Pick ‘n Pay’s new corporate campus

Architecture that respects its context

As a function of the growth and development of supermarket giant Pick and Pay over the years their current group of offices in the Claremont area of Cape Town became too small and scattered to meet the company’s growing needs.

To provide a design for a more fully integrated set of corporate offices the Pick ‘n Pay group, in conjunction with developers Abland, approached Bentel Associates International to design a new corporate campus in Kenilworth, Cape Town. Both Abland, one of South Africa’s leading property developers, and Bentel Associates International were extensively involved in Pick and Pay’s recently completed Gauteng Head Office Campus in Bedfordview.

Architectural innovation and a sound reputation for high standards of commercial design and planning are the principles that Bentel Associates International has continued to demonstrate since its inception as Bentel Abramson in Johannesburg in 1960. The multi-award winning firm successfully creates buildings of excellence utilising an integrated and multidisciplinary approach to design. 

A 39 year relationship between the Pick ‘n Pay Group and Bentel Associates International

Bentel Associates International has had a long and mutually beneficial relationship with Raymond Ackerman and the Pick ‘n Pay group since their inception in 1967. Both companies share similarities in terms of their corporate ethics and attributes such as vision, leadership, innovation, stability, transformation and integrity.

Bentel Associates International has used their considerable commercial design expertise to implement innovative architectural images, designs and store planning for Pick 'n Pay for over 39 years. The long collaboration and the synergy between the Pick 'n Pay group and Bentel Associates International are evident in many top shopping centres and Pick ‘n Pay anchor stores around the country. 

Alf Abrahamsohn, Bentel Associates International CEO is the project director, assisted by Garth Johnson on the design side, for the new Pick 'n Pay corporate campus. Abrahamsohn joined Bentel Associates International in the late 60s and has been involved with the group since then. His contribution to the success of Bentel Associates International both locally and internationally has been immeasurable yet he is quick to acknowledge the contributions of others. “It is an achievement over many years but of course it is based on a lot of talented and skilled people contributing to the growth and development of the practice.” 

Abrahamsohn has become a respected authority on commercial and retail architecture. He is committed to providing excellent and equitable design solutions for the commercial built environment and believes that thoughtful, creative development can support healthy economic growth while protecting environmental assists and community integrity.

The basic design

Abrahamsohn and his associates at Bentel Associates International have designed a corporate campus consisting of a group of four separate buildings that will provide space for approximately 700 employees. The structures form a precinct around a central landscaped garden space.

The buildings will serve as the Pick 'n Pay group’s corporate headquarters, the Western Cape regional offices, an information technology centre and a training facility, which will also incorporate a canteen. 

A mega basement, predominantly for parking, will run under all the buildings and the open surface spaces.

The development plan has also incorporated extensive landscaping features and green spaces within the confines of the site thus retaining the site’s park-like setting and conforming to the necessary planning and legislative requirements.

Architecture respects its context – the site 

Due to the eco-sensitive nature of the site, it was important for the developers and architects to design and build in harmony with the environment. The site is adjacent to the Kenilworth Racecourse and it sits between the racetrack and the adjacent Rosmead Avenue. 

In the centre of the racecourse is a rare and sensitive habitat of fynbos and other indigenous plants as well as various animals including some protected species such as frogs. The preservation of this ecosystem and its surrounds is critical to the conservation of biodiversity in the area, as the lowlands of the Cape vegetation are under threat and very little of the natural vegetation still exists. What does still exist are small parcels of land such as the one at Kenilworth.

Low-impact site development was a priority and the challenge of designing and building in close proximity to such a sensitive area presented many challenges the most important of which was finding a balance between environmental considerations and the resultant design and construction constraints. Bentel Associates International have responded with a sensitive design that respects the susceptible nature of the site and minimizes environmental impacts. 

“During the construction phase we are utilising an environmental consultant who is monitoring the construction process because we do not want to interfere with the sub-surface water flows and similar features which feed through to the habitat and provide ecological balance,” says Abrahamsohn.

“The contractors, WBHO, have been exceptionally challenged, not only by the eco-sensitive nature of the site and the necessity for low impact construction but also by tight building programme deadlines. Fortunately, no blasting was required because of the soft soil in the area but the foundations and piling were completed during the rainy season and soil consistency was a problem. That stage is now complete and the team coped remarkably well considering the circumstances.” 

Architecture respects its context – the buildings

The campus fits into a dense yet low-rise residential neighbourhood. Sensitive siting and the architectural scale of the buildings on this highly visible property will blend in perfectly with its surrounds. The Pick 'n Pay campus design has achieved an appropriate relationship to other buildings, landscapes and infrastructure in the area.

“The architecture is geared towards a residential feel because it is within a space which is adjacent to residential uses so it respects the Cape Town aesthetic in terms of small windows, continuous windows, pitched roofs, and materials which are sympathetic to the environment in terms of the external finishes,” comments Abrahamsohn. “The height of the building is a mix of two and three storey buildings; the regional office and the corporate buildings are three storeys and the IT centre and training facility will be two storeys.”

Pick 'n Pay group respects its context

At the core of the Pick 'n Pay philosophy is a deep commitment to its understanding and care of its staff and customers as well as the wider society.

In keeping with Pick 'n Pay’s caring philosophy and ethos the architects have designed the buildings to incorporate an excellent range of staff facilities which have taken into consideration the wide range of cultures, races, religions and habits of the people who will be using the corporate campus. A fully-fledged canteen and kitchen will serve a variety of meals. A staff gymnasium and state-of-the-art training facilities have also been incorporated into the design.

The offices are ergonomically designed with contemporary and comfortable workstations and space standards. There will be a mix, determined by the nature of the business, of open office planning and singular offices, meeting rooms and boardrooms and other spaces.

“Also in keeping with the Pick 'n Pay ethos the overall interior design has no ostentatious or overt decoration or ornamentation. Basic good quality finishes, good spaces and a comfortable working environment are geared towards what is necessary for the running of the business as well as the excellent interaction and communication which characterises all Pick 'n Pay operations,” says Abrahamsohn.

Abland, having worked previously with Pick and Pay and Bentel Associates International, perfectly understood and related to Pick and Pay’s requirements and have ensured that the drawing board concepts have been converted into the desired objective.

A balance has been achieved

Bentel Associates International has achieved a balance between the built and natural environment. The integrity and excellence of the design resonates with the integrity and corporate culture of the Pick 'n Pay group and will serve as an excellent example of architecture that respects its context in all its aspects.

For more information, please contact:

Mr Alf Abrahamsohn Bentel Associates International
Tel: (011) 884 7111

Fax: (011) 884 7110
eMail address: ala@bentel.net

Web-site address: http://www.bentel.net 

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