Breathing new life into Cape Town’s waterfront

Nick Myall
Wednesday 20 Sep 2017

Heatherwick Studio’s conversion of a harbourside grain silo in Cape Town is now complete as the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art of Africa prepares to open its doors

Heatherwick Studio’s brief was to reinvent a historic Grain Silo at the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town, South Africa as a not-for-profit cultural institution housing the most significant collection of contemporary art from Africa.

The extraordinary physical facts of the building obviously posed a challenge. There is no large open space within the 42 densely packed tubes that once stored grain within the silo and it is not possible to experience these volumes from inside. Rather than strip out the evidence of the building’s industrial heritage, the architects wanted to find a way to celebrate it. 

Heatherwick Studio have converted the tube-forest inside the silo into a cathedral-like atrium leading to more than a hundred galleries. The glass building offers a breathtaking view of the city and its waterfront in a context of rehabilitation of the centre.

The Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art of Africa will officially open its doors between 22-25 September. As the first major contemporary museum on the African continent, Zeitz MOCAA will represent a productive and innovative culture.

Zeitz MOCAA is the first major museum in Africa dedicated to contemporary art from Africa and its Diaspora, and also, the first African institution to acknowledge new mediums through the establishment of different centres and institutes within the overall museum.

This new centre results from the astonishing rehabilitation of the old grain silo directly located on the waterfront of the port city. As a complete cultural complex, it will gather the museum with a hotel, a restaurant, conference rooms and  a garden.

From the outside, the greatest visible change to the Silo’s monumental structure is the addition of pillowed glazing panels, inserted into the existing geometry of the upper floors, they bulge outward as if gently inflated. By night, they transform the building into a glowing lantern or beacon in the harbour.

This project has been shortlisted in the WAN Adaptive Reuse Award 2017 

Nick Myall
News editor

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South Africa

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