Johannesburg’s architectural history
The 150m-high Leonardo, going up over Sandton, has got people talking. But it’s not the first time a ‘skyscraper’ has captured Joburg’s attention in its 132 years of existence. Architect Brian Kent McKechnie explains
As one travels towards Johannesburg, the landscape gradually transforms and the dusty haze along the horizon morphs into an elegant collection of lithe mid-century skyscrapers. The skyline comes into focus and the eye is drawn to the Standard Bank, Marble Towers, Carlton Centre and Southern Life buildings. Even the most diehard Joburg pessimist can’t deny the allure of the red neon billboard atop Ponte City, an image indelibly branded into the local collective subconscious. Joburg’s claim to being a "world-class African city" is all too familiar. Perhaps city officials believe that repeating the slogan across scores of incorrect rates accounts, danger-tape cordoning plagues of potholes or onto glowing billboards while the streetlights don’t shine will magically grant our world-class ambitions. The fact is that a city with no opera, no functional civic squares or famous parks, no properly maintained art gallery or grand pedestrian boulevard is millennia away from the lofty slogan. Th...