Union Buildings


Union Buildings

The Union Buildings form the official seat of the South African government and also house the offices of the President of South Africa. The imposing buildings sit on Meintjies Kop and overlook Pretoria.

Architecture

These buildings, built from light sandstone, were designed by the architect Sir Herbert Baker in the English monumental style and are 285 m long. They have a semi-circular shape, with the two wings at the sides, this serve to represent the union of a formerly divided people dubious|date=June 2008. The east and west wings represent two languages, English and Afrikaans. These buildings are considered by many to be the architect's greatest achievement and a South African architectural masterpiece. The Nelson Mandela statue in Sandton City's Nelson Mandela Square was commissioned originally to stand on the spot where Nelson Mandela gave his inaugural address.

History

Andries Francois du Toit (1813-1883) was the original owner of the land on which the Union Buildings were built. He was also Pretoria’s first magistrate and was responsible for the layout of the city. During this period he sold his land, called Arcadia, to Stephanus Jacobus Meintjies (1819-1887), after whom the hill is named.

The cornerstone was laid in November 1910, shortly after the Union of South Africa — for which the buildings are named — was formed. Taking 1,265 workers over three years to build, the structure was completed in 1913 at a total cost of £1,310,640 for the building and £350,000 for the site.

Gardens and Grounds

Notable are the terraced gardens, planted exclusively with indigenous plants, surrounding the buildings as well as the 9,000 seat amphitheatre.

Within the grounds are various monuments, statues and memorials. Starting at the bottom of the gardens, a large statue of General Louis Botha (First prime minister of the Union of South Africa) on horseback dominates the lawn.

About half way up the terraces, the Delville Wood War Memorial is a tribute to South African troops who died during the First World War as well as a plaque in memory of those that died during the Korean War.

Two levels above that is a statue of prime minister J.B.M. Hertzog.

The South African Police Memorial is located at the top right of the gardens.

The South African National Film, Video and Sound Archives is also located in the grounds of the Union Buildings, adjacent to the South African Police Memorial www.archives.gov.za

Historical Events

On August 9 1956, 20 000 women staged a march on the Union Buildings to protest against the pass laws of 1950. This historical event is commemorated by the public holiday National Women's Day.

On May 10 1994 the Inauguration of Nelson Mandela and his Vice-Presidents after the country's first free elections took place at the Union Buildings. This date is considered as the "birth" of the new South Africa.

On December 31 1999 the South African flagship Millennium Celebration was held here. In attendance was the Deputy President Jacob Zuma, and other ministers.

External links

* [http://www.info.gov.za/aboutgovt/contacts/presidency.htm Office of the President of South Africa]
* [http://www.malibongwe.org.za/ 50th Anniversary of the 1956 Women's March - with pics of the original event]


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