The tallest residential building in Africa, Johannesburg’s Ponte City Apartments is a 54-story cylindrical tower with a brutalist design.
The skyscraper was marketed upon completion in 1975 as a high-end housing complex, with plans to incorporate shops, cafes, and an indoor ski slope. Typical of apartheid, the desirable outward-facing apartments were reserved for whites, while the dark inner apartments were rented to blacks.
Things didn’t go as planned.
Only a decade after Ponte was built, the residences began to fall apart due to poor management. It wasn’t long before the rich upper class residents moved out and left Ponte as a playground for criminals, drug lords, and prostitutes. A three-story pile of rubble and trash built up in the center of the core.
The decaying tower became a symbol of everything bad about South Africa.
Building owners have considered various failed solutions, including a 1998 proposal to turn the building into a prison. In the past couple of years, however, the tower may finally be getting better. Now owned by the London-based Kempston Group, the building is undergoing renovations meant to draw back middle class renters, and resident report dramatic improvements.
Filmmaker Philip Bloom captured stunning footage from inside the building in 2012. We’ve posted some highlights with the video below.
Looking up the core:
The view from an outward-facing apartment:
The view from an inner apartment:
The pile of trash and rubble:
This 2007 renovation plan fell through during the financial crisis:
But new renovations have been happening recently:
Inside a new Ponte City apartment:
Now watch the full video from Philip Bloom:
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