What to Read Next

A Haunting Look at the Decay of Africa's Tallest High-Rise

Spencer Peterson
1 November 2013

PonteCity2.jpg
PonteCity2.jpg

When the Ponte City apartment complex was finished in 1975, the apparent success of its cylindrical design ensured that Africa's tallest residential skyscraper was one of the most desirable places to live in Johannesburg. The hollow center that allowed light to enter the inward-facing units—some of which were three stories tall and came Jacuzzi-equipped—was once the planned site of an indoor ski slope, that urban marker of bull-market excess. Today, after nearly four decades of decline, the bottom of Ponte City's lightwell is covered by a three-story heap of garbage. The long suburban exodus of Johannesburg's moneyed elite has turned the tower into a skyline-piercing reminder that cosmopolitan luxury doesn't exist inside a vacuum.

But despite all the gloom, and the awful grandeur of that trash heap—the focus of a short, visually stunning documentary on Ponte City by Philip Bloom (below)—things are surprisingly positive. Renovations began just before the global financial crisis of 2007 and then were quickly abandoned, and though the tower is home to a lot of poverty, its conditions have been brought up to a kind of liminal state that some might consider more desirable than reigning bourgeoisie excess—politics dependent, of course. And considering that there once existed plans to turn the place into a huge vertical prison, like the setting for another dystopian South African death-fest from director Neill Blomkamp, Ponte City has certainly been worse off. Go, watch:

· Dark Tower: Decay Inside Africa's Tallest Apartment Complex [Web Urbanist]

Copyright © 2013 Curbed National

Switch and save!

Switch to Progressive and you could save an average of $548.

Master's in Clinical Mental Health Counseling

You can save $7,500 in tuition when you start classes Feb 29. Request information today!

Join Disney Movie Club Today

Get 4 Disney Movies For $1 With Membership. See Details. Plus, Free Shipping On Your Initial Order!

Amazon Prime Video, Wherever You Go

Stream thousands of movies and shows. Watch anywhere, even offline.

Looking To Buy New Car Tires?

Confidently buy Goodyear® tires online with help from the experts! We'll help you find and compare tires based on your vehicle or tire size.

9 Cards for People Who Have Great Credit

What card offers up to 5% cash back? And which one offers 24/7 concierge service? See the best credit cards of 2016. Apply online, quickly & easily.

Beautiful Community within Center Grove Schools!

Visit Chateaux at Woodfield, featuring newly released, 1/3-acre+ homesites with pond-views and wooded backyards. Priced from the $190s.

Kid sleep troubles email series for moms

We get it. We’ve been there. Sign up for our email track to learn how to handle kids who won’t go to sleep or won’t stay in bed.

Banks Are Worried Homeowners Will Do This.

Homeowners are surprised and furious. If you owe less than $625,000 on your home, you better read this.

Consolidate your Student Loans by Refinancing

Refinance your student loans to a lower rate with SoFi. Find out how much you can save!

Stop Paying Too Much For Your Prescriptions.

Drug prices vary wildly between pharmacies. GoodRx finds the lowest prices and discounts. Compare prices, print free coupons & save up to 80%.

Liberty Mutual Insurance

Save up to $509 on car insurance with Liberty Mutual. Get your free quote now and start saving today.

Starwood Credit Card

Earn 25,000 Bonus Starpoints®! Use toward Award Nights or Flights.

Military Mortgage Rates In 2016

Rates as Low as 2.75% (3.028% APR) 15 Year Fixed. Exclusive For Veteran & Military - Takes 1 Min!