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35 Lower Long redefines the CBD skyline

35 Lower Long redefines the CBD skyline

by Simangele Mzizi
31 December 2020

With its distinct, thoughtful design, 35 Lower Long is making a striking mark on the Cape Town Central City’s skyline. The two architects behind the newly completed skyscraper that has changed the face of the Foreshore explain the ins and outs of its transformative evolution.

The specs are impressive, to say the least. The striking 35 Lower Long building, developed by Abland Property Developers and valued at R500 million, boasts 14 floors of office space, flexible coworking spaces, a luxurious top-floor business suite, ground-floor retail space and 280 parking bays.

But the brief was not to design yet another functional, albeit beautiful, building, according to the architects behind this ambitious project of well-known commercial architecture firm, dhk Architects. Pierre Swanepoel, a partner at dhk, and Dominik Zuvela, a project architect, say Abland initially only wanted the existing 10-storey building increased in height, with cosmetic changes to its frontage. When this proved unsustainable, the brief was revised so they could demolish the building and construct a taller, more viable building. The challenge had begun.

So, they set about designing an office block that would make a positive contribution to the skyline of the Cape Town CBD. A building with spectacular views; with flexible office space unhindered by lifts and stairs. In addition to “wanting the building to work”, in the original brief, Abland wanted parking of approximately four bays per 100 metres squared. To comply with reduced parking requirements from the City of Cape Town, this was lowered by using two basements and nine levels of parking.

Swanepoel and Zuvela say to succeed in their industry involves the ability to “see every aspect of the business as a design opportunity that can be identified, unpacked, resolved and acted upon” and approaching architecture with the belief that good design equals good business. Their ability to solve their client’s problems on 35 Lower Long speaks to dhk’s reputation, and why their new high-rise is an achievement in many ways.


Swanepoel says they are most proud of “the singular sculptural form of the building from the ground right up to the rooftop and the pixelated reflectivity of the screenlike façade”. He also highlights the fact that the office floors extend seamlessly above the nine floors of parking, creating the form of a single building as opposed to “an office tower above a parking podium”.

Then there’s the building’s distinctive rooftop, the activation of all street edges and the clever use of glass, which is a defining external feature but also allows occupants great views of the Atlantic Seaboard and Cape Town Harbour. The rooftop, visible from many vantage points as one approaches the CBD and in the greater City Bowl, has succeeded in enhancing and modernising the Foreshore’s cityscape.

“The urban terrain is also improved,” Zuvela points out, “as we have created an activated ground floor street frontage environment”, which makes it visually appealing for pedestrians, and contributes to their experience of the building, and ultimately, their experience of the CBD.


The inevitable challenges that present themselves with a project of this scale are not solved by two architects alone. Swanepoel and Zuvela are quick to acknowledge the input of other experts. Overall,  six dhk Architects worked on 35 Lower Long. Aside from Swanepoel and Zuvela, the team included Steve Peters (partner), Wardah Razak (associate), Chris Mulder (architect) and Lucienne Myburgh (senior technologist).

As a 22-year-old design-led multidisciplinary studio incorporating architecture, urban design, landscape architecture and interior design, dhk Architects prides itself on sustainable building practices.

To ensure 35 Lower Long, which has been awarded a 4-star green star rating by the Green Building Council of South Africa, adhered to principles of green sustainable architecture, the team considered certain elements. Zuvela says they used double-glazed tinted glass to reduce solar gain (when the temperature of a building increases) and radiant heat, and have lighting systems that lower energy demands. With the lowering of the parking ratio, the building was conceived to encourage its occupants to make use of public and other transport: there are showers and facilities for parking bicycles.

Architects Dominik Zuvela, left, and Pierre Swanepoel of Cape Town firm dhk Architects 


Swanepoel says since the completion of 35 Lower Long, they continually look out for glimpses of their building while traversing the City Bowl. “We find it pops out from De Waal Drive and Nelson Mandela Boulevard,” he says. “People have suddenly started noticing it,” he says with evident pleasure. This is the engagement aspect the architects speak of. Swanepoel and Zuvela say the ultimate test, in terms of expectations from design to functionality with a building like 35 Lower Long, is about whether it adds value from a commercial or aesthetic value point of view. Judging by the response so far, 35 Lower Long is sure to inspire more developments that set the bar impressively high.


Tags: 35 Lower Long Pierre Swanepoel Dominik Zuvela dhk Architects