Students live it up in container homes

Distinctive green and red rectangles and circles that can be seen from miles away are part of a new off-campus residential building for students.

Mill Junction in Newtown is an example of creative, low cost housing in the city. Photo: Pheladi Sethusa
Mill Junction in Newtown is an example of creative, low cost housing in the city. Photo: Pheladi Sethusa

Built on 25-year grain silos, the low-cost, environmentally friendly and close-proximity living space known as Mill Junction has quickly become an iconic building in Newtown.

Turning the old into new

The residence is at its core made from the abandoned grain silos and re-purposed shipping containers.  An interesting exploration of architectural creativity and ingenuity, which provides affordable housing to students.

The diverse colour palate on the exterior of the building bleeds into its interior, which each of the 14 floors of the 40 million rand building painted a different colour to add to its overall “funk”.

CEO of Citiq Property, Paul Lapman, explained that there are ten silos in total, two rows of five which go up ten floors, the remaining top four floors are made from shipping containers. “We’ve actually used the inside of the silos to lay out the corridors, put the lifts in, put the stairs in and everything else,” he added.

The middlemost silos on each floor are painted a different colour and host a different recreational area – every second floor has a communal TV room, others are study rooms, computer rooms and one is a gym. Along with this each floor is fitted with two communal kitchens, communal bathrooms and private bathrooms for those who need their privacy.

Up in the air

A view from the eastern most side on Mill Junction’s rooftop. Photo: Pheladi Sethusa
A view from the eastern most side on Mill Junction’s rooftop. Photo: Pheladi Sethusa

After a year of construction, the building signed up between 260 and 270 of the 374 spaces available within their first month of opening, the top most floors filling up first because of the exceptional city views provided by the skyscraper. The huffing and puffing from walking up the 14 floors with Lapham abated as soon as the panoramic beauty of Johannesburg came into view.

The rooftop is still a work in progress but when it is done it will provide students with a rooftop braai area and another space to socialise – fitting considering the boom of rooftops as social spaces in the inner city at the moment.

Green living

The motion sensor lights, magnetic stoves and double glazed windows are some of Mill Junction’s environmentally conscious elements. “We’ve sourced quite a lot of the materials from China,” leaving them with enough money to provide energy efficient facilities said Lapham.

Making use of the old silos was also another “green” feature, Lapham said they could have easily chosen to knock down the silos and build from scratch but they had chosen to “preserve some of Joburg’s history and do something different”.

So I went to an exhibition…

I had been waiting for this exhibition for weeks. No I lie, I had been waiting for exhibition from the very first time I saw Thato Mohuba’s photography – so that makes it three years (give or take).

So you can imagine my disappointment when the sterring of the entire thing (Thato Mohuba) was stuck in Spain on the day. He called me on the day of and I could hear the sadness in his voice from 8371.54 kilometres away.

It would have been an epic culmination of events for him, being his first exhibition and his birthday. But it was still a great day and other artists/photographers got to show off their work in any case.

The venue was The Mills in Newtown – it had a very stripped down, industrial feel to it. What added to this was the paint fumes or rather spray paint fumes that were coming from the graffiti artists live tagging. Of the two murals that were made I liked this one, done by a tagger called Lee.

Lee doing his thing
Lee doing his thing

Along with the taggers, DJ’s were also in the mix setting the mood. There was  also a bar to keep people hydrated. Of the entertainment on offer, I most enjoyed a poem that was recited by aspiring poet, Naledi. She said that the poem was about a race – something which occupies the South African psyche 99% of the time. I made the video black and white, to coincide with the content of her poem.

I really liked the venue and how they went about hanging the photographers prints. They were unavoidable and asked to be looked at, really looked at from the very moment I walked in.

The photographs were hung on wire with pegs and this created a minimalist feeling, which to me communicated that the photographs being exhibited were of extreme import. That they needn’t be overshadowed by fancy frames for instance. The hanging prints were in themselves artistically placed by so doing.

Thato Mohuba's line of prints
Thato Mohuba’s line of prints

I was intrigued by the variety of images put up. I don’t know if there was a discerning theme connected to what each individual photographer captured and I don’t even think that matters. Most of the photographs I saw were powerful enough to just stand on their own – I didn’t yearn for continuity in that sense.

People drawn in...
People drawn in…

I walked around quite a few times trying to decide what I wanted to buy most. Mind you I had to beg my parents for money so I could show my support by buying a print. Student budget aside, the pricing was very reasonable, more than even. If I had more money in my life I  would have bought more than one print.

Finally decided on a photograph taken by Thato Sehlabela of this city that I love. It is one of those timeless images, that will form a part of some of my most valued belongings in life. I literally cannot wait to get it framed and hang it up in my future flat or house (whichever comes first). I can’t wait to look at it everyday and smile at random memories.

Middle centre, is the photograph I bought by Thato sehlabela.
Middle centre, is the photograph I bought by Thato sehlabela.

Before this gets boring, I must say that it was really refreshing and inspiring to see young people coming together to help one another realise their personal (and collective) dreams. Gathering their rosebuds you know?


(All photo’s and video in this post taken by me).