When you drive north up Rissik Street with the Johannesburg CBD behind you, past the old post office and Park Station, you can’t help noticing it at the top of the street. Or, as you come down Joubert Street, past Constitution Hill and around into De Korte, it looms up like an apparition: a floating golden drum with scalloped edges, a finned glass façade and a spire reaching upwards from the roof. Set outside the metro centre in Braamfontein, it stands in thrilling and surprising contrast to the imposing neo-brutalist apartheid-era landmark behind it. This is the new council chamber. It replaces the old one in the bowels of the monolithic metro building, which the city outgrew. With its price tag of R280m, one’s first worry is that this startling new architectural presence might be a vanity project of some sort. Much of the rhetoric surrounding it is couched in terms of it being an "icon", a "landmark" and a "beacon" to Jo’burg — what the Eiffel Tower is to Paris. Various brochures ...

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