Adam Maserow

MArch I

Contemporizing Ponte City 

Advised by Jorge Silvetti  

The site of this project is Ponte City, a cylindrical concrete tower at the northern edge of Johannesburg. It was erected in 1976 at the height of apartheid. It is the tallest residential building in Africa, defining the Johannesburg skyline. Ponte’s hollow center is one of the city’s unique volumetric experiences. The building’s rich and complex history seems static, a relic of the past in the imagination of Johannesburg’s people. The building’s structure is composed of 50 thousand cubic meters of concrete extracted from the rich geological reserves that shape the city’s history and identity. It is powerful and unique yet unrelenting and imposing. Isolated from the city by its material and spatial conditions, the building’s form alienates its residents from the layered possibilities of urban living. There is an imperative to open Ponte City to the complexities of contemporary Johannesburg. 

This thesis proposes reinventing Ponte City as a high-rise tertiary education hub, a unique typology. A timber structure threading through the center of the cylindrical tower rejuvenates the building, opening it up to the people of the city. The timber’s warmth contrasts with the harsh concrete. Its tectonic logic expands the building from the inside while adhering to the rules imposed by the building’s heavy, layered shell. This proposed reinvention acknowledges the complex history of the building but opens it up to the new needs of the city. 

Drawing and collage on paper