London’s Heatherwick Studio will reimagine the Grain Silo Complex at the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town, South Africa, as the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (MOCAA). The V&A Waterfront’s administrators challenged the architecture firm to repurpose the site’s 42 concrete tubes, which rise 108 feet, while preserving key pieces of machinery and other elements of its industrial history.
“Our thoughts wrestled with the extraordinary physical facts of the building,” Thomas Heatherwick, principal of Heatherwick Studio, said in a statement. “There is no large open space within the dense tubes, and it is not possible to experience these volumes from inside. Rather than strip out the evidence of the building's industrial heritage, we wanted to find a way to enjoy and celebrate it.”
The museum will showcase the art collection of ex-Puma CEO and chairman Jochen Zeitz in 102,000 square feet spread over nine floors. Heatherwick Studio will carve galleries and a central circulation space from the silos’ cellular concrete structure, resulting in a cathedral-like central atrium naturally lit from an overhead glass roof. Concrete shafts will surround the atrium, and crisp white cubes will house the museum’s 80 galleries.
Heatherwick’s design maintains the façades of the silos and the lower section of the tower. The buildings’ thick layers of render and paint will be removed to reveal the original concrete. Meanwhile, special pillowed glazing panels inserted outside the grain elevator’s upper floors will bulge outward.
In addition to gallery space, Zeitz MOCAA will feature 18 education areas, a rooftop sculpture garden, state-of-the-art storage area, bookstore, restaurant and bar, coffee shop, reading rooms, and special rooms for donors and fellows. A series of old underground tunnels will be re-engineered to create unique education spaces and areas for artists to connect with the original structure.