JOBURG has another feather in its cap – it has been named one of the best cities in the world by the international design magazine, Wallpaper.

The magazine, published in London, looked at cities like Rio de Janeiro, Hong Kong, Chicago and Oslo in its annual Design Awards. Johannesburg came third in its Best City category.

Its architecture is to thank for its win, that and its inner city regeneration, which added to its status as a global contender. Buildings such as Soccer City in Nasrec and Circa on Jellicoe in Rosebank set it apart from competitors.

Sport stadium

FNB Stadium – known as Soccer City during the football World Cup in 2010 – initially opened in 1989. But it was extensively renovated and expanded for the soccer tournament. The changes were carried out by the South African architectural firm, Boogertman + Partners, in association with international company Populous, which was previously known as HOK Sport. Building started on 1 February 2007 and ended on 3 March 2010; it cost R3,38-billion.

A series of design concepts were put forward for the renovation, ranging a map of Africa as a horizontal representation to the protea, South Africa’s national flower.

“The calabash, or African pot design, proposed by Boogertman + Partners in March of 2006 was selected by Dr Danny Jordaan [the head of the World Cup Local Organising Committee] as being the most recognisable object to represent what would automatically be associated with the African continent and not any other,” said Alan Nissenbaum, an associate at Boogertman + Partners.

“The iconic African pot design was embraced by the City of Johannesburg when they took over the control of the stadium from SAFA in late 2006,” Nissenbaum said. “The concept of the African pot which is the coming together of various cultures is thus one that is fully inclusive. It is relevant to note that more people come from outside of Johannesburg than were actually born in Johannesburg [and] it thus truly represents the melting pot of cultures.”

Continuing with the concept of inclusivity, the architects included 10 vertical slots on the stadium facade. They are aligned geographically with the nine other 2010 stadiums, as well as with the Berlin stadium, which hosted the 2006 World Cup final.

“These lines are representative of the ‘road to the final,’” he said.

“Another important symbolic reference is that of the player’s tunnel. [It] was cut in under the existing western grandstand and [was] designed as a sloping mine shaft as a reference and tribute back to Joburg’s rich gold mining history.

“The players … thus walk down the mine shaft in search of gold.”

Spain hit gold when they won the final, but it seems the architects did too as they have won several awards for the stadium, including two Fulton Awards and a South African Institute for Steel Construction Award.

The Fulton Awards honour the late Dr Sandy Fulton for his contribution to an international understanding of concrete. There are six categories, of which FNB Stadium scooped two: best building project for concrete in architecture and commendation for unique design aspects.

It also won the sports stadium award in the SA Institute for Steel Construction Awards, and the South African Institution of Civil Engineers gave it a most outstanding civil engineering achievement award.

In addition, the stadium was named the world’s best sport building at the 2010 World Architecture Festival.

Art gallery

Circa on Jellicoe, another architectural landmark in Johannesburg and winner of awards, is in Rosebank. “It is designed to display modes of art such as video installations and large-scale sculptures, and can host global art auctions,” says architects studioMAS.

The building presides over the busy Jan Smuts Avenue, demanding attention both day and night. “The oval shape of the building renders the most floor space for facade and gives it its distinctive form. Various aluminium extrusions resembling reeds give the building its unique architectural character.”

Adding to its external appeal is that the architects built it to be self-servicing. Electricity is produced on site using solar voltaic panels. A voltaic panel is one which produces electricity by chemical action, and is also known as a galvanic cell. In addition, harvested rain water is used for everything except for drinking water.

Its innovation has garnered the building awards: it won a Silver Loerie in 2010 in the communication design category for architecture and interior design. The Loeries are South Africa’s premier advertising, communication, design and media awards.


Joburg’s attention-grabbing architecture does not stop there, though. There is a host of architects who have worked tirelessly and continue to do so to ensure that the city stays a step ahead.

Italo Lupini is one of those. He has been working in Joburg for 46 years and after all this time, he still feels that the city has the most exciting architecture around.

He has seen buildings come and go, and has witnessed the regeneration of the inner city in more recent years. His company, Lupini Architects, has even been responsible for some of that change. It has worked extensively with South Point Management Services in the inner city.

South Point owns various buildings in Braamfontein, including Randlords bar and lounge; Auckland House, comprising Skyline Gardens penthouses and #1 bar; as well as the Lamunu Hotel. These buildings have gone a long way in turning Braamfontein into one of the city’s trendy hotspots.

“To date, we have renovated about 12 or 14 buildings in Braamfontein, including interior design,” he says.

The city has set itself apart architecturally in a number of ways. “Joburg, in terms of other South African cities, is architecturally rich and very profuse,” he adds. “It is a vibrant city, which is an over-used expression but no doubt true, and there is nowhere as integrated. You can meet people at cocktail parties and strike a business deal then and there.

“It is amazing how the energy built this city in 110 years … Joburg is impressive; there is a nice sense of regeneration, where semi-industrial buildings have been turned into arts centres and places of fun.”

Lupini has worked in Johannesburg since he qualified as an architect at the age of 24. “I started at JC Cook & Cowen, which was a strong force in the 1970s and ‘80s, and even pre-war. Their buildings were contemporary at the time, but because of how old the company was, it retained historic architecture.”

Working at that company inspired his own interest in contemporary architecture. His company, which he has been running for 33 years, incorporates this design style in much of its work, which ranges from factories and shopping centres to the Linden swimming pool.

Constitution Hill

It is not only his own work which Lupini enjoys, though. He takes pleasure in attractive buildings in general, and there are several in Johannesburg that are his favourites. “Constitution Hill is one of my favourites because it recognises what was there before – a prison – yet it is not dominated by anything other than contemporary architecture,” he says. “Its cubic forms and treatment of finishes make it a friendly building even though it is an official one.”

The Apartheid museum is another of his pets.

Venues such as Arts on Main and the Newtown precinct appeal to him, where the industrial landscape has become fun and arty. He also enjoys how suburbs such as Auckland Park and Melville, where his office is situated, have retained their old feel by maintaining their “nice leafy streets”.

His love of the city’s architecture does not end there, and the city’s favourite sports stadium is entrenched in his heart too. “I absolutely love Soccer City, which has taken the calabash out of the calabash and turned it into architecture.”

Lupini believes that the architecture in Joburg will continue to flourish, and make it not just an impressive African city but a worthy global one. “The regenerative forces make it a world-class city, no doubt.”

The Wallpaper Design Awards were handed out in January.