SOUTH AFRICAN RESERVE BANK - JOHANNESBURG
The fortified Johannesburg Branch of the South African Reserve Bank blends into the context of Newtown as an urban sculpture.
At the dawn of the new South Africa, Co-Arc was commissioned to design the new branch building for the South African Reserve Bank in Johannesburg. The building would form the border of Johannesburg’s business district and the Newtown cultural precinct.
The building is a high-security depot for the money supply to greater Johannesburg, and therefore has to portray an image of solidity and physical strength. As such, stringent security requirements prevented a functional interaction of the building with life on the streets, and the architectural challenge lay in designing a fortified structure that would, nevertheless, acknowledge the urban setting and be at least visually, sympathetic to the surrounding financial and cultural precincts.
Realising the unique character of the Newtown precinct, the Bank permitted an architectural idiom that borrows from the steel and brick industrial architecture of the adjacent decommissioned power station and the old fresh produce market, and contrasts with the granite and glass corporate architecture of the adjacent financial precinct.
The massing of the building forms a visual bridge between the tall tower blocks to the east and the new cultural precinct of recycled industrial structures to the west. The building was crafted using custom bricks and meticulous detail to give it a timeless quality that responds to the history of Johannesburg. The acknowledgement of an overriding urban order in the composition results in a well-balanced collage that stands out as a dynamic urban sculpture with ever-changing views as one moves around the building.