Heather Dodd | impressions

Savage + Dodd Architects

World Architecture Festival 2018 | Prominent features of the project

We entered a project called Tower Inten_city into the Future Competition category. The project was a collaboration between Savage + Dodd Architects and Urban Works.

The project presents an alternative future for a 30-storey inner city tower building built in the late 1960s in the inner city of Johannesburg. Towers of this era, are striking symbols of corporate power and segregation and despite the ending of Apartheid 25 years ago, our cities still display striking spatial inequality.

At inception, the project was a proposal call from a leading bank that wanted to optimize an existing asset within their portfolio to transform their precinct and relationship with the city. Within the context of South Africa’s grossly unequal society, we were interested in hacking the transformative potential of this tower typology.

The project tells a story of spatial justice through the transformation of a tower block and its surrounding streetscape into a mixed-use building supporting intense residential density.

Our project took a socio-political spatial transformation stance towards a tower conversion and refurbishment project. The category we were entered in had a range of project typologies and the judges must have found it very difficult to judge on a comparative basis.

One of the comparable projects in the category was Studio Gang’s Tower Montparnasse, which received a commendation. Whilst the basis of the projects was similar, their approach to re-positioning the tower in the city was a very complex façade engineering process, whilst ours took a more transformative spatial stance.

Of course, the budgets and context between Johannesburg and Paris are vastly different. The winning project within our category was a beautifully considered new town centre in an extremely harsh context in Iran by Nextoffice. A well-deserved win


WAF is like a big market place for architecture. It’s very inspiring to be able to compete with major practices on a global stage. From our perspective, we find it interesting to see how other practices present their work and ideas. In the end what is comforting is that although we come from different contexts and speak different languages, we all speak the same language of architecture. Last year when we were a finalist in the Higher Education and Research category, where we (Savage + Dodd Architects) received a commendation, there were 3 built projects shortlisted from Africa and I think 13 overall including future projects. That is from a continent with 54 countries. This year, there was an incremental growth in the numbers but still very few.

We come from South Africa and we had a larger group (4 practices) attending. However, it is extremely expensive to enter the awards and to attend the festival, given the exchange rate to Euros. Unfortunately, WAF is not really understood in South Africa and we get very little feedback or support from our professional institutions. We have also found it difficult to gain traction in terms of interest from publications and news sites internationally, I don’t believe we are on the radar being located in South Africa. So, in terms of business investment, WAF does not at this point make a business case – having said that, recognition of our work on the global stage is an affirming process which we appreciate greatly.