R25 million facelift for 1 Thibault Square

Almost 40 years after its completion, the landmark Revel Fox-designed office block at No 1 Thibault Square is undergoing a R25-million refurbishment.

The 35-storey Modernist building, originally known as the BP Centre, is on Cape Town’s European-style Thibault Square at the end of St George’s Mall. The building has realised excellent returns during a period in which the global financial crisis negatively affected all sectors of the South African property market. Of the total 36 000 m2 lettable area the vacancy rate is 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.”

Zenprop property manager, Janine Coleske, says in the past year, four of the building’s blue-chip clients, occupying about 1 000 m2 each, have increased their space requirements by between 30 and 100 per cent, taking up an entire additional floor in two instances. They have entered into new five-year leases, and the average rental is between R115 and R120/m2.

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 crowding in the lobby and travel time in the lifts. The Schindler AC gearless machines offer power savings and cutting edge safety mechanisms.

The building façade, 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 been thoroughly upgraded, and refurbishment work is being carried out on the restrooms 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 in the piazza, John Skotnes’s Mythological Landscape steel-and-bronze sculpture provides a focal point.

No 1 Thibault Square is still the tallest building in the Cape Town city centre, and even when it was designed over four decades 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 façades, putting less pressure on the airconditioning system. To further shield the façades, a precast screen is mounted on every floor, allowing good air flow and cutting off direct sun rays. This orientation also results in views of either the mountain or the harbour from all the offices, and none stare straight into 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”.

“No 1 Thibault Square is now one of the icon buildings in our portfolio, and we’re delighted to invest more in it, and in the Cape Town CBD in general,” says Blow.