The Heatherwick Studio has carved out the inside of an old grain silo to create an Expressionist sculpture that doubles up as the new “Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa” in Cape Town.
by Fabian Peters | 9/15/2017

It is a project of pure superlatives: In what was once South Africa’s largest building, the world’s largest museum for contemporary African art now opens its doors. The protagonists: On the one side, Thomas Heatherwick, architect and designer, who is among other things just realizing the new truly gigantic Google campus in Silicon Valley, on the other Jochen Zeitz, formerly Puma CEO, committed environmentalist and at present probably the most important collector of contemporary African art.

For the “Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa”, in short the MOCAA, which Zeitz has created, Heatherwick transformed a former grain silo dating from 1921 in Cape Town’s V&A Waterfront into a spectacular museum building. To this end he carved out the inside of the silo, which consisted of 116 silo tubes, in part retaining the honeycomb structure of the old building. 

Heatherwick made particular use of this method for the museum’s atrium, creating a somehow Expressionist space from the tubes he had truncated or cut open – it brings to mind Hans Poelzig or the inside of a wasp’s nest. At the same time, daylight now enters the building from the now glass-topped tubes. 

On the outside of the silo, this transformation is rendered most apparent by convex and faceted windows which now almost entirely encase the tower of the silo, which is almost 60 meters high. Here, the architect was inspired by Venetian lanterns – as this tower also functions as a gigantic lantern. Like a lighthouse at night it emits signs by light, announcing the existence of this special museum.