The Motor Industry Pension Fund has recently completed the construction of a new office complex in Sydney Malunga Road (formerly Argyle Road) in Avondale, Harare. Structure and Design was pleased to feature MIPF’s previous office block project at 17 Josiah Chinamano Avenue in issue 10. Like the Chinamano project the Avondale project was also designed by Ruswa Consulting (ERC Urban Design Consultants) and there are some similar design signatures. The pension fund continues to enlarge its investment portfolio and expand its asset base as it invests in commercial property development.
ERC Design Consultants has years of experience in creating both residential and commercial projects locally and
internationally with an emphasis on sustainable, eco-friendly developments that function efficiently within the social
and economic fabric. They don’t just create buildings – they integrate their projects in a broader urban and national
vision for the future. The Avondale project started in August 2018 and will be ready for occupation by January 2021.
The project comprised of MIPF being the Investor, Ruswa Consulting being the project lead consultant, Chisipo Engineers superintending the engineering works, DMJena & Associates Quantity Surveyors being the cost administrating consultants and MAK Bokano Contracting being the contractor for the superstructure.
The Avondale project was partially delayed by the huge currency fluctuations prevailing at the time. The Covid-19 lockdown meant materials and labour were difficult to access causing further unforeseen delays, however the project has now been successfully completed to a very high standard. The idea behind the office block is in line with ERC Design Consultants’ philosophy about urban planning and decongesting the city centre.
As more commercial and retail businesses are opting to move out of the CBD the suburbs of Avondale, Borrowdale, Pomona, Eastlea and other surrounding areas are becoming more attractive for businesses. Avondale is already a well established use suburb incorporating residential, commercial and retail spaces on the fringes of the city.
Perhaps our city planners need to rethink our development strategy and consider how to re-invigorate
the City centre? The building is basically four separate office blocks contained within one structure. MIPF
will be letting out the separate spaces to different tenants thereby spreading the risk that a single tenant might default on payment.
The office blocks can be further partitioned by the tenants to meet the clients’ requirements. As each block is pretty much a blank canvas the options are numerous. Each block has its own staircase and private access so they can function independently. There’s a shared main reception space – which is fairly modest – and each tenant can choose to have their own reception.
Each block has large windows looking out to the east and west sides with outside balconies so staff can enjoy a break from their desks and get some fresh air. The offices also overlook the central double volume atrium which has a clear, high roof allowing natural light to lood into the centre of the building. Suspended wooden slats help
to diffuse direct sunlight during the day while a series of industrial looking pendant lights illuminate the space at night. The atrium also has two internal staircases.
Stainless steel balustrades around the internal gallery and on the staircases give the space a vaguely nautical/industrial feel. There’s a central water feature which creates a soothing gurgling sound as well as helping to soften the big open space.
The atrium is basically a shared outdoor/indoor space for staff and visitors to enjoy and de-stress in line with the modern philosophy to make workplaces more attractive – and more productive. Kitchenettes and ablutions are
confined to the back of the building (as is the elevator) to keep plumbing and services contained, efficient and
As Sydney Malunga is a very busy street there’s off street parking for tenants and visitors on the building’s ground floor controlled by a sophisticated boom and card system. The street façade of the building is particularly striking. There’s a central glazed section with a projecting overhang to shelter the entrance to the reception.
On either side of the central segment are symmetrical, rather extraordinary, sections made up of seemingly randomly arranged steel beams which crisscross the front windows and wrap partly around the corners. The design is intended to be reminiscent of rural Zimbabweans’ homestead boundary fences.
The design also serves to create a unique corporate image that stands out from the surrounding structures – mostly residential or low impact commercial properties. Due to the scale of the building it’s attractive and distinctive without being overpowering. The building is particularly striking at nigh when the indoor lighting shows off the
exterior façade design.
Most of the exterior has low maintenance, sustainable finishes – steel and glass, stone cladding, hula bond, face brick and steel louvres over the parking level windows. There’s a little touch of bling outside the front reception where the concrete pillars have been clad in reflective steel sheeting, but the rest of the structure largely favours functionality over decorative flourishes.
The building also incorporates a generous apartment for an on-site caretaker partially concealed around the back.
The building has the capacity for solar installations so it can become more carbon neutral in the future. In addition ERC wanted a building that would take into consideration ‘green’ environmentally friendly concepts such as sustainability and low maintenance costs, as well as being efficient in terms of energy and water usage. The design for the new offices ticks all these boxes and more.
ERC Design Consultants describe themselves as “an urban design firm that has the express intent to create a rich urban environment through creative engagement in contemporary urban milieu. We engage in work that ranges from addressing social and ecological issues to responsibly building in today’s market economy.”
To contact ERC Design Consultants:
Visit: 591 5th Floor, Eastern Wing, Kopje Plaza
Netone Building, 1 Jason Moyo Avenue,Harare
Text: Michael Nott
Photos: Structure and Design