Image by Andy B SA
Clad in rose- and gold-veined black marble, Mutual Heights is the most impressive of the City Bowl’s collection of art deco structures. The facade is decorated with one of the longest continuous stone friezes in the world, designed by Ivan Mitford-Barberton and chiselled by master stonemasons the Lorenzi brothers. Much of the building’s original detail and decoration have been preserved, including the impressive central banking space (sadly not open for general viewing).
Commissioned by the Old Mutual financial company, this was once not only the tallest structure in Africa bar the Pyramids, but also the most expensive. Unfortunately, the building’s opening in 1939 was eclipsed by the start of WWII. Additionally, its prime position on the Foreshore was immediately made redundant when the city decided to extend the land 2km further into the bay. Old Mutual started moving its business out of the building to Pinelands in the 1950s. Made into apartments and renamed Mutual Heights in 2002, it kicked off a frenzy among developers to convert similarly long-neglected and empty city-centre office blocks.