18 October 2018: Demand from clients in the Western Cape, combined with an uptick in the region’s building and construction industry, has resulted in architecture and interior architecture company Paragon finally opening a Cape Town office at the V&A Waterfront in January 2019.
The new office, the first branch that Paragon has established outside of its Johannesburg head office, will be headed up by up-and-coming architect Jarred Pincus, under the guidance of director, Estelle Meiring. He has extensive experience in warehousing, student housing, residential, and mixed-use typologies, which will equip the Cape Town office to respond to a broad range of client types and project requirements.
“We look forward to expanding our portfolio in these niche markets, as well as the general type of iconic full-service work that Paragon is renowned for,” Founding Director Henning Rasmuss comments.
“We have confirmed sufficient work to service both existing and future clients in the Western Cape region, who have all expressed a desire for us to have a presence in the region,” Founding Director Anthony Orelowitz adds.
Well-known for its work in the redevelopment of the Sandton business and financial precinct, Paragon won Architecture Firm of the Year and Best Overall Professional Services Firm of the Year, while Rasmuss was crowned Architecture Professional of the Year, at the South African Professional Services (SAPSA) Awards 2018.
Part of Paragon’s diversification strategy has seen it recently complete its first project at Pran Boulevard in Umhlanga, KwaZulu-Natal. This strategy has since extended to setting up shop in Cape Town.
“While Johannesburg and Cape Town are essentially similar markets, our Western Cape clients have long been requesting for us to have a permanent presence in the region,” Paragon Media Manager Hugh Fraser elaborates.
“The Cape Town office is a logical extension of our footprint, as many of our current Johannesburg clients have projects on the go in the Western Cape that we can piggyback on. All our clients, no matter where they are located, can rest assured of the same high level of service, innovation, and attention to detail that we are renowned for,” Fraser adds.
Paragon’s diversification strategy includes Africa, where a flagship project is Habitat Apartments in Kilimani, a 24-storey, 160-unit mixed-use apartment tower, in conjunction with Design Source of Nairobi. Under development by Ekco Investments, the project is scheduled for completion by mid-2020.
Group company Paragon Interface, which oversees interior architecture services under Director Claire D’Adorante, was responsible for the fit-out of Discovery Campus and Sasol Place, two of the biggest projects of their kind ever undertaken in South Africa.
Group company Paragon Architects South Africa (PASA), under Director Thulani Sibande, was awarded a Level 1 Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment (B-BBEE) rating for 2018. As part of its active corporate social responsibility initiatives, Paragon is currently heavily involved with the University of Johannesburg’s (UJ’s) Graduate School of Architecture (GSA), where its architects deliver guest lectures. Paragon looks forward to increasing their educational support in the Western Cape.
Our director Henning Rasmuss attended the 9th African Property Investment Summit in Sandton last week.
The audience was diverse, if smaller than expected, and the discussions and presentations were honest and muted. There was a fair degree of introspection. New connections were made, and old friendships strengthened. Mauritius is emerging as a property investment talking point, and we are already looking at projects in that country.
With the pervasive underperformance of the South African economy, continental Africa remains attractive, even if it is difficult and takes immense patience. There were stories of both failures and successes, and some very fine people have had their spirits and their businesses tested to extremes in the recent past.
Noteworthy talking points were: the role and reach of local in-country Pension Funds, the growth of South African listed investment funds, GRIT’s listing on the LSE, and asset classes such as Logistics Parks, Student Housing and Affordable Housing. There was at last an informed discussion on what the ‘affordable’ part of ‘affordable housing’ actually means in different economies.
With the Oil Price returning to levels where African countries see the ‘easy money’ of extractive industries once more, there is a return to some confidence. Paragon Architects, for example, is receiving up to 12 enquires per month from the continent. This is however in contrast to the approximately 35 enquiries per month we received in 2015, just after the global oil price crash.
However, extractive economies cannot create enough employment for the much-vaunted Youth Population of the African continent. The continent has to industrialise and beneficiate its natural assets, and this requires intra-African investment and focus. China continues to seduce African governments with deals and projects that appear to be good deals, but whose real price tags are not measured in dollars or yuan, but in future political control and voting support for China in global geopolitics. ‘Recolonization’ is not quite the right word for what is happening on the continent. It is more like low-price subscription to future economic enslavement, and South Africa is seeing its first wave of Chinese incursion into our construction landscape, in the context of endemic failure of South African contracting businesses.
Paragon Architects is gravely concerned about which companies will be around to construct our South African large projects, in a few years’ time.
As part of the International Lecture Series presented by the Graduate School of Architecture at the University of Johannesburg, Henning Rasmuss was invited to present on 6 September 2018 in Johannesburg. Those of you who know Henning know that we can go on a bit, but his almost two-hour talk took some listening. As far as Henning could tell, no-one walked out of the talk because of hunger.
The lecture was a precious opportunity for a sweeping overview of Henning’s architectural career to date, starting in his formative childhood years in boomtown Johannesburg, his student years at Wits University and in Berlin, his early works at Stauch Vorster Architects and in Hong Kong, and aspects of the work of Paragon group and the various companies that have made up his current working home over the years.
It was a good time to reflect, to thank mentors and teachers and business partners, and to make it clear that architecture is a large and complex and collaborative project. Henning personally hates the self-aggrandising posturing of architects as ‘sole authors’ of projects. His talk was much more about anecdotal story-telling and about hard lessons learnt, and about his share of his own life force that makes Paragon so unique and vibrant. As he said in his opening statement : ‘I am what I am through other people’.
We have two construction projects on site in Swaziland, where the 165-room Hilton Garden Inn in Mbabane will open its doors in the next few weeks. Also in Swaziland, we have more than 150 units of housing in construction. We worked with Steve Hall Development Consultants as our local JV partner, and are very pleased with the working relationship that has developed.
In Maputo, we are working on a business hotel of 150 rooms in Maputo, for which a global operator has been secured and funding is being concluded. We are working with Vedor Arquitectos on the concept.
In Zambia, a large mixed-use project is keeping our design teams busy in the next two months.
In Mavoko in Kenya, we are a few months away from the completion of a very long-running project, the 24.000 square metre Crystal Rivers Mall, undertaken for the Safaricom Staff Pension Scheme as client. Our co-architect is MMI International, who have joined us on the difficult journey of building this Mall with a Kenyan main contractor who is well out of his depth in this project.
Also in Nairobi, we are just casting the first floor slab above ground (after two basement levels) of a 22-storey tower known as The Habitat. The project is the initiative of Ekco Investments, a local Kenyan family business of high calibre and high expectations. Our co-architects Design Source Limited are the great associate partners that we already knew and respected them for when this project started and they introduced us to the client.
In Airport City in Accra, seeds sown in 2013 are bearing fruit. Together with rhayCAD Chartered Architects as our local partners, we have submitted building approval plans for a 340-room hotel and apartment complex to be operated by Accor Hotels under the Pullman brand. The project is now in full documentation. Ground could be broken by the end of 2018 for our Ghanaian clients, Platinum Properties Limited. We are working hard to resolve the design and detailing before the main contractor is on our case with Requests for Information.
Paragon Interface Architects is implementing a multi-level office interior for an oil sector services company in Lagos, under the leadership of Profica as project managers. We value this relationship and the opportunity, which was won in a competitive bid.
We are implementing collaborative workplace projects in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam, based on a competition-winning concept design of late 2017.
Other project discussions are in the air for locations such as Senegal, Mauritius, Uganda, Tanzania, Côte D’Ivoire and more opportunities in Ghana.
As Kevin Teeroovengadum said on a public stage at the API Summit in 2016: ‘If you have not yet realised that African property development is a very long-term game, you should leave this game now’. Well, it’s 2018, and we are still in ‘the game’. We know what it takes to implement on the African continent, and we do it with the passion and commitment that Paragon is known for.