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$100m Zambian Skyscraper Refurbishment to be designed by Louis Karol Architectural of Cape Town

Zambia's tallest building, the burnt-out, cyclopean Society House tower, has loomed menacingly over the Lusaka skyline since it was gutted by fire in 1997. But last week, at a groundbreaking ceremony attended by thousands in the Lusaka city centre , an unprecedented $100m redevelopment project was officially commenced by Zambian President Rupiah Banda. The project is not simply a restoration of the burnt-out tower, but one which the president believes will catalyze a change in fortunes for the entire Lusaka City Centre. “Today marks the beginning of the rise of Society House rise from the ashes of that terrible inferno‌ The face of Lusaka is surely changing for the better and my dream is that this change does not stop within the boundaries of Lusaka but spills over to other towns and cities,â€? said Banda at the launch on May 27th. The skyscraper reconstruction is to comprise a 160 room four-star Holiday Inn hotel, conferencing, retail mall, A-grade offices and 1100-car parking garage, and is to be designed and constructed by a consortium of South African and Zambian firms known as the Zambezi Consortium. The rights to design and construct the project were won in an open tender in which 11 different local and international consortia participated.


“Society House is in many ways a parable for Lusaka, and Zambia for that matter,” said Robert Silke, partner at Louis Karol Architectural and design architect for the Society House project. “The 20 storey tower was built in Zambia's golden decade of the 1970's. Copper was expensive and Zambia was prosperous, modern and building state-of-the-art skyscrapers. Zambia had television while South Africa was still listening to the radio.” “In the late 1970's copper collapsed and the rest is history: Development in Lusaka ground virtually to a halt, and by the late 1990's a fire in the legendary top floor night club left the tower gutted and uninhabitable. Fifteen years later the burnt-out tower looms menacingly over the Lusaka skyline.” 33-year old Silke, born in the same year Society House was originally built, intends for the burntout tower to be appropriately re-faced in copper and remodeled beyond recognition, using a new 20-storey externalized fire escape as a means to animate the existing late modernist structure. “Lusaka is a city of polite modernism and cyclopean towers. Society House is a 20storey extruded concrete concertina with a neo-oriental brutalist pagoda on top, and you can't just mess with that lightly. We're going to embrace the existing form (love it or hate it) and surgically add and subtract using appropriate geometries, materials and expressive devices,” said Silke.

Society House Before

Society House After

Kelly Kalumba is partner in charge of Louis Karol's Johannesburg office. Kalumba grew up in Zambia and has witnessed the country's transition from riches in the 1970's, to proverbial rags in the 80's and 90's, and now relishes the role his firm is playing in the country's renaissance. “Today Zambia's economy is booming, with associated factors being the country's copper exports boosted by a sharp rise in global commodities prices, peace, stability and democratic governance. The first decade of the new millennium has seen a new prosperity come to Zambia. Foreign investment has resumed and the copper price is higher than even its peak in the 1970's,” said Kalumba. After decades of stagnation, Lusaka is a city under construction, with South African development groups, construction companies, professional firms and retailers involved in major developments such as Manda Hill shopping centre and Liberty Life's massive mixeduse Levy Junction development on the periphery of Lusaka CBD. Most major South African retailers are represented in Zambia.


But, according to Louis Karol CEO Dr. Eitan Karol, new investment seems, as with most cities, to be restricted to suburban and peripheral areas. “As a result many city centres (from the United States, to Africa, to Asia) are underdeveloped (and are therefore under stress. Lusaka city centre is no exception and is consequently feeling a little unloved,” - EK. “Lusaka's skyline has yet to show evidence of the new prosperity. The redevelopment of Society House will be a generous, very visible public gesture that isn't restricted to private malls and office parks in the suburbs,” - EK.

Louis Karol's experience in city-changing mega-projects include Cape Town's V&A Waterfront, the Golden Acre and Sandton's International Convention Centre. “Our firm conceptualized much of Cape Town's V&A Waterfront which transformed Cape Town into an international tourist destination, and we're excited to share our experience with Zambians, whose ambition is to similarly transform Lusaka.” - EK The redevelopment is a joint venture between Zambia's National Pension Scheme Authority (NAPSA) and the Zambia National Building Society (ZNBS) which are both state-owned organizations. The South African consortium members comprise architects Louis Karol, quantity surveyors Turner & Townsend, Pam Golding Properties and BWK Monamodi electro-mechanical engineers. Zambian consortium members include Bicon Zambia engineers and project

For details contact: Eitan Karol: . +27 82 492 9735(sa cell) +44 7867 591 686(uk cell) Robert Silke: +27 82 469 8127 Kelly Kalumba: +27 83 495 2018 +26 096 423 9199(zambia cell)

LOU I S KA RO L architecture engineering interiors

Louis Karol  

$100m Zambian Skyscraper Refurbishment to be designed by Louis Karol Architectural of Cape Town

Louis Karol  

$100m Zambian Skyscraper Refurbishment to be designed by Louis Karol Architectural of Cape Town