Planning for the construction of the Orlando Power Station in Soweto started in 1935.
The electricity demand of Jo’burg was rising faster than what could be met with the existing City Generating Station located in downtown Johannesburg. The location for the station was selected due to its proximity to a nearby lake and railway lines for the delivery of coal.
Construction started in 1939 with Merz & McLellan, British consulting engineers, but completion was delayed due to the outbreak of the Second World War until 1942. The last phase of construction was completed in 1955. The station was decommissioned in 1998 after 56 years of service.
On the 26th February, 2010, I spent a couple of hours there, let in by two security guards and their (I’m pleased to say) fierce looking but friendly dogs. I knew it was unsafe, it was plain to see. I had with me just my 35mm Leica and 35mm lens.
It perhaps didn’t surprise me to learn that on the 25 June 2014, the decommissioned power plant, as I had photographed it, collapsed killing several people. God, I only hope the ones that died or were injured were not the security guards that showed me around that day.
The iconic twin-cooling tours remain and are major landmarks and tourist attractions in Soweto, used for bungy jumping and paragliding.
It occurs to me that this series of photographs may serve as a record of this significant public building in its last years.