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BREAKING OUT OF THE BLACK GLASS BOX: MODERNISM MODERNISED

The world’s first glass and steel skyscrapers were made real by international architect Mies van der Rohe with his iconic 1958 Seagrams Building in Manhattan, and his 1951 Lakeshore Drive Apartments in Chicago. Revolutionary in the simplicity of their facades, they stunningly embody Mies’ now universally accepted design axiom: ‘less is more.’

His black glass box signature became known as ‘The International Style’ and is a design meme that spread to sophisticated cities around the world, including Cape Town, where Nedbank’s elegant 1968 Foreshore head office is now being transformed into The Onyx. Fifty years on, this impressive edifice with its unbroken black glass curtain holds its own as a 20th century design landmark.

According to Robert Silke, the architect tasked with transforming this gleaming office block into a mixed-use building for residential and hospitality use, “The shallow floor plates and large expanses of glass make this A-grade corporate icon perfect for residential conversion.

“We’re going to intervene surgically in the façcade with futuristic and curvaceous aluminium balconies. In so doing, we’ll be animating the striking black onyx surfaces with luxurious, yacht-like terrace features in crisp white.”

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