Nico Roets, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Ponte City – Africa’s tallest residential skyscraper

The Ponte City skyscraper was intended to be a breath of luxury and the centre of life for Johannesburg’s wealthy. It was equipped with all the amenities to earn just such a status. It enjoyed it for only 20 years, only to later become a place shunned. Today, it is once again enjoying a good reputation after years of ruin and decline

The Ponte City skyscraper was designed in a brutalist style by Rodney Grosskopff, Manfred Hermer and Manni Feldman. It measures 173 metres high and has more than 450 flats on 54 floors. It is the tallest residential skyscraper not only in South Africa, but in all of Africa

Geoffrey Hancock, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Ponte City

The structure was built in 1975. It has a cylindrical shape and the open centre of the building, referred to as the ‘core’, allows extra light into the flats. It was a symbol of luxury at the time and everyone wanted to live at this address. Inside, a swimming pool, a seven-storey car park, a shopping area and even an artificial ski slope were designed. The flats were lined with fashionable carpets and tiles and the terraces were fitted with Jacuzzis. There were breathtaking views of Johannesburg from the windows. Most of its residents were foreigners
In the 1990s, after the abolition of apartheid, some of the building’s residents left South Africa. Many gangs then moved into the high-rise, making it very dangerous to live there. Ponte City became a symbol of crime and decay in the Hillbrow district. The core was filled with rubbish five storeys high, as tenants threw waste and food scraps out of the windows. In the mid-1990s it was proposed to convert the building into a guarded prison

In 1999, the building came under new management to improve security and provide standard repairs. Two years later, more changes took place, including the new management tightening the rules for renting flats in Ponte City. Eventually, floor by floor, the building managed to restore its shine. The huge pile of rubbish was removed, the lifts were repaired and almost all the flats and usable space were renovated, and people became interested in renting flats again. The building has seen a revival of the retail area, an event hall and a community centre have opened. A community garden was created on the roof
Today, Ponte City is mainly inhabited by middle-class families and students. There are still strict admission rules


Read also: Architecture | Brutalism | Skyscraper | City | Africa | whiteMAD on Instagram

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