A Tour of the Tallest Residential Tower in Africa

By Kelsey Campbell-Dollaghan on at

Skyscrapers tend to become lightening rods for the neighbourhoods they're in—and nowhere is that more true than in Johannesburg's Ponte City, a hulking 54-story tower has gone from Apartheid enclave to drug dealer haven to symbol of urban renewal.

As Vocativ describes in a new mini-doc, Ponte in the midst of upheaval. When the tower was built in 1975, it was a symbol of luxury and modernity, a concrete high-rise with a hollow core that let light in at both sides of every apartment. Johannesburg (and the rest of South Africa) was still segregated, and only whites were allowed to live in the affluent luxury residences. Over the years, crime in the neighbourhood around it—Hillbrow—overtook Ponte too, and the building descended into chaos, with some even calling it "the murder capital of the city."

A Tour of the Tallest Residential Tower in Africa

Image: AP Photo/Themba Hadebe

Today Ponte, like so many other inner-city apartment blocks, represents a lucrative opportunity for developers. More affluent tenants are moving in, and things are changing yet again. Even if you've never been to Johannesburg, this little vid will resonate for nearly every city dweller—there are some parallels here in the UK, for starters. [Vocativ]