Heatherwick to ‘carve out’ grain silo in ambitious African gallery project

Thomas Heatherwick has unveiled plans for the design of ‘Africa’s first major institution for contemporary art’, on the waterfront at Cape Town in South Africa.

Exterior visualisation

Source: Heatherwick Studio

Exterior visualisation

The project will see the Grain Silo Complex on the V&A Waterfront – which comprises 42 cylindrical concrete tubes – transformed into The Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa.

Standing at 57m, the building was once Cape Town’s tallest and is being redeveloped in a R500 million (£28 million) project; a partnership between developer V&A Waterfront and ex- Puma CEO and chairman Jochen Zeitz.

Zeitz is considered to have one of the most representative and extensive contemporary African art collections in the world.

Heatherwick’s solution is to ‘carve out’ galleries and a central circulation space from the silos’ cellular concrete structures to make an oval atrium. Light will enter through a new glass roof.

Interior visualisation

Source: Heatherwick Studio

Interior visualisation, showing galleries ‘carved out’ of cellular concrete silos

Some of the cylindrical ‘cells’ will be used as shafts for lifts and spiral staircases, connecting 80 galleries, 18 education areas, a rooftop sculpture garden and an art storage and conservation area.

Within the 9500m2 space, spread over nine floors, 6000m2 will be dedicated exhibition space according to Heatherwick, who says, ‘There is no large open space within the densely packed tubes and it is not possible to experience these volumes from the inside.’

He adds, ‘Rather than strip out the evidence of their building’s industrial heritage, we wanted to find a way to enjoy and celebrate it. We could either fight a building made of concrete tubes or enjoy its tube-iness.’


Source: Heatherwick Studio


Heatherwick says that cutting tests had started on site and work would soon begin on reinforcing the concrete which he had ‘fallen in love with’. The museum is scheduled to open in 2016.

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