The Orlando Cooling Towers
Over the years, to the eye of every passerby, these two giant structures were mere grey tunnels producing steam.
During the apartheid era, the towers used to work as a coal-burning plant for electricity that supplied the Northern suburbs of Johannesburg, while Soweto residents remained without electricity. The only benefit to the Sowetans was the polluted air.
The towers were constructed between 1939 and 1955 due to the demand for power which grew and could not be handled by the then existing generating power station in Johannesburg down-town. The area was chosen because of its proximity to water supply and railway line for the delivery of coal. Construction took long because it was interrupted by the outbreak of World War II. The towers supplied power from 1942 until 1998.
After years of neglect they have been transformed to an entertainment area; bungee jumping and a restaurant and they also serve as giant billboards one specifically with artistic murals encompassing the lifestyle in Soweto and its people, not forgetting the apparent picture of Madiba waving his hand.
They form part of the Orlando Ekhaya Precinct, which will in future include a shopping centre, hotel, business nodes, conference facility, waterfront development and upmarket town-houses.