Newtown Junction, Gauteng, South Africa

Newtown Junction, located in the heart of Johannesburg’s Newtown Precinct, will see the long-neglected ‘potato sheds’ transformed into a vibrant, mix-used development that will comprise a 36 000 m² shopping centre, 30 000 m² of office space, gymnasium and four levels of basement parking providing 2 400 bays. Construction commenced in October 2012 and will be completed towards the end of September 2014.

Aurecon played the role of structural engineer on this landmark project, bringing to the table a wealth of knowledge around the complexities of working in the Johannesburg Central Business District environment as well as an ability to ramp up significant project resources at short notice.
Newtown Junction’s retail area includes a portion of the steel warehouses (potato sheds) that were originally designed in 1910 for the purpose of storing vegetables and fodder that were distributed to fresh produce markets across the country by rail. Other challenges included:

  • Accommodating existing structures seeing as a portion of the building was constructed under the elevated M1 highway, which required a very unique geometry in order to accommodate the highway piers
  • The project site was founded above huge amounts of ground water, with excavations that plummet down to 15 m below the ground’s surface
  • Ongoing design and layout changes

Some sections of the structure’s roof are only 3-4 m below the structure of the M1 highway above. This meant the project team had to isolate construction while building around existing highway piers and columns. They also had to design lateral support systems to protect the bridge piers, ensure that the safety of motorists was not jeopardised as well as design a roofing system that caters for storm water flooding from the highway in these areas.

In order to streamline the task of removing the ground water, Aurecon designed a series of subsoil drainage systems that collected water under the entire basement footprint, and then funnelled the water into sumps, before pumping the water into the municipal storm water system at ground level. The same series of pumps now forms part of the permanent structure, and also functions as a mechanism of handling excess storm water resulting from the access ramps into the basements during rainstorms.

The project team also had to redesign the internal structure of the building to accommodate changes to the layout of the retail mall area as well as add six movie theatres. The specialised theatres required custom sound insulation solution due to their proximity to the highway. In order to muffle the sound of the neighbouring traffic, high tech insulation was installed in the theatre areas under the guidance of acoustic experts.

Newtown Junction is a unique and bustling hub that will bring new life to the surrounding precinct. Coupled to this, the heritage-inspired design will make it a go-to destination for the people of Johannesburg as well as tourists.

Newtown Junction’s design successfully retains the magic of the past, blending it with the excitement of the future, and will become an important landmark in the city centre. Aurecon applauds the developers for this bold, ambitious project and is proud to be involved in this landmark development.

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