The history of Johannesburg‘s Ponte City Apartments is a provocative one: built in 1975 and designed by Manfred Hermer as the height of luxurious (white-only) living in South Africa, the continent’s tallest residential building soon became a notorious vertical slum, filled with crime and poverty, its signature hollow core re-purposed as a trash dump and a suicide drop.
Since 2001, however, the building has been the centerpiece of a drive to regenerate the wider Hillbrow neighborhood. The building is gentrifying once again – an almost color-coded gentrification as white people move back into the tower, mostly taking the more expensive upper apartments. However, as the video by Vocative shows, in the case of Ponte, gentrification is not as simple as elsewhere: heavy security eases the fears of middle class residents in what is still one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in Johannesburg. As the video shows, there’s a palpable excitement that, finally, the building is becoming a truly multi-ethnic community.
Inhabitat has just featured an unlikely new student housing project in Johannesburg: Mill Junction, a student complex that consists of two former grain silos topped with shipping containers. According to its developers, Citiq Property Developers, the energy and money-saving project re-directs money towards communal facilities, proving popular with students. As a result, Mill Junction, the second shipping-container housing project built by the Developers, may be the second of many more. More info at Inhabitat.
The Ponte Tower is a residential high-rise in Johannesburg, South Africa with a unique history and now a promising future. It was designed by architect Manfred Hermer in the 1970′s to be one of the most desirable places to live in the city, with an iconic, hollowed out interior, three-story apartments and rooftop jacuzzis. Over time, however, the building fell into disrepair and instead of serving as an icon of extreme wealth and prosperity, it became an icon of poverty and indifference. In still racially-divided South Africa, this was marked by the moving out of whites and the moving in of a primarily black population as property values plummeted. It has been associated with high levels of crime, a lack of sanitariness and even suicides, thanks to the building’s hollow core.
Recently, however, the derelict Ponte Tower has received more attention from investors and the architect himself, who doesn’t necessarily want to restore the building to its former glory but wishes to at least make it a decent place to live. The introduction of stringent security has encouraged more open-minded, middle-class citizens to move in, hoping for a profitable return as the Ponte Tower continues to grow in terms of value. Watch this featured video for more on the building’s comeback and what it will mean for its current and future residents.
Location: Johannesburg, South Africa
Project Architects: Clara Cruz de Almeida and Tatenda Mavunga
Company’s Owner: Laurence Chibwe
Project Team: Sergio Duarte, Tony de Oliveira
Completion: May 2012
Total Area: 5,900 sqm
Client: Johannesburg Property Company (JPC
Photographs: Courtesy of Afritects
The Optic Garden functions as a sculpture on a traffic island celebrating the 2010 World Cup and marking one of the major routes to the inner-city match venues. The project was commissioned by the Johannesburg Development Agency as part of a citywide public art program leading up to the 2010 World Cup.
Be sure to take a look at the video, drawings, and photographs following the break.
Architects: 26’10 south Architects
Project Team: Anne Graupner, Thorsten Deckler, Stephen Reid, Carl Jacobs, Sue Groenewald
Artist: Maja Marx
Photographs: John Hodgkiss
Architecture ZA 2010 is set to become Africa’s premier urban culture festival as it brings together leading-edge architectural thinkers and multidisciplinary practitioners from around the globe. It takes place in Johannesburg’s Newtown precinct from September 21 to 27 2010 and will open debate about our post-event cities and urban futures.
Keynote speakers include Spanish architects Fernando Menis, Anton García Abril and Débora Mesa Molina as well as South African heavyweights Peter Rich and Andrew Makin. Included in the festival are a variety of events and exhibitions across Johannesburg including poetry readings, film screenings, city tours, live music and dance performances and photography and urban design exhibitions. The event also features a series of CPD-accredited master classes, led by leading local and international architects.
Visit www.aza2010.org for the full programme and to register your attendance.
This interview first appeared in Assembly, a new magazine that ArchDaily contributor Sarah Wesseler is working on.
According to the United Nations, 1 billion people currently live in slums. Over the next two decades, this figure is expected to double. In recent years, slums (also known, more neutrally, as informal settlements) have increasingly attracted positive attention from academics and design professionals impressed by their efficient deployment of scarce resources, community-based orientation, and entrepreneurial vitality. Architect Rem Koolhaas celebrated the slums of Nigeria in his 2008 book Lagos: How It Works, while Teddy Cruz has become well known for his work with shantytowns on the U.S.-Mexico border. And no less a traditionalist than design enthusiast Prince Charles, prone to harsh public attacks on contemporary architecture, has championed Dharavi, the Mumbai neighborhood portrayed in Slumdog Millionaire, praising its “underlying, intuitive ‘grammar of design’” in a 2009 speech.
Detractors claim that these and similar attempts to examine the slums through the lens of design romanticize poverty and ignore the sociopolitical forces responsible for their creation and proliferation. However, although some projects involving informal design are doubtless better conceived than others, in general there can be no real question that it is appropriate for architects and planners to concern themselves with a phenomenon fundamentally tied to design-related issues such as land use, infrastructure, and materials. And given the failure of so many top-down modernist schemes for housing the poor over the past century, it is logical for the profession to turn its attention to a housing model which continues to mushroom organically around the globe: the shantytown.
An ongoing research project being carried out by 26’10 South Architects, a young South African firm headed by husband-and-wife architects Thorsten Deckler and Anne Graupner, provides an interesting look into this type of work. The couple have spent the past year and a half studying the spatial dynamics of Diepsloot, a Johannesburg suburb created in 1994 to house the poor. Today, approximately three-quarters of Diepsloot’s residents live in slums.
The interview after the break.