Morgaine

Ponte Tower

In Too lazy to assign a category on February 24, 2007 at 9:55 am

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All images above by represent.co.za

It's been described by some as something out of Star Wars with its unusual inner perspectives; by others as the Tower of Babel. It's the tallest residential building in the city with a huge flashing Vodacom advertisement on its roof. It's probably one of the most striking urban landmarks in southern Africa.

It's the cylindrical Ponte City, of course, standing tall on the edge of Hillbrow's flatlands, at 54 storeys. Completed in 1975 at a cost of R11-million, it was in its heyday one of the city's most sought-after addresses, described by newspapers at the time as "heaven on earth".

Ponte is a huge hollow cylinder, with the rock it was built on still visible at the base of the cylinder, if you have the courage to stick your head out one of the upper floor windows to look down. In fact, it's hard to focus on the bottom from the top without the roundness and depth tugging at you, almost pulling you down.

Ponte went through a period in the 90s when it attracted criminal tenants, who most people believed were Nigerian druglords, in keeping with the general deterioration of conditions in Hillbrow. The streets of the suburb still show signs of that degeneration: they're blowing with garbage, the pavements are dotted with hawkers and their wares, and unemployed people gather in groups on street corners.

Perhaps Ponte hit its lowest point when in 1998 it was suggested by the ANC Youth League that it be turned into a prison, an idea soon discarded.

Over the years suicides have taken place from Ponte, although no record of the exact number has been kept. Grosskopff says that soon after it was built, several suicides occurred. There have been two since 2000, the last one occurring 18 months ago. The tall windows were designed to make jumping out more difficult, he says. The windows around the inner core were all barred, and most still are.

City of Johannesburg website

The tower was called Little Lagos, as it was believed to be controlled by Nigerian drugs maffia, a modern version of Sodom and Gomorra, but currently a lot is done to get rid of that stigma.

There are 54 floors, 470 apartments, and about 2 500 inhabitants, an apartment costing about € 120 a month.

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  1. Holy shit. What a strange piece of architecture.

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