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Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa
Drawings, plans, elevations
The brief was to reinvent the historic Grain Silo Complex as a not-for-profit cultural institution housing the most significant collection of contemporary art from Africa and its diaspora. Built in the early 1920’s and used to grade and store grain ready for shipping, the heritage-listed industrial complex had fallen into disuse by 2001 due to the advent of containerised shipping. The repurposing of the Grain Silo Complex is a design feat led by Heatherwick Studio who have worked alongside local and international architectural firms and companies that have collaborated tirelessly to achieve perfection. The team includes, but is not limited to the V&A Waterfront, Heatherwick Studio, VDMMA (Van der Merwe Miszewski Architects), Jacobs Parker Architecture, RBA (Rick Brown and Associates), Arup, Sutherland, Mace Management Services and WBHO . The Grain Silo Complex was made up of a number of different buildings, the largest two being the Storage Annex which consisted of forty-two, 33-metre high densely-packed concrete tubes, and the Elevator Tower, a 58m tall building made up of a number of square silo bins and the six machine working floors above. Being cellular in nature, both of these buildings had no open space to experience the volume and geometries from within. However, Heatherwick studio found a way of reimagining the interior and unifying the two separate buildings. The concept was to demolish an internal section of the silos to create a regular shape for galleries and the administration area, and carve an atrium in the shape of a grain of corn from the silos’ cylindrical concrete structure to create a cathedral-like central atrium filled with light entering through a glass roof.The aim was to celebrate rather than extract the silo’s industrial heritage and design. Heatherwick Studio’s design intent realised by constructing a new concrete structure inside the old silo matrix. This new concrete structure was cast using innovative concrete placement and formwork. Using a variety of complex concrete-cutting techniques, galleries and a central circulation space have been carved from the silo’s cellular concrete structure to reveal a new geometry. Floors with pristine ‘white cubes’ were inserted into this new structure to create gallery spaces for permanent and travelling art exhibitions. The transformation of the historic Grain Silo demonstrates an aesthetic sensitivity to an existing industrial design and an innovative approach to concrete. The iconic structure has been reinstated as a major cultural institution and centre piece for the new Silo District in Cape Town, South Africa and is set to change the artistic landscape while celebrating the past and present. Zeitz MOCAA is a collaboration between a great number of parties. A project as visionary and ambitious as this could never be realised without the generous support of the V&A Waterfront and its shareholders, Growth Point and Public Investment Corporation (PIC) acting on behalf of the Government Employees Pension Fund, who have donated the building to the Museum at a cost of some R 500 million.