Arts On Main and Main Street Life Building, South African Project, Maboneng Design, Image

Arts On Main and Main Street Life, Johannesburg : Maboneng Phase 1

Maboneng Phase 1 Johannesburg, South Africa – design by Daffonchio & Associates Architects

1 Sep 2011

Maboneng phase 1 – Arts On Main and Main Street Life Johannesburg

Date built: 2010

Design: Daffonchio & Associates Architects

Location: Main street – Fox street, Johannesburg, Gauteng


Maboneng phase 1 is a mixed-use development which is targeted at Johannesburg’s creative community. It is situated on the eastern end of the Jo’burg CBD and signals the establishment of the ‘Maboneng’ (‘Maboneng’ meaning ‘Place of Light’). The Maboneng phase one consists of two developments: Arts on Main and Main Street Life.

Maboneng phase 1 - Arts On Main and Main Street Life Johannesburg
photo from architects

Arts On Main

Arts on Main consists of various old, previously dilapidated buildings which have been connected, restored and converted from light industrial to a variety of work, exhibition and recreational spaces for creatives.

The intention of the architectural design was to honour the history and heritage of the original buildings as much as possible by preserving their original architectural character and features as well as retaining old machinery which bears testament to the buildings’ industrial origins.

The architectural additions draw on the industrial language in terms of design and materiality, whilst maintaining a lightness which sets them apart from the original structure. Certain design elements act as metaphors for both Johannesburg’s history and its future.

The main entrance on Fox Street draws you into a garden, the first of a series of public areas around which the individual spaces are centered. The garden forms the main public focus of Arts on Main, with the restaurant and its rooftop bar and various retail and gallery spaces leading onto or overlooking it.

The design of the sculptural staircase leading up to the first floor of the original Corlett Construction building alludes to the mining shafts and hence the establishment of Johannesburg. The viewing tower at the top of the staircase frames views of the Hilbrow tower to the north, cars on the highway to the west, and the ‘Main Street Life’* sign to the east.

The viewing tower acts as a beacon that is visible from the highway, and symbolizes the connection between Arts on Main and the city, and the role of Arts on Main as a catalyst for inner city rejuvenation.

The light roof over the atrium in the south western area of the development allows for natural light and ventilation for the atrium and its surrounding spaces, while acting as a reflective surface for up-lights at night, which reinforces its floating quality. Like all the other public spaces in Arts on Main, the atrium has been designed to act as a platform for art exhibitions and events.

Arts On Main and Main Street Life Maboneng
photo from architects

Main Street Life

Main Street Life is the transformation of a 1970’s light industrial building into a contemporary & creative mixed use complex.

The concept of Arts on Main and Main Street Life offers a new way of living, an efficient way of working and a creative way of playing.

The building houses one and two bedroom medium-level apartments, seven penthouses, a twelve room art hotel (12 Decades), and a mix of retail including, shops, launderette, music rehearsal space, independent cinema and a restaurant. The roof, which offers panoramic views of the city, will be an events space with a bar, open-air boxing gym, plunge pool, viewing deck. The sculptural telescope marks Main Street Life’s presence in Johannesburg’s skyline.

The building, although not exclusively, was designed to attract the city’s creatives. Each floor of the building is tied to a creative discipline (design, film, fashion, visual arts, architecture). Two common spaces per floor are dedicated to offer creatives, who wish to collaborate, workshop and exhibit areas within the building.

All floors will hold temporary exhibitions of their discipline. The 140 one-bedroom apartments and 25 two-bedroom apartments offer the buyer a chance to procure South African furniture design, with the furnished units containing features and pieces by upcoming South African designers.

The architectural challenge lied in designing a complex building in a simple way. Emphasis was placed on ease of circulation and openness. It was important that the building, particularly in the common spaces, not clash or interfere with creatives adding their own touch to the building. Main Street Life is not a monument – it is a building to be used, changed and challenged by its residents.

Arts On Main + Main Street Life images / information from FD

Location: Johannesburg, South Africa

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