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 architects 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. This meant that the building had to compliment the Urban designs for Johannesburg at the time, and as Urban design architects, we were very mindful not only of the context at the time, but the way in which the building would allow for the growth of the urban vision that was put forth in the Newtown 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.
As Johannesburg Architects Co arc has a long history of producing crafted architecture that accentuates urban designs. The South African Reserve Bank Cash Centre as it is now called, responds to the city around it, whether it be visually in the use of colour and materials, or as a landmark in the city that people are familiar with. The building not only hits the brief of being a very secure building, but also has softer visual aspects such as specially designed planters allow trees and plants to grow on the façade of the building. This aspect ties the building into the long history of Johannesburg as a man-made forest and showcases they way in which great architectural ideas come to life from an Architect designs.