A Boeing 737 could be suspended in the west atrium of 1 Discovery Place – the new Sandton headquarters of the health, life and short-term insurance provider Discovery – without it touching sides. Among the many statistics about the impressive building, this one seems to stick in everyone’s mind. Early publicity said it was "the largest single-phase commercial office development in Africa". It was also the largest new building to receive a five-star rating from the Green Building Council SA. It has 4km of aluminium balustrades, 4,500 LED downlights and 50,000m² of tiling. The choice of a passenger jet to illustrate the size of the atrium articulates one of the major challenges that the architects, Boogertman + Partners, had to face when designing a building of this scale: objects and terms that dwarf humanity express characteristics of the building, but the real challenge is how to make it human. At its simplest, the architects’ task was to design a building that would enable Discove...

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