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Mutual Building

POI: -33.924292, 18.422292
The Mutual Building (Afrikaans: Mutual Gebou), in Cape Town, South Africa, was built as the headquarters of the South African Mutual Life Assurance Society, now the "Old Mutual" insurance and financial services company. It was opened in 1940, but before the end of the 1950s—less than 20 years later—business operations were already moving to another new office at Mutual Park in Pinelands (north east of the city centre); since then Old Mutual has become an international business and their present head office is in London. The building is a fine example of art deco architecture and design, and it has many interesting internal features such as the banking hall, assembly room, directors' board room; external features include a dramatic ziggurat structure, prismoid (triangular) windows, and one of the longest carved stone friezes in the world. It has been said that it provides evidence of the colonial attitudes of the time, and the "ideals of colonial government promulgated by Rhodes in the late nineteenth century". The Mutual Building is now converted to residential use, although some parts of the building are used commercially. For example, the Banking Hall (which is now an events venue) and the retail shops that operate outside on the ground level.
History
The business
The Old Mutual business has a long history. In 1845 John Fairbairn (a Scot) founded "The Mutual Life Assurance Society of the Cape of Good Hope" in Cape Town. Over the next 100 years the business was to evolve significantly, changing its name in 1885 to the "South Africa Mutual Life Assurance Society", but becoming familiarly known simply as "The Old Mutual", so as to distinguish it from newer businesses of the same kind. The company employed women as early as 1901, expanded into Namibia in 1920 and into Zimbabwe (then Rhodesia) in 1927. Old Mutual is now an international business with offices all over the world, and its portfolio of financial services continues to evolve to meet market needs. It is now some years since the business "de-mutualised" in order to issue shares and fund its operations using conventional investment markets.
The "new" (1940) Head Office in Darling Street
In the 1930s it became clear that a new headquarters building was needed and very ambitious targets were set for the building: it was to be the tallest building in South Africa (possibly in the whole continent of Africa, with the exception of the pyramids in Egypt), it was to have the fastest lifts, it was to have the largest windows. At the same time it was to epitomise the values of the business: "Strength, Security and Confidence in the Future"; this demanded a combination of traditional and contemporary design. Although it is clearly identified on the exterior as the "Mutual Building" (or "Mutual Gebou" in Afrikaans) it is often familiarly referred to as "The Old Mutual Building". Here, in the body of this article, it will be referred to as the "Mutual Building", thereby acknowledging the...   ... (English)
Mutual Building - Français -> English  
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