Thomas Heatherwick's new MOCAA establishment in Capetown is almost nearing completion, and the building takes over from what was once one of the tallest building on the Capetown Skyline.
Poised to hold one of the most analytic and comprehensive African art collections in the world, the project seeks to give Africa one of its major institutions of African art. Heatherwick tries to mimic the chest puffing and chest thumping ideas that the rest of the art capitals of the world have been known for.
He calls this the Bilbao of South Africa. The project, with a modest budget, perhaps from the fact that is being funded by personal collectors and developers, sort to manifest that within the entire design. The museum draws form a public space point of departure, a main spatial disposition that allows you to explore all other spaces from that. The concrete as part of the existing building, a sort of blue stony feel, will be re exposed and maintained.
From the Architect:
How do you turn forty-two vertical concrete tubes into a place to experience contemporary culture?
The brief was to reinvent the historic Grain Silo at the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town, as a not-for-profit cultural institution housing the most significant collection of contemporary art from Africa and its diaspora.
Our first thoughts wrestled with the extraordinary physical facts of the building. There is no large open space within the densely packed tubes and it is not possible to experience these volumes from inside. Rather than strip out the evidence of the building’s industrial heritage, we wanted to find a way to celebrate it. We could either fight a building made of concrete tubes or enjoy its tube-iness.
Unlike many conversions of historic buildings which have grand spaces ready to be re-purposed, this building has none. The project became about imagining an interior carved from within an infrastructural object. The solution we developed was to carve galleries and a central circulation space from the silos’ cellular concrete structure, creating a cathedral-like central atrium filled with light from a glass roof.
The other silo bins will be carved away above ground level to create gallery spaces for the Zeitz MOCAA permanent collection and international travelling exhibitions.
From the outside, the greatest visible change to the Silo’s monumental structure will be the addition of pillowed glazing panels, inserted into the existing geometry of the upper floors, which will bulge outward as if gently inflated. By night, this will transform the building into a glowing lantern or beacon in the harbour