300th Post: The Two Towers

I published my first blog post on 26 June 2010, six weeks before I moved to Joburg. I didn’t have a plan for 2Summers back then. Almost no one read my blog. I didn’t publicize it or put photos in it. I didn’t read other blogs so I had nothing to model mine after. I didn’t even know what my blog would be about. I did know, however, that I was embarking on an extraordinary journey. I figured I should write about it.

And here I am, 28 months, 300 posts, and a few lifetimes later.

I could be profound and write deep, meaningful reflections and ruminations on this milestone. But that would be sort of lame. Instead I will show you a series of photos of my two favorite Johannesburg landmarks: Hillbrow Tower (also known as the Telkom Tower) and Ponte City.

View of the two towers from the grounds of Marymount Hospital (now an old age home) in Troyeville. Ponte City is on the left, Hillbrow Tower is on the right.

Hillbrow Tower is the tallest structure/tower in Africa, and Ponte City is the tallest residential building on the continent. The Carlton Centre, which is the tallest building in Africa (shorter than Hillbrow Tower but taller than Ponte), is also in Joburg. But the Carlton Centre doesn’t have the same visual gravitas as the Hillbrow Tower and Ponte. The Carlton Centre is on the other side of town, at a lower elevation. Hillbrow Tower and Ponte are both in Hillbrow, on higher ground and just a few blocks apart. These two buildings define the now-famous Jozi skyline.

Hillbrow Tower and Ponte, located in what many people consider to be the most dangerous neighborhood in Jozi, share a sad but interesting history. Hillbrow Tower, completed in 1971, used to be a popular Joburg tourist attraction. The top floors were open to the public and there was a revolving restaurant at the top. But the tower was closed in 1981 for security reasons and never opened again.

Hillbrow Tower and its surrounding highrises, seen from the streets of Troyeville. The Tower is owned by Telkom, the major telecommunications company in South Africa. That ugly pink ball at the top used to be a soccer ball, which was added to the tower for the 2010 World Cup. After the World Cup, Telkom painted the ball pink and turned the tower into an ad for 8•ta, Telkom’s mobile communications subsidiary. 

Ponte City, whose cylindrical design was groundbreaking when the highrise was built in 1975, used to be one of the most desirable places to live in Joburg. In the 1980s and 90s, Ponte was engulfed by crime. Gangs took over the building and Ponte’s open “core” filled with heaps of garbage, up to five stories high. (That’s the rumor at least.) There have been a couple of efforts to redevelop Ponte over the last few years, and I’ve seen photos of at least one renovated penthouse. But Ponte is still considered dodgy, mainly because of the neighborhood around it. I’ve been talking forever about getting into Ponte to check things out and take photos. Someday I’ll stop talking and actually do it.

Ponte through the trees. The top of Ponte is an ad for Vodacom, South Africa’s biggest mobile communications company.

Yesterday I took a walking tour of artists’ studios in Troyeville, which is just southeast of Hillbrow. (I’ll have more to say about the tour in a future post.) As I walked, I was struck by the many ways of seeing the two towers of Hillbrow. Troyeville is a sprawling neighborhood with varying elevations. The different vantage points provide a multitude of takes on this pair.

Hence, my 300th blog post was born.

All the photos were taken on yesterday’s walking tour.

Vertical shot of the two towers from Marymount Hospital.

View from the roof of the Troyeville Hotel. After our epic walk, I enjoyed a feast of grilled calamari and chips in the Troyeville Hotel restaurant. 

The two towers, seen from the garden of painter Rosemary Joynt.

This image is a little too busy. I love the story it tells though.

In the background, the two towers. In the foreground, a larger-than-life cement statue by Troyeville artist Winston Luthuli.

Wide-angle shot of a funky piece of public art on Bezuidenhout St. You can barely see the top of Hillbrow Tower behind another building.

In closing, a few meaningful reflections and ruminations. (I can’t resist.)

I didn’t have any special plans for my 300th post before yesterday afternoon. But then the Troyeville walk happened. Slowly, as the day wore on, an idea inserted itself into my brain. And then the idea consumed me.

In a way, this post is a metaphor for my entire blog, and for my whole life here in Joburg. I started it with no specific plan in mind, but gradually, almost without my noticing, it became purposeful and special. Life-changing, in fact.

My best “Two Towers” shot.

I’m grateful.

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  • Reply Sheryl November 4, 2012 at 9:42 pm

    I like this post. S

  • Reply Charles Visser (@CharlesVisser1) November 4, 2012 at 9:50 pm

    You also opened our eyes to our city… and for that you can take a bow! Thank you.

    • Reply 2summers November 4, 2012 at 9:54 pm

      Thanks Chuck. I am bowing right now, to the Melville Cat.

  • Reply Miguel K. Peterson November 5, 2012 at 12:07 am

    Reblogged this on Words and Silences.

  • Reply Kathryn McCullough November 5, 2012 at 3:40 am

    Congrats, Heather, on 28 months and 300 posts. I’m coming up on two years in another week. Wow. Seems like yesterday.

    • Reply 2summers November 5, 2012 at 9:55 am

      Thanks Kathy. Looking forward to your 2-year post.

  • Reply thirdeyemom November 5, 2012 at 4:49 am

    Wonderful Heather! Congratulations! 🙂

  • Reply Rebecca November 5, 2012 at 6:33 am

    Congratulations! From starting out with no plan, you’ve done an awesome job! 🙂

    • Reply 2summers November 5, 2012 at 9:54 am

      Haha, thanks. The funny thing is, I actually still don’t have a plan. But I’ve accepted that’s just the way I roll.

  • Reply Gail Wilson November 5, 2012 at 7:41 am

    Congrats and may you continue to share your journey with us.

    • Reply 2summers November 5, 2012 at 9:53 am

      Thanks Gail, I know I will.

  • Reply Sine November 5, 2012 at 4:53 pm

    I love the photo from the roof of the Troyville Hotel. Great sky! (Jon would have loved that, no?)

    • Reply 2summers November 7, 2012 at 7:41 pm

      Yes, he would have! I had to do it in black and white though, because the light was so harsh.

  • Reply Tenney November 5, 2012 at 9:25 pm

    Love the last shot of the two towers

  • Reply amelie88 November 6, 2012 at 12:30 am

    I thought I recognized Vodacom’s logo and font! Turns out it used to be owned by Vodafone, a British telecommunications company and one very popular in Spain.

    Hillbrow Tower is a rather interesting looking building. Kind of reminds me of the similar looking building of the Seattle skyline (can’t remember what it’s called since I have never been to Seattle).

    • Reply 2summers November 7, 2012 at 7:40 pm

      Yes, the Hillbrow Tower does look a lot like the Space Needle, just not as big. And yes, I think Vodacom and Vodafone used to be the same company, or maybe they still are? I’ve never been clear about that. It was a big deal a couple of years ago when Vodacom switched its color from blue to red. The top of the Ponte building switched colors with great fanfare. And the Vodacom-sponsored rugby team, the BlueBulls, got red uniforms and changed names to just Bulls.

  • Reply Lu November 6, 2012 at 8:15 pm

    I’ve only whizzed past the Ponte Tower at speed (well, as fast as you can go within city limits 😉 ) from Wits to EastGate Mall in lunch breaks. I don’t think it looks nearly so good close up… Best that you get the “far off” shots…

    • Reply Lu November 6, 2012 at 8:15 pm

      ..Photos that is, not shots-shots!!

    • Reply 2summers November 6, 2012 at 11:57 pm

      Really? I have to say, I disagree! I go running past it all the time when I’m boxing – I think it’s really stunning. Especially with a bright blue sky behind it. Check out this documentary about it. http://www.metalocus.es/content/en/blog/ponte-tower

      • Reply Lu November 7, 2012 at 2:49 pm

        Ooh, I had a look at the photos on that link and I have to say it spooks me out a bit. I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree on this one…

  • Reply lisa@notesfromafrica November 15, 2012 at 4:52 pm

    I really like the “View from the roof of the Troyeville Hotel” photo.

    • Reply 2summers November 15, 2012 at 9:07 pm

      Thanks Lisa! Hope you’re well.

  • Reply noluthando August 9, 2013 at 10:25 pm

    Wow that’s awesome but I’m scared of that hotel is very big and very scary inside

  • Reply Cedric January 28, 2016 at 8:52 am

    i like the way you portrayed the building from different aspects and the views are sublime, they really inspire one to always look beyond the obvious

    • Reply 2summers January 28, 2016 at 8:59 am

      Thanks so much, Cedric. I appreciate the comment.

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