Friday, January 22, 2016 - 06:49

With Johannesburg firmly establishing itself as the economic heartland of South Africa during the mid 20th century, Standard Bank decided to move its South African head office from Pretoria to Johannesburg in 1959.  The head office moved into the upper floors of the Johannesburg branch building, situated on the corner of Commissioner, Harrison and Fox Streets.  This building could however not accommodate all the administrative staff and at a 1962 board meeting, the idea of a prestigious new head office building was conceived.  The site of the then Fox Street branch, situated on the corner of Fox and Simmonds Streets was chosen and the four adjoining sites purchased to create the site bounded by Fox, Simmonds, Main and Hollard Streets.  In September 1966 the entire site could be handed over to the contractors although demolition of some of the buildings on the site already commenced earlier that year.

 

The construction site from above (Standard Bank Heritage Centre)

 

The new head office building was designed by German architect, Professor Helmut Hentrich from Dusseldorf.  The 27-storey tower block, described as a “hanging building” aroused considerable comment and was a curiosity throughout its construction period.  The building consisted of a central concrete core from which concrete and steel beams were extended.  The floors were suspended from these beams.  The construction was achieved by having a huge crane situated on the roof of the core which hoisted the floors into position.  The building was thus literally built from the top downwards.  The entire building consisted of the 27 office floors, four “tower” floors, three mechanical service floors and five basement floors.  From ground level to summit, the building was 139.60 metres (458 feet) high and from base to summit it measured 159.72 metres (524 feet). The area of each office floor measured 804 square metres (8,649 square feet).

 

The Hanging Building in January 1969 (Standard Bank Heritage Centre)

 

The building contractors were L C B Consortium comprising: LTA Building and Manufacturing Company Limited, Concor Construction (Pty) Limited and Bondcrete (Pty) Limited. Work on the concrete core commenced in July 1967 and was completed in May 1968.  The first of the precast concrete floor slabs was hoisted into position in August 1968 and the last in May 1969. From this date until the end of March 1970 the installation of services and finishes took place.  In mid-March the first head office departments moved into the building while the Standard Bank Centre branch (former Fox Street branch) opened for business in its new impressive accommodation on the lower ground floor of Standard Bank Centre on 13 April 1970. The building was not only a landmark in the skyline of Johannesburg, but also a dynamic symbol of all that Standard Bank stood for.

 

The Hanging Building in July 1969 (Standard Bank Heritage Centre)

 

The Standard Bank head office was housed in this building until 1990 when it moved to the newly constructed building at 5 Simmonds Street.  After the new Simmonds Street complex was named Standard Bank Centre, the tower block in Fox Street became known as 78 Fox Street.

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