Soundspacedesign were approached by Africrest Properties for the conversion of the ground floor service station within the iconic 132 Jan Smuts building into new premises on behalf of Rosebank's world renown commercial gallery, the Goodman Gallery.
We looked to the gallery’s principal objectives of shaping and growing contemporary South African art via the facilitation of international exchange and dialogue with the greater art world, and indeed the city of Johannesburg itself.
Informed by its dedication to increasing social access to art, the architects proposed an adaptive reuse of the existing double-volume space that would facilitate more inviting access to the exhibitions and archives, without betraying their prestige.
The proposal architecturally expresses the gallery’s legacies of innovation and outreach within the somewhat brutalistic shell of 132 Jan Smuts Avenue, a highly visible building on one of Johannesburg’s major connecting roadways. The 1980’s building’s design heritage is a good fit, with its energy efficient credentials that were pioneering in South Africa.
It is streetside that the design’s hospitable nature is first experienced. The petrol station is converted into an effortless porte cochere, which fronts an undulating video wall that runs half the length of the building terminated by the new entrance and arts café.
A raised indoor/outdoor reception bookstore overlooks this refreshed streetscape and highlights a focus on attracting visitation and the provision of visitor amenity. This move provides an invaluable opportunity to publicly screen artists’ work, and importantly, facilitate art’s casual public engagement with the ladies who lunch and general business in the area.
A dramatic internal experience awaits. Visitors arrive to a generous reception space flanked by bookshop and a café. Wide stairs that dual as a circulation and seating lead to a large sculpture platform that affords views down into the central double height exhibition space. Art in this soaring space has room to breathe and visitors room to view and to gather. A sizeable adjoining project room and video ‘hide’ forms a readily navigable and accessible part of the visitor experience.
Servicing, arrival and despatch, storage, crating, offices and meeting facilities surround the gallery space on 2 floors. A banquet room on the 2nd floor is open to the double height viewing room located below, a thrilling proposition that really aligns with the experience of being in a world class gallery and the making visible of what is typically kept behind the scenes.
Classic "white box" spaces erode into more contemporary typologies for the appreciation of video, sculpture, installation and performance art
The experience speaks to the theatre of journey – the arrival, procession, reflection and understanding. There is a real drama here that does not forsake the practical. The gallery’s internal planning facilitates high levels of communication between gallery staff and engagement with the public and gallery visitors, all while ensuring an overall seamless functionality.
The art café blends into the book shop to allow for a leisurely retail experience
The adaptive-reuse of the petrol station is subtly handled so as to give a sense of history and progress
The innate value that a gallery of this stature and an architecture of this quality could bring to the city is incalculable, and the catalytic potential it offers the broader suburb of Rosebank immeasurable.
The adaptive reuse of a clever, climate savvy building that nourishes the nation’s artistic life and its people’s cultural engagement not only confirms the project’s sustainability credentials but celebrates responsible, caring architecture, befitting a thriving urban and creative community that nevertheless faces a host of social, environmental and economic challenges.
Ultimately the Goodman Gallery were able to remain on their original premises on Jan Smuts Avenue.
Words - Robyn Harding