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Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa
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Available to everyone
South African
Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa
Main core space of the silo building with site specific installation
Work Type
grain elevators; art museums
Image: August 30, 2018
V&A Waterfront, Silo District, S Arm Rd, Waterfront, Cape Town, 8001, South Africa
Cape Town, Western Cape, Province of the, South Africa
Latitude: 33.908 S
Longitude: 18.426 E
Concrete; recycled and new
Early twentieth century agriculture infrastructure; contemporary adaptive reuse
An evening view of the main core space of the museum, looking into the silo building. From this vantage point, the two elevator silos are visible. The cathedral-like impression of the interior is furthered through dynamic sound installations and site specific art installations such as the one seen here.
Commentary: The Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa in Cape Town is (as of 2018) the largest museum of contemporary African art in the world, and one of the first flagship art museums in Africa. The funding from this project came from Cape Town’s waterfront development company (Victoria & Albert Waterfront) and German businessman Jochen Zeitz. The building is a reused concrete grain silo dating to 1921. In this pre-apartheid period, there was a great deal of civic unrest among South African white workers who felt that they were losing out on jobs to black Africans. The original construction and continued function of the grain silo complex was meant to create jobs mainly for working class white South Africans. Three structures that were part of the original complex have been reused as part of the museum—the elevator building, which is the tallest structure, forming the frontal facade; the silo building, which stored the grains in circular concrete tubes behind the elevator building; and the dust house, a small structure adjacent to the main area that was used to evacuate fine particulate matter (which can cause explosions and respiratory irritation). Historian David Worth’s thesis formed the basis for the restoration plan, and the redevelopment of the surrounding port area, which imagines Zeitz MOCAA as the “cathedral in the square” for the newly established Silo District along Cape Town’s Victoria & Albert Waterfront. Lead project architect David Heatherwick’s vision for the project was executed largely by local architects and engineers. Heatherwick’s design aspires to create two distinct “architectural worlds”—one of the architecture core of the building, where the original ruins of the grain silo complex are revealed and celebrated, and the other devoted to the contemporary art exhibited in the museum (which currently is on a lifetime loan from Jochen Zeitz). Heatherwick wanted to avoid the architecture competing with the art, and so the art galleries follow a standard white cube format, using conventional drywall to build flexible (if somewhat unremarkable) gallery spaces. The focus of the museum is really on the central core space, where Heatherwick’s design mandated the excavation of 75% of the original concrete. That older, heavy concrete was replaced in part by a newer, lighter composite. The two ages of concrete can be differentiated by age and texture—the older is a lighter color, and the new is darker. The design of the atrium, which bridges the elevator and the silo building, is based on the removal of a imagined “solid mass,” in the shape of a kernel of corn. Heatherwick’s team had experimented with many other shapes, but eventually the corn kernel became the somewhat irregularly-shaped inspiration that became the basis for the core excavation. The pillow windows installed in the elevator building are meant to be eye-catching and create a new outward, iconic vision of the structure. To paraphrase architect Heatherwick, “When something’s infrastructure, people just don’t look.” All of the above information sourced from the architectural audio tour available at the site.
Contributor: Sarah Rovang
Information: Zeitz MOCAA Audio Tour, August 30, 2018.
Photographer: Sarah Rovang
Sarah Rovang 2018
Use of this image is in accordance with the applicable Terms & Conditions
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