Meet Africa’s tallest Skyscraper, the Leonardo, whose construction was done mainly by women and is set to be opened later this year

The Leonardo Skyscrapper. (Skyscrapper city)
  • The 55-story building measures 745 feet (227 meters) in height.
  • The team of architects which managed the construction was female-led, with nine out the 11 positions performed by women. 
  • Designed by South African firm Co-Arc International Architects, the Leonardo contains a mixture of office space, shops, apartments and hotel rooms.

Piercing Sandton, Johannesburg's financial center, is a building like no other.

The Leonardo, as the building is known is set to become the tallest in Africa when it opens later this year.

The 55-story building which measures 745 feet (227 meters) in height, took the ‘tallest building in Africa’ crown from the Carlton Centre, which has dominated the Johannesburg skyline since 1973. The Leonardo is taller than Carlton Centre by just 15 feet.

Designed by South African firm Co-Arc International Architects, the Leonardo contains a mixture of office space, shops, apartments and hotel rooms.

What makes the Leonardo stands out

Apart from its height, what makes the Leonardo unique is that it was constructed by mainly women, a first in African male-dominated architecture industry.

The team of architects which managed the construction was female-led, with nine out the 11 positions performed by women. 

Only 21% of South Africa’s registered architects are women, according to South African Institute of Architects in the Eastern Cape.

One such female architect is Malika Walele, 27, who oversaw construction at the site from November 2017. She spoke to CNN about the difficulties she faced in her role:

"Specifically, being female, being young and being of color, there are a lot of challenges you face being in that building environment.

"I think there's this preconception of females not being able to be in that sort of environment," she said.

Over the course of the project, she came into contact with roughly 2000 workers, the great majority of whom were men. She faced sexism, but believes she helped to overturn people's prejudice.

 "I really had to work hard to prove myself. It takes some personality. I really had to step up and speak out -- make sure that I was being heard by the men," She added.

Patrick McInerney, director at Co-Arc International Architects, hopes the Leonardo will offer a "beacon of hope" for architecture and development on the continent.

"Being the tallest [building] in Africa at this time is quite interesting, because we know of several other buildings that are being built that far exceed the one that we've just completed...” he said, referring to the Pinnacle in Nairobi and the Mohammed VI Tower near Rabat.

"I think that to a certain extent we're hoping the success of the development itself will demonstrate that it's possible to reach for the stars and achieve them."

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