South Africa’s Union Buildings, the official seat of the national government, house the offices of the president and are located in Tshwane. They are a South African national monument.
The buildings and amphitheatre are an easily recognisable landmark for most South Africans. The semicircular structure was designed by Sir Herbert Baker and took more than three years to build. It is 285m long and is divided into three sections – left offices, amphitheatre and right offices – that are each 95m in length. The lush gardens surrounding the buildings are a popular picnic venue, and the structure itself is considered an architectural masterpiece.
Unfortunately the buildings themselves are not open to the public. The attractively terraced gardens are a reminder of South Africa’s past, playing backdrop to various monuments, including one of General Louis Botha, the first prime minister of the Union of South Africa, and the South African Police Memorial.
The Union Buildings are also synonymous with South African’s transition to democracy, with images of the inauguration of South Africa’s first democratically elected president, Nelson Mandela, beamed around the world. It was also the site of a 20 000-strong march on August 9 1956, where women protested against the country’s pass laws. Today, this is commemorated by a public holiday, National Women’s Day. The lawn, flowers and indigenous trees in the gardens provide a lovely background for photographs and are popular for wedding photos.