Johannesburg

The Leonardo in Sandton

  75 Maude St, Sandton Central ,   Sandton         09 Oct 2019
We've been watching with great curiosity, along with everyone else, as The Leonardo – said to soon be Africa's tallest building – started its rise above Sandton. And we recently had the opportunity to take a private tour with Legacy Development Director Jamie Hendry of the soon to be launched development.

The intention was never to build Africa's tallest structure, he says. In fact, when the property on 75 Maude Street was first acquired it was an abandoned building project with a basement of four levels and plans were put in place for a 33 storey mixed-use block in the heart of Sandton's commercial district. Construction commenced in 2015, and a positive market response saw plans extended for an additional 10 floors within six months. Today the nearly completed 55-storey structure will house 241 apartments, a Legacy hotel complex and a specialised retail section on the ground floor complete with wraparound digital signage.

At 234-metre tall The Leonardo replaces the iconic Carlton Centre in the Joburg City Centre which was built some five decades ago, and has stood as Africa's tallest building. When the Carlton Centre was first built it was a bastion of luxury and opulence (it even had its own ice rink) and in similar style the luxurious R3-billion The Leonardo follows the trend of uber-tall buildings that assert their towering presence with palatial upscale amenities.

The mixed-use development has already transformed the Joburg skyline, located high on Sandton Central's steep ridge and it is visible from across Joburg's northern suburbs. The team behind it is comprised of 11 architects, among them a 9-strong complement of women. 

The ground floors have been designed as a showcase of art with the collection curated by artist, cultural activist and producer Marcus Neustetter. A massive Mbongeni Buthelezi mural greets you at the entrance and stretches across a double volume area. His signature style of heating plastic to create an oil-painting like effect is impressive and seeks to represent a slice of South African history. Other works we managed to peek included sculptural works by artists Bronwyn Lace and Winston Luthuli. With much of the ground floors still being finished off most of the artworks remained covered last week. 

The Leonardo will include shops, cafes, bars and restaurants, a pre-school, an outdoor 25-metre pool and super sexy pool deck, gym, spa, conference centre and premium-grade office spaces, hotel floors, and in the upper-levels of the tower upmarket apartments. It's all about modern luxury urban living, and the idea of a contained space where you can live a complete lifestyle over 55 floors. The hotel will of course be a Legacy Hotel and join the group's properties in Sandton that include The Michelangelo and Da Vinci. Legacy Hotels and Resorts CEO Bart Dorrestein has always had a penchant for classical Italian names.

Spread across the top seven floors are eight ultra-luxurious penthouses, topped by the three-storey 3000 m² 'Leonardo Suite' which comes with 360° views and a 1100m² roof garden area. It is set to become Africa's most expensive apartment and includes a 16m swimming pool.

The views are breathtaking, over Joburg's suburban treed expanse in every direction towards the horizon. The city's skyline shimmers in the far distance and vistas stretch as far as Pretoria's Voortrekker Monument, and the Magaliesberg mountains in the north, and to OR Tambo International Airport in the south-east. Sandton's many new impressive buildings appear as small Lego-like blocks from this great height and we hopefully predict roof gardens to be the next fashion that will make the views even more picturesque. 

Among The Leonardo's numerous dining destinations are the Leo’s Lounge, Bar and Deli Kitchen, a wood-fired restaurant known as Octo Bar and a swanky restaurant and wine bar Aurum Restaurant on the building's 7th floor. The 250 capacity Aurum Restaurant promises "a contemporary interpretation of Modern European Cuisine with a casual, all-day offering for breakfast, brunch and lunch and high-end dining for dinner". And as with all great skyscrapers, a sky-high rooftop cocktail bar on the very top floor, the Sky Bar, is also planned.

The building is expected to be completed by the end of 2019 and we eagerly await the opening of the Aurum restaurant, with its spectacular arched volumes, and impressive glass spiral staircase.

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