ADO Architects

 

Telkom HQ Upgrading of foyers | Pretoria

 

Overview

 

Client : Telkom
Project name : HQ Foyers
Project value : R28 million
Professional Team : Infracom
Project Management Team : Infracom (Johan de Villiers)
Main Contractor : Taylor Woodrow & Abcon Construction
Implementation period : 4 months
Contract period : 3 months
Implementation period : December 2000 to March 2001

For a host of practical, aesthetic and corporate-image reasons, Telkom embarked on a comprehensive refurbishing of the foyers and mezzanine of its head office complexes in the centre of Pretoria early in 2001. Apart from the imperative of projecting a more modern, dynamic and customer-friendly image, in line with the utility's preparations for competition and a public listing (at the time), Telkom's aim was to streamline access to the complex by staff and visitors and to improve the glaringly inadequate parking facilities for visitors. Infracom was appointed to handle the project, taking responsibility for the project management, architectural, mechanical, electrical, security and quantity surveying elements.

The complex comprises three towers and takes up almost two full city blocks. The oldest of the towers, Telkom Towers South in Vermeulen Street, had last been refurbished in the mid-eighties and featured forbidding security booths, dark finishes, dim lighting and maze-like entrance areas. The enclosed walkway linking this tower to Telkom Towers North and Telkom Towers East was relentlessly grey and featureless. While built more recently than Telkom Towers South, the other two towers were also in need of better access routes, a less conspicuous security presence and brighter, lighter décor.

Challenges

The Telkom Towers complex was kept open for "business as usual" while refurbishment was in progress, so the greatest challenge was to minimize the impact of the project on the comings and goings of staff and visitors. In the case of Telkom Towers South, where the refurbishment project started, more than 700 staff members used its main entrance daily.

Since the complex is the main hub of Telkom's corporate activities, the client was obviously eager to fast track the refurbishment project, setting a three-month deadline for its completion (before financial year end). As a result, the refurbishment team had to work 24 hours a day, in three eight-hour shifts, making effective people management a necessity.

A third challenge was to ensure that the three buildings formed a harmonious entity that was both visually pleasing and functional.

Modus Operandi

Work began in December 2000 on Telkom Towers South, which had the most constricted foyer and parking facilities, and was also in the greatest need of overall revamping. Here, the first step was to remove the intimidating-looking security, stretching two metres up, replacing them with low-key glass access controls and concealed roller shutter doors. The eight-metre high brown wall behind the massive grey reception desk was replaced with floor-to-ceiling wooden cladding and a glass screen featuring a sandblasted logo. The counter was replaced and topped with a glass canopy that conveyed a more user-friendly impression. To make the most of available space, Infracom used a suspended ceiling dropped to a height of three metres and created informal meeting rooms for use by staff and clients or other visitors. The drab grey walls were repainted, with cream used for peripheral walls and corporate blue for the central core, interspersed with touches of maple cladding. Two revolving doors were installed at the entrance of the building. Converting and upgrading the previously unused space in from of Telkom Towers South created approximately 100 new parking bays for visitors.

Moving into the lift lobbies on the ground and mezzanine floors, both of which were uniformly grey-on-brown, Infracom used dedicated wooden bulkheads and maple-veneered paneling to add light, colour and space. Parts of the walkway linking the three towers were converted into a canteen and pause area.

In Telkom Towers North and Telkom Towers East, the two separate foyers were scrapped, creating more space and easier access by constructing a combined foyer for both buildings. At the same tie, the reception counter was overhauled in line with that of Telkom Towers South. In addition, a new podium was added outside the building entrance in Proes Street, and a new signage pylon was erected. Meticulous service co-ordination and people management ensured that the project was completed on deadline in four months and two weeks, including design and documentation, an applaudable achievement considering the intensive construction undertaken and level of detail required.

Benefits

Parking for visitors has been dramatically expanded and upgraded, following the conversion of the exterior podium of Telkom Towers South into a parking area. The flow of people through the complex’s access points has been streamlined without compromising security and access control. Unused spaces, such as the interlinking walkway, have been transformed into meeting and pause areas, creating a smarter, more productive environment for staff and visitors.

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