Zeitz MOCAA: From Housing Grain To Housing Art

The Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art in Cape Town, South Africa, is the largest museum of African contemporary art. The expansive building used to be the Grain Silo Complex, now a profound memento of the industrial history of Cape Town. The silo was built as forty-two concrete tubes, about 33 meters high and 5.5 meters wide. The Heatherwick Studio, based in London, was tasked with repurposing this historic space but working with its framework to pay homage to a significant part of South African narrative. The architects at Heatherwick Studio reimagined the building into a modern museum that emanates an essence of African pride.

The Zeitz Museum accomplishes a higher degree of innovation and sleekness. The outer façade has a foundation based in the Grain Silo’s original cylindrical design. The upper floors boast stunning design with open views by means of vast windows. Inside features an atrium that has been fabricated from the strategically carved out silo tubes. The cross sectional cuts through the thick tubes instills a satisfying and appealing mood among viewers. The high ceiling allows for visitors to be encapsulated by the immenseness of the tubes that once held tons of grain. It makes it easy to imagine what it must have been like to have been a small grain among many.

The museum holds 80 gallery spaces in 6,000 square meters. Additionally, the Zeitz Museum houses a bookshop, restaurant and bar, sculpture garden on the roof, rooms for reading, and storage spaces. As a multifunctional and public building, the museum will also provide a creative space for art education, performative practice, and photography. This non-profit contemporary art museum in South Africa sustains and rears African culture within an eloquently re-designed monument. Settled on the Victoria and Alfred waterfront, the Zetiz Museum of Contemporary Art will remain paramount to South Africa’s rich context.

All images, courtesy of Heatherwick Studio

Photographers: Iwan Baan // Antonia Steyn