Franc Brugman is a senior architect at Bentel Associates International (BAI), one of South Africa’s most diversified and innovative architectural firms offering complete commercial architectural services, with special emphasis on complex, mixed-use developments in Southern and North Africa and India. Bentel Associates International (BAI) architects are involved in two of the more visible infrastructure changes taking place in Johannesburg. There are also numerous soccer stadiums under construction in most of the major South African cities. In 2010 South Africa will host the Fifa World Cup, the first time the world's premier sporting event will be held on African soil. Matches for the 2010 World Cup will be hosted in nine South African cities - Johannesburg in Gauteng province; Rustenburg in North West; Pretoria in Gauteng; Polokwane in Limpopo; Nelspruit in Mpumalanga; Durban in KwaZulu-Natal; Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape; Cape Town in the Western Cape; and Bloemfontein in the Free State. Brugman discusses the architectural effect this influencial tournament is having on South Africa...
For four weeks starting on the 9th June 2010, South Africa will be at the centre of the world's attention. The 2006 German World Cup was the most extensively viewed event in the history of television. The Fifa Football World Cup is the world's biggest single sporting event in terms of audience, bigger than the Olympic Games and in a class of its own. South Africa 2010 will draw an even bigger audience. The eyes of billions of viewers and millions of international visitors as well as the world's sporting media will be focused on South Africa.
BAI are responsible for the design of eleven stations for the impressive Gautrain rapid rail link system being built in Johannesburg and the upgrade and expansion of the Central Terminal Buildings and the Oliver Tambo International airport in Johannesburg. While the airport upgrade will be competed and ready for the soccer world cup fans next year, only parts of the Gautrain system will be completed. However, the link between the airport and Sandton will be completed in time to transport tourists to this heart of the business and hotel district in Johannesburg. What would otherwise be a costly taxi ride taking some 40 minutes in peak traffic will now take a mere 15 minutes on a state of the art rapid rail link system.
The upgrade of the airport has also seen the facility being transformed from a regional airport catering for domestic and international flights into a truly world class facility with the potential to cater for the exceptionally large numbers of tourists that will be visiting south Africa during the 2010 World Cup.
Further infrastructure projects specifically underway in Johannesburg and its environs but which are being echoed across the country are the upgrading of numerous highways and link roads to ensure the road infrastructure will be sufficient to cater for the demands of the World Cup. Four lane roadways are being built to link Johannesburg’s and Pretoria’s satellite airport Lanseria to Johannesburg whilst highways in many instances are being upgraded to not only cater for additional traffic but also upgraded to include the new Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system being installed to not only support the new Gautrain rapid rail link but also broaden the public transport capabilities of the city.
Johannesburg has traditionally not been well serviced by public transport, the city relying heavily on private vehicles and the informal traffic industry. It is the governments intention, with buy in from the traffic industry, to formalise the public transport industry as the effects of a car society, in Johannesburg especially, have seen a fourfold increase in traffic congestion on the cities roads in the last ten years or so. The introduction of a more comprehensive public transport system will not only alleviate the vehicular traffic congestion on the roads but will also go a long way in assisting South Africa’s largest and most dynamic city to lessen its economic dependence on oil in the near future with a direct impact on reducing CO2 emissions currently emitted through the transport requirements of the city.
Further infrastructure changes underway include the upgrading of the IT and telecommunications infrastructure required for the World Cup. Companies like Telkom, a state owned telecommunications company, are upgrading vast aspects of their organisation to cater for FIFA’s World Cup broadcasting requirements.
The eyes of billions of viewers and millions of international visitors as well as the world's sporting media will be focused on South Africa
The number of beds required for the world cup have also had a direct impact on the number of hotels being built in and around the city, especially in Sandton. BAI is currently busy with the construction of a fifteen-floor hotel apartment and retail development in the heart of Sandton. The 175-roomed hotel will be opened by the end of the year, in time for the World Cup. The Raddison hotel and a new Holiday Inn have recently opened in Sandton whilst the Sandton Eye hotel is also under construction and will be completed by 2010. Similar hotel developments are underway in all the major centres including Cape Town where the much awaited Sol Kerszer One and Only hotel has just been ceremoniously opened.
While the global economic crisis will most certainly affect the South African economy, many economists believe that South Africa’s timing in hosting the World Cup is most opportune as the various projects and infrastructure upgrades will energize and strengthen the construction industry and assist it to weather the global economic storm.
The government is spending billions on the installation of the new Gautrain rapid rail system. The new public transport system not only includes the new rail system but also includes the support structures required such as the new stations and their related local bust links. Government has further relaxed building control restrictions and density requirements at all the airports, which will most undoubtedly unlock massive development potential at all the stations.
The Johannesburg CBD is also receiving government and private investment intervention. The city centre fell into disrepair in the early 90’s and numerous companies, including the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, fled the city to the newly built Sandton CBD. Upgrades of the urban landscape, the cleaning up of vast areas of the city, the upgrading of security systems with the introduction of CCTV security networks, the changing of current city legislation to allow higher densities of accommodation in the city and the refurbishment of numerous office blocks into accommodation, hotels and A grade office space is slowly transferring the city centre and bodes well for the future of Johannesburg and its city centre.
Local reaction to buildings and structures
While the press and the relevant marketing arms of the various role players have released information on what new systems, structures, stadiums etc are being built for the World Cup, there is a distinct lack of energy or expectancy amongst the South African public. The Federation Cup is to be played this year in preparation for the World Cup next year and only now is there a move amongst the public to access tickets. However, I believe that this is a South African phenomenon and given the completion of the stadiums and infrastructure upgrades, the public will embrace the World Cup with its usual fervour and enthusiasm as the date draws nearer.
I believe the stadiums being built will be world class in all respects, whilst the main FNB stadium in Johannesburg, with its 90 000 seat capacity, will excite and marvel the sporting world.
Legacy Corner being built by Bentel in Sandton to house the Da Vinci hotel will only be completed by the end of the year but we are hoping that this development will add to the architectural richness of the Sandton CBD and hopefully will be well received by the public and its guests.
Many South Africans are still sceptical about the changes being made in South Africa in preparation for the world cup but I believe given the completion of the stadiums, the new hotels, the required world cup infrastructure and the completion of the new public transport initiatives underway in all cities, especially the Gautrain in Johannesburg, will transform the cities not only during the World Cup but in years to come. South Africa is a young democracy and is still feeling its way out of a very dysfunctional past into an exciting future. I do believe that the right decisions and investments are being made, and that new and better systems such as public transport will transform the lives of many South Africans.
The upgrading of the infrastructure also goes well beyond the World cup. The government has lagged in the maintenance and upgrading of the current infrastructure since 1994, but it is the intention of government to embark on a massive infrastructure upgrade spend including for example, the construction of new power stations and the construction of thousands of new homes and the related infrastructure. This spend has already started and will continue way past the World cup in 2010.
New legislation envisaged which I am aware of and noteworthy are the Sustainable initiatives within the building industry. South Africa has just embraced a local version of the Australian Green Star sustainable code and government will be revising legislation to ensure closer industry observance.
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