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Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Ponte City's Transformation

A couple years ago I posted briefly about Ponte City, a 1970s high-rise with a distinct cylindrical shape and hollow core. Located in Johannesburg, South Africa, the building is undergoing a transformation from...




Yes folks, it's New Ponte! While gussying up the concrete core with color and some balconies does little to betray the building's qualities, the exterior rendering below resembles a mediocre development in Chicago, New York, Vancouver, or some other North American city. The design and the marketing make me wonder how much else the South African development borrows from American precedents. From a brief look at New Ponte's web page, it looks like a lot, from the amenities package to the focus on "luxury" living and open floor plans.


Given the fact that Ponte City was a rough and tumble place that happened to have a unique design, the transformation is impossible to dismiss outright, though I'd contend that a development geared at a mix of incomes rather than solely the upper classes might make the transformation less contentious. But given the great swing of (social) change envisioned, architecture is just one piece of the puzzle.

What struck me as perhaps the most important (and unsettling) element in this transformation is the project's "urban renewal." While it's not clear if Johannesburg had the below charter pre-New Ponte, or if it was created with the input of developers to help these and other potential urban-renewal projects, the security element of the charter below appears to be another unfortunate extension of the American influence hypothesized above.

As the web page indicates: "The City of Johannesburg is committed to developing the Inner City as a place where people want to live. The Inner City Regeneration Charter commits the City to the following:
:: Highly Visible ‘bobby-on-the-beat’ system, by increasing resources to the South African Police Services, and the Johannesburg Municipal Police Department over the next three years.
:: Install 216 CCTV cameras in and around the Inner City, connected to a control center manned 24 hours a day by JMPD and SAPS.
:: Zero-tolerance to law-enforcement, including all by-laws.
:: Injecting R99-million into Pikitup in the 2007/8 financial year to build a new system of waste management and street cleaning in the Inner City.
:: Eliminate all Bad Buildings in the Inner City.
:: Eliminate all unlicensed and non-compliant liquor outlets by the end of 2009.
:: Upgrade all the city streets for pedestrians, through new paving, planting street trees, replacing and putting in new lighting, cleaning up litter etc."
[PDF link]
(Thanks to Juliet for the head's up!)


  1. I like the, "eliminate all Bad Buildings" clause in the charter. Obviously put in there to only serve as icing.

  2. Crime and drugs are home to Ponte City these days


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