Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa, Cape Town

Designed by: Heatherwick Studio
For client: V&A Waterfront Floor area: 9500.00 M² Year of completion: 2017

776 5 Hr Zeitz Mocaa Heatherwick Studio Credit Iwan Baan Atrium Vault
© Iwan Baan

Zeitz MOCAA interior - atrium vault

About the Project

Zeitz MOCAA - Museum of Contemporary Art Africa - is the first major museum in Africa dedicated to contemporary art from the continent and its diaspora. A new not-for-profit cultural institution established in 2013 through a partnership between the V&A Waterfront and Jochen Zeitz, the museum’s collection is housed in 9500-sq-m of custom-designed space over nine floors, carved out of the monumental structure of the historic Grain Silo Complex.

Originally built in the 1920s, the Grain Silo Complex - once the tallest building in South Africa - stored and graded corn from all over the country. By 2001, the silo fell into disuse and whilst the rest of the surrounding harbour became regenerated into a place of leisure and tourism, the silo was in need of a new purpose.

After the studio was invited to think about ideas for adapting the complex by the V&A Waterfront in 2011, Heatherwick Studio developed a concept to transform the silo’s tightly-packed concrete cellular structure into a new museum with spaces suitable for displaying art while retaining its industrial heritage. Construction began on the project in 2014 with the museum opening to the public in September 2017.

What’s unique about it

To connect the two major parts of the complex – a 33-m-tall storage annex consisting of 42 vertical concrete tubes and a 58-m-tall grain elevator tower – the architects carved out a central atrium from the silo’s cellular structure.

Modelled on a grain of corn, the atrium shape was scaled up to fill the 27-m-high volume and translated into thousands of coordinates. Through investigatory work of the existing concrete, Heatherwick Studio realised that the original tubes were not strong enough to provide structural support if simply cut through them.

The 170-mm-thick concrete tubes were lined with inner sleeves of reinforced concrete following the desired atrium shape. The sleeved tubes together formed a gigantic arch spanning the future atrium space and provided a cutting guide for removing portions of the old silos with handheld double disc saws. The existing tubes were pared back to reveal the curved geometries of the 4600 cubic-metre atrium with the cut edges polished to give a mirrored finish.

The atrium also revealed the tunnels that existed beneath the complex. These were made accessible to visitors along with new education spaces. The remaining internal tubes were removed to make space for 80 climate controlled and barrier-free white cube gallery spaces.

776 4 Hr Zeitz Mocaa Heatherwick Studio Credit Iwan Baan Atrium
© Iwan Baan

Zeitz MOCAA interior - atrium

776 3 Hr Zeitz Mocaa Heatherwick Studio Credit Iwan Baan View Of Zeitz Mocaa In Silo Square
© Iwan Baan

View of Zeitz MOCAA in Silo Square

776 1 Hr Zeitz Mocaa Heatherwick Studio Credit Iwan Baan Harbour View
© Iwan Baan

View of Zeitz MOCAA in context of the wider V&A Waterfront and harbour

776 4  Hr Zeitz Mocaa Heatherwick Studio Credit Iwan Baan Exterior At Dusk
© Iwan Baan

Exterior view of Zeitz MOCAA at dusk (featuring the building's new insertion of pillow glazed windows)

776 6  Hr Zeitz Mocaa Heatherwick Studio Credit Iwan Baan Atrium View Towards Entrance
© Iwan Baan

Zeitz MOCAA interior - atrium view towards entrance

776 7  Hr Zeitz Mocaa Heatherwick Studio Credit Iwan Baan View Of Atrium From Tunnel
© Iwan Baan

Zeitz MOCAA interior - atrium view from underground tunnel

776 9  Hr Zeitz Mocaa Heatherwick Studio Credit Iwan Baan Atrium At Night
© Iwan Baan

Zeitz MOCAA interior - atrium at night

Mw170727Zeitzmocaa 13 06
© Mark Williams

Zeitz MOCAA - Sculpture Garden featuring glass frits with a pattern based on the work of artist El Loko

Gallery Space
© Zeitz MOCAA

Zeitz MOCAA interior - one of the museum's 80 gallery spaces in use

Location of project:
Credits:
Van der Merwe Miszewski Architects

Rick Brown Associates

Jacobs Parker

Mace

Arup

Sutherland

Arup

Solution Station

WBHO

Nicolas Baumann

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