Discovery Place, insurance giant Discovery’s new headquarters in Sandton, is an instant landmark. It’s undulating glass façade and gravity-defying curves and cantilevers make a powerful statement from its prominent position on the highest point in Sandton. But Discovery Place is not at all about architectural spectacle. The swooping, curving patterns and shapes that give this spectacular building its identity are part of what makes the interior of this building one of the most forward-looking workspaces in the country.
Paragon Interface, the interior architects for the building, carefully thought out the design, not just to represent Discovery’s brand values, but also to make the best possible workspace for their employees (and ultimately provide a better service to their clients). Discovery’s requirement for the building to be ‘active’ translated effectively into a dynamic design aesthetic with curvilinear shapes that give human scale to the volumes of the three main atria and central public concourse.
Paragon Interface made extensive use of Corian to draw the curvaceous architectural language through into the detailing. “We wanted to symbolise freshness and liveliness in the forms of the interior choices, keeping things light and floating – symbolic of an active lifestyle,” says Anthony Karam of Paragon Interface. “For public-facing areas and areas that are used a lot I needed a material that was light but robust, could be formed easily and would last for years.”
He chose Corian for precisely these reasons, and for the fact that the joints are seamless, and it’s easy to repair if it is damaged. The curved organic white forms of the reception desks, for example, are Corain, as are the counters and seats with planters along edges of the auditorium. “We used them to articulate the edges of the atrium,” he says. “They were also all made of Corian in Cameo White.”
He used Cameo White for the areas that he wanted to soften, and Glacier White where he was looking for a sleeker finish. “They’re such fresh colours,” he says.
In other areas of the building, a wide range of PG Bison products were specified for cabinetry and surfaces, including MelaWood in Super White and Folkstone Grey and Stone Grey, as well as wood colours like American Walnut and Vancouver Maple. Similar colours in Formica were used, although a particularly striking variation is the use of Atlantic and Denim in the pause areas.
Many of the details were custom designed and manufactured on site. This dovetail between the use of select materials, design integrity and the purity of their forms – the lightness, the gravity-defying cantilevers, the beautiful organic shapes and the handcrafted variation – is central to what humanises a building of the scale of Discover Place. The result is an interior that is welcoming, by turns calming and uplifting. And that effect can only be achieved when the vision on the macro level and sustained right through to the details, as enabled by the beautiful organic shapes handcrafted in Corian.