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Union Buildings

Union Buildings

Union Buildings

Union Buildings (Government Avenue, Pretoria) – the city of Pretoria (the capital of South Africa) is a 37 minute drive north of Johannesburg (via R21). Like an ancient temple adorning over the city it governs, Pretoria’s Union Buildings are a modern day acropolis. Built at the highest point of the city, it forms the official seat of South Africa’s government and houses The Presidency, as well as the Department of Foreign Affairs.

 

Designed by Sir Herbert Baker in 1908, building began in 1909 and was completed in 1913. It took approximately 1265 artisans, workmen and laborers almost three years to construct, using 14 million bricks for the interior office walls, half a million cubic feet of freestone, 74 000 cubic yards of concrete, 40 000 bags of cement and 20 000 cubic feet of granite.

 

The buildings represent a decadent layer of South Africa’s history. Originally built to house the entire Public Service for the Union of South Africa, it was then the largest building in the country and possible the largest building work undertaken in the Southern Hemisphere at that time. In 1994 the buildings were the scene of much jubilation as they played host to the inauguration of former President Nelson Mandela, South Africa’s first democratically elected President, and heralded the beginning of a new era in South Africa’s history.

 

Note: since the presidency is located here, the Union Buildings themselves are closed to the public (thus, there are no tours here). However, the grounds are open to the public (which are often used for wedding parties). To many visitors, this site is still worth visiting, in part, because of its location at the high point of Pretoria (affording a view of the city below).