Africa’s Tallest Building: Carlton Centre, Johannesburg
Rising 730 feet (222 m) into the air, the Carlton Centre is the largest building in Africa and at one point was the tallest building south of the Equator. Today it remains one of the most important build- ings for the continent’s economy, be- cause it plays host to a variety of banks, financial firms, and lending institutions. These companies all power the South African economy, the second largest in Africa after Nigeria. South Africa also has one of the most unequal economies in the world—the average worker in Johannesburg, called the City of Gold, makes about $25,000 per year. At the same time, however, half of all South Africans make just $50 per month. The Carlton Centre itself took seven years to build, although it opened for business a full year prior to the com- pletion of its construction in 1974. The center has a simplistic Art Deco style with little panache. It extends 50 floors from ground level to roof. The top level, called the Top of Africa, is just as popular a destination for tourists as the top of the Empire State Building in New York City. It features one of the few belowground shopping centers in the world, boasting 180 separate businesses.
Johannesburg ’ s Carlton Centre towers above the other buildings in the city. It is 730 feet ( 222 m ) and the largest building in Africa.
At one time the center’s most famous tenant was the five-star Carlton Hotel, which shut its doors in 1997 but boasted an impressive 20-year run as one of the most posh hotels in the world. The Carlton Hotel occupied 30 stories of the build- ing, and over the years it hosted politicians like Henry Kissinger and Hilary Clinton, as well as musicians like Whitney Houston and the Rolling Stones. Recessions in the late 1990s hit the hotel hard, however, and the shipping company Transnet pur- chased the skyscraper in 1999 and continues its operations today. Proposals and plans to relaunch the Carlton Hotel have yet to come to any fruition.
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