables and light-coloured floors (again silver-ash timber vinyl from the Earthwerks Harmonie Collection). White writable glass and magnetic board panels are used in each meeting room. Glass panels in walls between meeting rooms give a feeling of openness.

The practice was fortunate enough to be able to execute the project themselves for the group by Paragon Interface. This allowed them to interrogate their specific needs and design accordingly. The team was led by associate Claire D’Adorante, and designed and the project managed by Kirstin Cavanagh, Ilona Frankenberg and Terri Turner.

Uncharacteristically, the group’s offices were completely shut for five days to allow for the move, but operations re-opened on 25 September, much to the approval of the staff.

The little black book of materials for the office:

Office furniture – All Office

Break-out space:
Wooden table – Pierre Cronje
Black Panton chairs
Copper Plumen lights

Meeting reception and waiting room:
Tom Dixon light fittings
Waiting chairs – Perillo chairs from Dauphin

Meeting pods:
Diamond chairs from the Kubikoff range
Weightless glass tables from Haldane Martin
Neutra light fitting from Kartell

Client break-out space:
Smeg fridge and dishwasher

Wall paint colours:
Black – Dulux 00NN 07/000
Production side white – 30YY 72/018
Meeting rooms bright white – 10BB 83/006

Paragon
Tel: 011 482 3781
Email: media@paragon.co.za
Website: www.paragon.co.za