by Shaakira Chohan
The creative brainchild of Arthur Blake, Managing Director of Citiq Property Developments, brings this fun, bold, colourful stamp on the Newtown skyline has had the city curious since its inception.
Using creative design tools, and innovative architecture, the former Premier Milling grain silos were converted into student accommodation responding to the increasing demand for student city living close to tertiary institutions. The result is 10 storeys of converted silos and an additional 4 storeys of container architecture providing compact, convenient, secure accommodation.
The building was completed in January this year, just in time for the new intake of students and the response to the building has been exciting. Ciizens around the city are intrigued, curious and eager to explore.
Whilst this is not a new idea, with precedents being seen all across the globe, and closer to home, the conversion of the Old Biscuit Mills in Cape Town, it is a step forward for our approach to architectural solutions in terms of creative thinking around re-using spaces in the city. Vacant land is a rare find in the city, and this development sets a new precedent for the area.
We were treated to an exclusive tour of the building by Paul Lapham CEO of Citiq Property Developments, the company that is re-thinking residential accommodation in cities across the country.
What was always an admired, bright, eclectic addition to the streets of Newtown, unfolded into a community of great spaces, thoughtful detailing, considered accommodation and a green rating exceeding most in the city.
Paul described the development as a collaborative effort between the original owners of the silos, Arthur Blake of Citiq, and internal designers who through a very hands-on approach ensured that every element was carefully considered and catered for.
He beams at the building like a proud parent as he explains how the comfort of the student was of paramount importance. This commitment to quality and comfort was so integral, that as part of the building process, 1:1 models of spaces were mocked up before the team committed to any part of the design, so as to truly get a sense of experience of each space.
When you think of the shape of the silos and the difficulty that could present itself in terms of maximising use of space through such geometry, the amount of students that would need to be accommodated for in this building, and the innate desire for a sense of both communal and privatised space, the developers have done an outstanding job in awarding each consideration with an equal amount of respect.
Room sizes were guided by recommendations as set by institutional student residences. The team committed to providing a window to every room and have successfully addressed ways in finding a personal, private space for students within a larger communal residence. The buildings connection to the outdoors and views wherever possible is commendable. Roof terraces, balconies, porthole windows, astro turf deck spaces with braai areas and canvas roof covering supported by swirling, circular, steel structures all bring the spectacular views of a golden Johannesburg into the building.
Free Wi-Fi, communal study spaces, IT rooms, chill lounges and the outside decks are some of the fringes that make the building more than just a bulk development in the heart of an energetic part of the city, and provides dynamic social spaces for the residents. It starts to absorb some of that energy and creativity of its Newtown context, and with the soon to be completed Newtown Junction just a block away, it acts as a couple catalyst for the area.
And Citiq plans to keep that fire burning, having picked up more properties in the area. Paul Lapham says their next focus will be the Grand Silos which opened up to students as a design competition to spark ideas. This will be a larger development that Mill Junction but will also provide student accommodation.