Netherlands' Bank: Bank of Netherlands - Nedbank
People:Norman Musgrave EATON: Architect
25°44'46.28" S 28°11'26.47" E Alt: 1319m
The Bank of Netherlands had been in the Old Bank building on Church Square from 1888 but in 1953 they were bursting at the seams and this building was built.
The clients – Hollanders – did not want this building when they were shown the sketch plans after lunch at the Pretoria Country Club one afternoon in 1946. That was after EATON had teased out the process of presentation, page by page from the basement upwards. The perspectival rendering done by MEIRING (who was present) was presented last at about four the afternoon.
They did not like it – not the canopy over the pavement, and certainly not the bricks
'We've enough of them back home!'
Well the canopies were stripped off but precious little else was changed.
And considering how banking has changed over the past fifty years the bank has been in use, it is remarkable how much has endured and how pleasing it still is as a piece of architecture.
EATON had got Willem de Sanderes HENDRIKZ commissioned for the decorative features on the project. But there was friction. EATON considered his design proposals too facile and too European – Eurocentric we'd say today.
There is correspondence in the EATON archives at the University of Pretoria which documents the exchange – and reconciliation. But EATON took a hand in the design resolution, and had his artist companion, Alexis Preller, in on resolving some of the issues – the Benin-style door handles and waterspout on the public fountain are his.
EATON himself was a frequent traveler to the countries of the African eastern seaboard and meticulously sketched and photographically recorded and documented the building and decorative elements he found.
There are, again in the EATON archives, sketches by EATON's hand of his proposal for the heraldic embellishments to the grille doors and surrounds, and these are pretty much as executed, no doubt by De Sanderes HENDRIKZ. They are the heraldic emblems of Dutch and South African governments and institutions, but in stylized form.
Somewhere in the 1990s Nedbank – as it became – was in the process of changing all the branches to the newly styled corporate identity. The hall had been knocked about by then. The clothing store next door – part of the complex as initially designed - had been appropriated by the bank and the wall clock sacrificed for an internal thoroughfare. Somehow National Monuments got involved – although the fifty year clause was not quite yet applicable – and Nedbank called in Revel FOX to advise. The result is that we have much left of what EATON designed, and a sympathetic enlargement into the previous cubicles of the banking hall. The travertine counter had to be sliced through but is otherwise intact, as is the signage board and are the ancillary cubicles. What has been added takes a direct cue from EATON.
Architecture, like all good things, should be re-inspected once it has matured. This project remains exemplary of what can be achieved through application, dedication, perseverance and conviction.
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