Named after the appeal judge, Sir James Rose Innes, Innes Chambers is prominently positioned opposite the South Gauteng High Court on Pritchard Street, in the heart of the Johannesburg CBD. Originally the offices of the Johannesburg Bar, Innes Chambers was purchased by the Department of Public Works in the early 2000’s, earmarked for redevelopment as the Johannesburg offices of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA).
Innes Chambers in 2013 (The Heritage Portal)
The refurbishment of the building required the upgrading and replacement of all services, and insertion of a contemporary office accommodation programme. From the outset it was essential that the building meet current office accommodation and energy efficiency standards, without compromising the iconic aesthetic of the original design.
Designed in 1960, Innes Chambers is less than 60 years old, and is not formally protected in terms of the National Heritage Resources Act, yet recognised as a downtown landmark and a model example of 1960’s modernist architecture. Every effort was made to retain and restore original heritage elements.
To gain better understanding of the design, the Activate team met with Sydney Abramowich, the building’s original architect. Abramowich described the process of designing the distinctive Y-column facade screens “the screens were created not only as an aesthetic element, but also as a shading device, to keep the building cool in summer, and reduce reliance on mechanical air-conditioning,” sketched under a tree in his garden on a Friday afternoon in 1959.
The expressionist modern movement Y-column screen sets Innes Chambers apart from its contemporary 1960’s modern movement buildings. Influenced by prevailing international trends, Innes Chambers is an elegant slice of mid century Brazil, carefully adapted to suit its downtown Johannesburg Location.
Restoring the exterior of the building
Care was taken to restore the exterior of the building. Thousands of spalled mosaics were replaced, and even the original Innes Chambers signage was repaired and reinstated.
Internal masonry office partitions configured to suit the needs of multiple past tenants, were removed and replaced with new drywall, reducing the the loading on to the existing structure and allowing greater flexibility for the reconfiguration of offices in time. All existing steel windows, façade panels and frames were replaced with new high performance aluminium frames and double glazing, providing a pressure sealed façade, enhancing the thermal performance of the building envelope and reducing the energy demand on the HVAC system.
The new raked 1st floor auditorium required the partial demolition of existing 1st and 2nd floor slabs. The new suspended concrete auditorium roof forms an outdoor atrium which functions as a pause area, consisting of two deck zones and a section of soft landscaping.
1st Floor Auditorium (The Heritage Portal)
Clad in opalescent white mosaic, Innes Chambers has been restored to downtown landmark status, shimmering above the city traffic in the crisp Johannesburg sunlight.