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Africa's tallest apartment building was built for luxury but filled with garbage

Africa's tallest apartment building was built for luxury but filled with garbage

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Johannesburg's Ponte Tower was built in 1975 as a monument to luxury. The enclosed space at the center of the cylindrical apartment block was to house shops and a dry ski slope; some of its apartments were three stories tall and came with inbuilt hot tubs. But Ponte Tower fell into disrepair, and became a dirty, dangerous place.

Philip Bloom's short film shows a pile of detritus three stories high where Ponte Tower's dry ski slope should be. He tells the story of a tower that grew more dilapidated over 30 years, as Johannesburg's moneyed classes moved away from the city center and out to the suburbs. But he also tells of the change that came to the building and its residents in the mid-2000s, when South African investors stepped in. They planned to renovate the entire building and complete the upper-class vision laid out in 1975.

2007's global financial crisis stymied their ambition. Ponte Tower hasn't yet received a complete renovation, it hasn't lured the city's elite inside its enclosed walls, and its dry ski slope likely won't ever be completed. But unlike the fates of other failed skyscrapers and tower blocks, the third tallest building in Africa has received enough funding to function as something better for the people of the city: a secure home. Bloom's film juxtaposes shots of the tower's striking, brutalist architecture with interviews with residents who see their home as cheap, and most importantly, safe for the first time in more than three decades.