National Defense Headquarters building, Potgieter Street, Pretoria, Tshwane

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GISKEY (Input giskey if applicable)
Condition Excellent
Date of origin

February 1896

Previous names

Union Defense Force Headquarters

Transvaal State Artillery Barracks

South African Defense Force Headquarters

Place South African Army Headquarters
Street Dequar Street
Town Pretoria/Tshwane
Magisterial district Salvokop
Province Gauteng
Country Republic of South Africa
GPS coordinates -25°

45' 30.18", +28° 10' 48.44"

Planning authority name City of Tshwane Metropolitan Municipality
Architect/Firm Department of Public Works, ZAR (Head: S.W. Wierda)
Project architect/Designer Klaas van Rijsse, additions by Gordon Leith (1927) 
Commissioning owner
The Public Works Department of
the Transvaal Republic
Current owner South African Army Headquarters
Current occupant South African Army Headquarters
Previous uses

Headquarters of British South African Command;

Defense Headquarters (until 1992)

Current use

South African Army Headquarters


Army barracks 

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The Barracks of the Transvaal State Artillery Precinct were constructed between 1896 and 1898. It is a Heritage Building along with the whole complex and the General Building. The Barracks became known as the Paul Kruger Building in honour of the old president. It has historical, architectural, cultural and military significance due to its importance for the country as Army Headquarters.

Military Heritage:

1. Second Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902) - utilised by British Forces as headquarters

2. World War One (1914-1918) - headquarters of the Union Defense Force

3. World War Two (1939-1945) -  headquarters and (due to expansion) the base ordinance depot of the Union Defense Force

4. Korean War (1950-1953) - headquarters of the Union Defense Force

5. The Bush War (1966-1989)

Architectural Heritage:

Representative of the Wilhelmiens Architectural idiom as established by the Department of Publci Works of the ZAR

Current known heritage status

The South African National Heritage Resources Act, No 25 of 1999, has the "aim of promoting the good management of national estate and to enable and encourage communities to nurture and conserve their legacy so that it may be bequeathed to future generations."

The whole complex of the South African Army Headquarters was declared a national monument in the 1970s. The Department of Public works scheduled the restoration of the buildings in 1997. The Machine Building houses the library after the restoration .

Possible interested and affected parties

The South African Army

The South African Government

Department of Architecture, University of Pretoria

Pretoria Institute for


 The Barracks were designed and constructed to house troops in the Transvaal State Artillery, and their specifications were drawn up by the Department of Public Works in February 1896. Regarding the construction of the barracks:

16 dormitories were meant to house 25 men each, leading up to a total of 400 troops. Rooms and bathrooms for non-commissioned troops were to be provided. Colonel Marais stated that bathrooms were never built for the troops on the uppermost floor and they would have had to go down to the bottom floor to use the restroom. Construction was approved by The Transvaal Executive Council on the 8th of July 1896. The tender to the value of 58 250 pounds was awarded to Societa Italiana di Construione. An additional 2000 pounds was set aside for the widening of the main passageways.
The contractor was given only 18 months to complete the Barracks and would have been fined 10 pounds a day if construction was not completed on the final date which was 8 July 1898. Bricks were manufactured on site on request of the contractor, and a tram truck transported the bricks to site. Temporary shelter and an office were constructed for the contractor and the labourers. Ground work began between the 24-29 August 1896. 
In March 1897, the first brick shortages occured, temporarily halting construction. It was also during this time that the Italian contractor handed construction over to a Franco-Italian Company. 50 000 bricks arrived after 15 March and it is recorded that 2 blacksmiths, 14 labourers, 10 assistants, 18 bricklayers, 1 carpenter, 7 sandstone masons and 6 granite stone masons were at work on the barracks. Due to the recurring shortage of bricks, construction fell behind schedule. At this point 30 bricklayers, 11 carpenters, 40 stone masons, 15 assistants and 150 labourers worked on the site.
The barracks were completed and handed over to the Transvaal Government betwee 12 and 17 September 1898. The contractor was fined 400 pounds for not delivering the clocktower, and was 2360 pounds on 25 March 1899. 

Description of alterations with dates affected

In 1927 the General Building was constructed in front of the Barracks, in the process defacing it. With the advent of technology, a futher defacing of the building occurred with the installation of air-conditioning. 

Description of site and/or structures and/or interior spaces

 The building is designed in the Neo-Renaissance Style. There is a play between red brick and light coloured stone work. The barracks were constructed of facebrick on a rectangular floor plan and with double pitched roofs.

The front facade of the barracks is 315 feet long (96 meters), and 106 feet and 8 inches wide (32 meters). It is divided into 2 sections each with 2 storeys and a loft. A clocktower is placed on top of the building which is 82 feet and 6 inches above the ground (25 meters) making it the highest point of the building. In the design of the barracks, fire hazard was taken into consideration as well as cleanliness and hygiene. Used beams, stairs, and floors were made of iron and stone. Iron beams separate the second storey floor from the loft.



Jay, R. 2012. T'he South African Army Headquarters - the history of the Transvaal State Artillery Precinct 1894-2010. Manuscript submitted for publication.

The history of SA Army Headquarters Building (n.d). Availablie from: (Accessed 06 June 2012).

Acknowledgement: Colonel Marais


The barracks where troops used to stay

Well-maintained wooden attic seen from barrack room
Ladder leading to attic

Plan and elevation of artillery barracks
Exterior view from the top-most barracks

Interior of clocktower
Clocktower leading from the barracks

Skylight of the barracks
Iron and wood staircase, exquisitly crafted

The top-floor barracks
Ladder leading to clock tower; the red and grey tubes serve as water pipes for the Fire Department

Front facade of the Artillery Precinct

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