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Office space to work, live and play

Office space to work, live and play

For a company that not only deals with tenant-occupier management but also the design and investment of corporate real estate, having an office space that showcases a niche-market creative approach was imperative. Craig Hean, MD of Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL), tells us why the space, which was created with the help of well-known interior-design company Head Interiors, reflects on the core values of his business…


The reception desk and wall covering are crisp and simple, imparting an immediate sense of professionalism

‘We moved into our new offices in The Firs in Rosebank in July last year, driven by the need for a larger space, more parking and better access to public transport (especially the Gautrain) and hotels for our international clients and colleagues. We also wanted our staff to be able to work in an environment that gave them convenient access to amenities like shops, restaurants and gyms, offering them the opportunity to live, work and play in one area. Being able to escape the office for five minutes to get a cup of coffee, pick up your groceries or grab a quick bite at a wide selection of restaurants without having to jump in your car is really handy. It also increases employee productivity as they end up wanting to spend more time at the office.

‘The move from a traditional office to an “activity base” involved an extensive internal management-process change, which Head Interiors was very involved in. From design to final implementation, the company’s execution was exceptional’ – Craig Hean

We started with a shell – only standard lighting, air-con and a ceiling grid – and had to build everything up from there. Head Interiors was so much more than just the interior consultant on this job. I think, by the end of it, the team was probably sick of how many variations we made to the plan. Our brief to the then-project leader, Emma Luyt, was an unusual one: design an office that allows people to collaborate, concentrate, learn and socialise, maximising productivity and employee engagement, where no one has his or her own desk. From the outset, Emma and her team tackled the project head on, and the planning phases even involved a trip to a Stockholm company to better understand the activity-based concept and how it works in practice. Twenty-five revisions later, we had our plan and then the real work started.


The library area offers a quiet environment where employees can catch up on work that requires intense concentration or even take a few moments out of their day to read a newspaper or book


Bar-style seating provides the opportunity for more relaxed client interaction


Diner-style booths leading just off the reception area offer a less formal place to host both internal and external meetings


Using hotel-lobby-style seating arrangements as an alternative to more traditional boardroom space is a growing global trend

The space can best be described as an activity-based work environment that allows our staff to move freely between various work zones. It recognises that on any one workday, people do a lot of different things, and studies have shown that the average workday can principally be divided into four main areas of activity: collaborating, concentrating, learning and socialising. Traditional offices essentially give their employees only two environments, a desk and a boardroom, but our office has nine different areas, each with its own unique furniture and design, and even with its own set of rules.

The overall design is a great advert for our business – the quality of the finishes and furnishings, for example, have received many a compliment from our clients. The philosophy behind the design encapsulates much of the advice we give our clients: use every square metre productively, maximise productivity and create a work place that attracts and retains key talent as well as employee engagement. These are all principles that ultimately improve the bottom line. We are in the business of adding value to our clients, and we use our office as a working showroom to demonstrate that real estate doesn’t need to just be an overhead.’  

Local Heroes

‘We have so many choices regarding places in which to hang out in Rosebank, which is one of the reasons why it’s such a great location. My favourite way to start the day is with a tall, double-shot cappuccino and avo on health toast from Motherland Coffee Company. All the restaurants on the piazza at The Firs are great, especially in summer. It’s hard to beat the menu at Koi, so I’ve got to say that is probably top of the list at the moment. It’s a short walk from there to Katzy’s, where there’s great jazz in the evening.’ – Craig Hean


The canteen area offers employees a zone in which they can unwind and relax


Emma Luyt, project lead, and Craig Hean, MD at JLL SA


The active work area has low screens and no dividers between desks. The design allows for increased collaboration between employees


Who says an office needs walls? Acoustic wings mounted directly onto the ceiling provide a modern alternative to traditional drywall partitions, in this case creating an unobtrusive division between two very different activity zones

Heads Up

Michael Harrison of Head Interiors shares some insight into this unique project.


Michael Harrison of Head Interiors

Q: What were some of the biggest challenges?

A:Introducing and getting buy-in for an entirely different way of working was challenging, but it was solved by workshops and keeping all stakeholders informed.

Q: Tell us about your use of colour?

A:The client is young, hard-working and dynamic, and so we wanted to introduce an element of fun with colour, and also to use colour to maximise some tight spaces.

Q: What, for you, is the hero feature of the offices?

A:The entire space is unique, but I am particularly fond of the pause area and private, informal seating spaces within the office environment.

Q: And what about the art and graphics?

A:There were a lot of walls, so we needed to be careful about quantity and cost of artworks. We wanted original South African art in strategic areas, like the reception area, which is where we hung a striking Jeanette Unite piece that actually uses minerals from the earth. Colourful graphics were chosen elsewhere, where framing and scale were important. These were generally sourced from Head Interiors’ own stock.

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Compiled by:Genevieve Putter
Photographs:Elsa Young

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