South Africa is the most economically and infrastructurally-developed country on the African continent, therefore it comes as no surprise that it boasts the large majority of the tallest commercial and residential towers on the continent. We have collated a list of the five tallest buildings we have to offer within our borders, soon to be followed be a look at the five tallest towers that developers have in the pipeline.
Whilst our list is intended to be a Top 5, there are in fact 6 buildings that demand to share the glory. Inaugurating our list and tied for fifth position are the South African Reserve Bank Building, located in Pretoria, and the Metlife building in Cape Town. Blanketed in intimidating black glass, the Reserve Bank Building unsurprisingly houses the offices of the South African Reserve Bank – a true reflection of the organisation’s national importance. Construction commenced in 1986, and was completed in 1988. The building now rises to 38 storeys above the Pretoria CBD, arguably acting as the centrepiece of the Pretoria skyline.
The Metlife building is also one of the most recognisable in its city of residence. Located on the foreshore of the Cape Town CBD, the R&L Architects-designed terraced building boasts commanding views of the harbour, CBD and Table Mountain. Situated directly across the road from the Cape Town International Convention Centre, its location is enviable, so say the least. It rises 28 storeys into the Cape Town sky, and is currently the city’s tallest skyscraper. Construction has commenced, however, on Portside – soon to claim Metlife’s “tallest” crown.
Tied for third place in our list of the five tallest buildings in South Africa are the Marble Towers in Johannesburg and Pearl Dawn in Umhlanga, Durban. The latter is the only recently-constructed addition to our list, having been completed in 2010 at 31 storeys. The Marble Towers, on the other hand, were completed in 1973, and rise to a total of 32 storeys. At present, the Marble Towers boast the largest electronic sign in the Southern Hemisphere. As its name may suggest, it was constructed from a mixture of marble and concrete. Pearl Dawn, on the other hand, is an attractive mix of concrete and blue glass, located along the beautiful green coastline of Northern Durban, overlooking the Indian Ocean.
In second place is Ponte City, which is as notorious as it is iconic. Perhaps best known for its large electronic board advertising the Vodacom cellular network, it was once known as the tallest residential tower in the Southern Hemisphere, its unusual cylindrical design reflected the cosmopolitan nature of the once hip-and-happening Hillbrow. Like much of Johannesburg, Ponte fell victim to neglect over the years, and now sits in the middle of a neighbourhood synonymous with crime and filth. In 2007, ambitious plans to redevelop Ponte into an upmarket block named ‘New Ponte’ surfaced, but these fell through when the general public didn’t buy into the idea to the extent that the developers hoped. The current owners are now performing minor redevelopment works on the property, including the refurbishment of apartments, the addition of retail to the complex and some beautification work.
Finally, in first place have the Carlton Centre, which is the tallest tower not only in South Africa, but Africa as a whole. This has been true since its inception in 1973. 38 years later, no tower has yet to trump its rather modest height when compared to international counterparts. Sitting at 50 storeys, it acts as a sad testament towards the deterioration much of the Johannesburg CBD has encountered over the past two decades. Originally, it played host to offices, a hotel, a shopping mall consisting of approximately 120 stores, an ice rink on the top floor, as well as a viewing deck. Today, much of it sits empty. Whilst the mall and viewing deck as still open to the public, they are comparatively dated to offerings available elsewhere in the city.
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