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Dublin: 11 °C Thursday 24 April, 2014

Derelict African skyscraper wouldn’t be lost in a sci fi horror

Ponte City apartments were designed to be des res homes – things didn’t go as planned.

THE TALLEST RESIDENTIAL building in Africa, Johannesburg’s Ponte City Apartments is a 54-storey 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 white people, while the dark inner apartments were rented to black people.

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 brothels. A three-storey pile of rubble and trash built up in the centre of the core.

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2Summers2010/Flickr

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. But in the past couple of years, the development may finally have turned a corner. Now owned by the London-based Kempston Group, the building is undergoing renovations meant to draw back middle class renters, and residents 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:

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Philip Bloom

Looking down:

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Philip Bloom

The view from an outward-facing apartment:

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Philip Bloom

The view from an inner apartment:

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Philip Bloom

The pile of trash and rubble:

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Philip Bloom

A resident:

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Philip Bloom

This 2007 renovation plan fell through during the financial crisis and was never realised:

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Odile Kgaswe Architects

But new renovations have happened recently:

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M&G/Youtube

Inside a new Ponte City apartment:

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M&G/Youtube

Now watch the full video from Philip Bloom:



- Amanda Macias and Gus Lubin

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Business Insider
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