Zeitz MOCAA by Heatherwick Studio
Zeitz MOCAA, designed by Heatherwick Studio, opens in September 2017. Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (Zeitz MOCAA) collects, preserves, researches, and exhibits twenty-first century art from Africa and its Diaspora.
Cape Town’s prominent grain silo was once used to store and grade maize from all over South Africa. But with the advent of containerised shipping, the huge piece of concrete infrastructure was decommissioned and in need of a new purpose. Shortly after the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront had approached the Heatherwick Studio to develop and adapt the site, an initiative began to create Africa’s first international museum dedicated to contemporary African Art.
The two programmes coincided to transform the grain silo into a new permanent home for Jochen Zeitz and Zeitz Foundation’s collection of contemporary art as the catalytic starter for the new museum.
The original building was composed of two main elements – a grading tower and a block of 42 tightly-packed silos. Rather than resorting to wholesale demolition, the Heatherwick Studio took on the challenge to convert the multitude of concrete tubes into spaces to display art while retaining the silo’s industrial character.
The studio’s solution was to carve out a large central space from the cellular concrete structure to form a major social space that reveals the original intersecting geometries in an unexpected way. The perimeter tubes were then substantially cut back and converted into five floors of galleries for permanent and temporary exhibitions.
The finished carved tubes above the atrium space allow daylight in from above through thick layers of laminated glass, fritted with a pattern commissioned from the West African artist El Loko. The frit creates a walkable surface for the upper level sculpture garden, allowing daylight inside while protecting from too much heat building up inside.
In the grading tower, concrete walls were cut away between the structural frame to create new three dimensionally shaped windows that reflects a kaleidoscope of textures and colours that change throughout the day. At night, the glow of lights inside transform the tower into a beacon in the harbor.
Images courtesy of Heatherwick Studio, Zeitz MOCAA