Joburg's 'Jenga' building stacks shipping containers on old mill

Story highlights

  • A developer in Johannesburg has transformed an old mill into a spectacular new student residence
  • Mill junction is a ten-storey building with shipping containers added to the roof for extra living space
  • The project aims to provide affordable apartments while maintaining the city's architectural history

Here's an unusual site.

A developer in the South African city of Johannesburg has transformed an old grain silo into trendy residences, re-purposing the entire ten-story building and topping it with disused shipping containers to provide extra living space.

The result may look like a giant Jenga puzzle, but the Mill Junction project aims to provide affordable accommodation to just under 400 students.

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South African universities have high dropout rates, according to figures from the country's Council on Higher Education, with many students forced to quit their studies before graduating.

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According to Citiq, the company behind the project, Mill Junction will help students from poorer backgrounds by offering them budget living space close to school campuses. The building has been fitted with communal kitchens, study areas, free WiFi and a rooftop social area.

"Our intention with these projects is to provide people with decent accommodation at affordable prices that is well located centrally in the city," Citiq CEO, Paul Lapham, told CNN.

"I am really excited about how these kind of projects can help address the dire shortage of good student accommodation in South Africa," he added.

As well as providing an important social function, Lapham believes the project has helped maintain the architectural heritage of Johannesburg.

The distinctive grain silos had lain dormant since the late 1980s but provide a striking visual reminder of the old industries once housed in the city.

Adding shipping containers, meanwhile, has put an extra five levels on the original structure (including the rooftop space) and makes creative second use of materials that would otherwise lie idle.

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"Repurposing old spaces plays a key role in revitalizing a city in terms of the people living and working there, as well as retaining the history, character and eclectic feel of these old neighborhoods," Lapham said.

"The alternative of leaving these sites abandoned, or even demolishing them, has the potential to destroy this."

Take a tour of the Mill Junction building by clicking through the gallery atop the page. Are there any similarly creative architectural projects near you? Let us know in the comments section below.