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Colonial Mutual Life Building - Pleinhuis
Gqeberha (Port Elizabeth), Eastern Cape

OWEN EATON and MERRIFIELD: Project Architect

Type:Offices with shops to street
Style:Art Deco


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33°57'45.08" S 25°37'23.00" E Alt: 17m

The Colonial Mutual Life Building was designed by the Australian Architects HENNESSY & HENNESSY who were based in Sydney. The construction was supervised by OWEN EATON & MERRIFIELD (ref EP Herald 8 July 1935). It is interesting to note that Charles MERRIFIELD had previously worked for the firm of WALGATE & ELSWORTH. Lancelot ELSWORTH had supervised the construction of HENNESSY & HENNESSY's Colonial Mutual Life Building in Durban in 1933 but it is not known if the connection resulted in the appointment of EATON & MERRIFIELD to undertake the supervision of the Port Elizabeth building.

The Municipal archive show that the building was originally intended to be two floors higher (7 instead of the 5 constructed) and included a pitched roof along the main elevation facing Market Square and a tower over the Lift shafts.

Ground floor plan is arranged around a T shaped arcade, which connected Whites Road to Castle Hill and Baarkens Street. The arrangement helped to connect the Feathermarket Hall to Market Square and divided the plan into a number of smaller shops rather than one larger unit. The main core of the building and entrance to the offices on the floors above is located at the intersection of the arcade.

The building was described as being Neo- Romanesque in the local press at the time but most of its details are clearly Art Deco.

The building was renamed "Pleinhuis", after it was sold by Colonial Mutual Life in the 1980's. Originally it was unpainted but in recent years it has been painted in subtle colours.

(Gerald Humphrey 2014)

2015: Now called the Noninzi Luzipho Building

(FRIBA nom papers Owen Eaton)

All truncated references not fully cited below are those of Joanna Walker's original text and cited in full in the 'Bibliography' entry of the Lexicon.