Zeitz MOCAA (Museum of Contemporary Art Africa)

Zeitz MOCAA (Museum of Contemporary Art Africa)

Designer
Heatherwick Studio
Location
Cape Town, South Africa
Project Year
2017
Category
Museums
Stories By
Heatherwick Studio

iGuzzini

KEIM
Iwan Baan
Product Spec Sheet

ElementBrandProduct Name
ManufacturersiGuzzini
ManufacturersKEIM
Moisture barrierSika
Sikalastic 152
manufactureramorim composites
SanitarywareBocci
Wall tilesCeramica Vogue

Product Spec Sheet
Moisture barrier
Sikalastic 152 by Sika
manufacturer
Sanitaryware
by Bocci
Wall tiles

Zeitz MOCAA (Museum of Contemporary Art Africa)

Heatherwick Studio as Designers

The Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (Zeitz MOCAA), was unveiled today ahead of its public opening on 22 September 2017 at Cape Town’s V&A Waterfront. It will be the world’s largest museum dedicated to contemporary art from Africa and its diaspora and is designed by internationally acclaimed designers Heatherwick Studio, based in London. The museum is housed in 9,500 sq metres of custom designed space, spread over nine floors, carved out of the monumental structure of the historic Grain Silo Complex. The silo, disused since 1990, stands as a monument to the industrial past of Cape Town, at one time the tallest building in South Africa, now given new life through the transformation by Heatherwick Studio.

photo_credit Iwan Baan
Iwan Baan

The galleries and the atrium space at the centre of the museum have been carved from the silos’ dense cellular structure of forty-two tubes that pack the building. The development includes 6,000 sq metres of exhibition space in 80 gallery spaces, a rooftop sculpture garden, state of the art storage and conservation areas, a bookshop, a restaurant, bar, and reading rooms. The museum will also house Centres for a Costume Institute, Photography, Curatorial Excellence, the Moving Image, Performative Practice and Art Education. The R500 million (£30 million) development of Zeitz MOCAA, announced in November 2013, has been created in a partnership between the V&A Waterfront and Jochen Zeitz, as a not-for-profit public cultural institution in the heart of one of most visited cultural and historical hubs in Africa. Set on the edge of a natural, historic working harbour, with the iconic Table Mountain as its backdrop, and sweeping views of the ocean, city bowl and mountain peaks, V&A Waterfront attracts up to 100,000 people a day.

photo_credit Iwan Baan
Iwan Baan

Thomas Heatherwick, Founder of Heatherwick Studio, said: “The idea of turning a giant disused concrete grain silo made from 116 vertical tubes into a new kind of public space was weird and compelling from the beginning. We were excited by the opportunity to unlock this formerly dead structure and transform it into somewhere for people to see and enjoy the most incredible artworks from the continent of Africa. The technical challenge was to find a way to carve out spaces and galleries from the ten-storey high tubular honeycomb without completely destroying the authenticity of the original building. The result was a design and construction process that was as much about inventing new forms of surveying, structural support and sculpting, as it was about normal construction techniques. As the opening approaches we are all looking forward to witnessing the impact of the museum’s ambitious artistic programme and the museum taking its pivotal place in the middle of Africa’s cultural infrastructure.”

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Mat Cash, Group Leader, Heatherwick Studio said: “Our challenge was understanding what was needed for an institution of such broad ambition then extracting that space, flexibility and scale from an almost solid historic object. Because the radical transformation of the space and function of the building risked losing the stories it had to tell, we needed to be brave and respectful at the same time. It has been an enormous privilege to work on a project of such significance. We owe a great deal to our expert local collaborators with whom we’ve worked so closely over the last four years.”

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Zeitz MOCAA (Museum of Contemporary Art Africa)

iGuzzini as Manufacturers

The Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (Zeitz MOCAA) is a contemporary art museum housed in what was formerly a distinctive grain storage silo, built on the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, Cape Town. The Silo had stored grain from the 1920s until it was decommissioned in the 1990s. In 2015, the owners of the Silo, Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, were considering adapting the building into a site for a major cultural institution, which coincided with the Zeitz Foundation’s seeking a permanent new home for its collection of contemporary art from Africa and its diaspora.

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The industrial structure is made up of two parts: a grading tower and 42 tall circular silos. The greatest challenge was how to convert these immense concrete tubes into spaces suitable for exhibiting art while retaining the building’s industrial character.

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The answer was to carve out an atrium, like a vaulted cathedral, to form the heart of the museum. Literally scooped from the centre of the building, this area provides access to the floors that are organised around it. Implementing this concept was technically challenging. The rounded shape of the space was mapped out with nails and the insides of the concrete tubes were lined with sleeves of reinforced concrete. The cut edges were then polished to create a mirrored finish that contrasts with the building’s rough concrete aggregate.

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During the day natural light floods into the atrium from the top of the tubes through facets of glass that recall El Loko’s artwork “Cosmic Alphabet”. MaxiWoody projectors have been installed inside the silos to emphasise the texture of the material, and especially the height and remarkable size of the tubes at night. The building recently won the Architizer A+ Jury Award in the “Best Museum Building” category.

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Arts instead of grain

KEIM as Manufacturers

In Cape Town, a historic grain silo has become a museum of contemporary African art. The architects of Heatherwick Studio had the concrete walls of the granaries sawn open, creating an atrium with an almost cathedral-like character. New concrete reinforces the old silo walls - it was only after treatment with Keim Concretal that it met the requirements of the planners.

photo_credit Ryan Torres
Ryan Torres

It is a real magnet for the public: In the first month after its opening, 70,000 people flocked to the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary African Art (MOCAA). It is named after former Puma manager Jochen Zeitz, who is opening his private collection to the public, several thousand works by African artists from the 21st century. While works like this often migrate overseas, Zeitz is pursuing the idea of keeping them on the continent and exhibiting them locally. Admission is therefore free for local residents.

In line with the great importance of the museum, it rises far above the neighbouring buildings around Cape Town’s harbour. It is housed in an old silo building where corn was once temporarily stored before being shipped all over the world. Built in 1921-24, the building stretches up to 57 meters into the sky and is one of the landmarks on Cape Town's skyline. It has been a listed building for several years now. Thomas Heatherwick and his team of architects from London were commissioned to convert the building into a museum. But where do you start with 42 vertical silo tubes? Their circular walls are hardly suitable for hanging "flatware," as paintings are ironically called in the jargon of curators.

photo_credit Ryan Torres
Ryan Torres

The architects developed a dual strategy. They completely gutted part of the building to make room for 80 functional rectangular exhibition halls. Paintings, but also sculpture and video art are presented there. In the other part, however, the structure of the concrete silos was preserved and used to create an impressive atrium. As a tribute to the building's past, the architects took the form of a corn grain, enlarged it a thousand times and cut this volume out of the concrete structure. The result is an unparalleled space with an organic shape. There are still hints of the silos original purpose, but they are part of something new. Their roof was closed with glass, so that daylight seeps down through the 30-metre-high tubes.
Anyone entering the room at street level inevitably looks upwards and is almost reminded of a Gothic cathedral by the elements striving to reach the sky. In two of the side tubes, cylindrical elevators glide up and down, in others spiral staircases lead up to the exhibition halls.

photo_credit Ryan Torres
Ryan Torres

The challenge of exposed concrete
The silos would not have been stable enough with a wall thickness of only 17 centimetres after the sawing had been completed. The architects therefore had them reinforced from the inside with an additional reinforced concrete layer that is 42 centimetres thick. Concreting was anything but easy. On the one hand, placing the formwork in the narrow silos was not child's play, on the other hand, neither the concrete expertise of a Tadao Ando nor the legendary precision concreting skills of Swiss contractors are available in Cape Town. As a result, it was not surprising that the concrete surfaces would have to be reworked.
In fact, they showed a whole series of faults after it was stripped. In some places, the cement glue had leaked and left pockets of gravel. In other places the formwork panels had slipped slightly against each other, so that the wall surfaces had projections and recesses of 10 to 40 millimetres. Since the silo tubes are always bathed in oblique light from above, these irregularities cast long shadows and were particularly eye-catching. Even the very different surface qualities of the concrete by no means satisfied the requirements of the architects: in some places it was matt or slightly glossy and it showed different colour tones in other locations. In addition, there were the usual signs of the construction process such as markings with pencil or chalk, oily stains from the formwork and vertical streaks of dirt.

photo_credit Ryan Torres
Ryan Torres

 

Gradually corrected
So, they started sorting out these issues, with the KEIM mineral product range being used at the suggestion of the architects. At first, the unevenness was levelled out. To do this, projections had to be removed, recesses filled, gravel pockets and smaller cavities filled, defects of more than four millimetres levelled out and flat surfaces produced. Subsequently, the uneven material appearance with its various gloss gradations was dealt with. The walls were pre-wetted and then release agent residues or oily stains were removed.
Finally, a coating was planned that had to meet contradictory requirements: on the one hand, it had to match the different colours of the individual surfaces, and on the other hand, the concrete had to retain its stone character instead of disappearing under a covering layer of paint. 

photo_credit Ryan Torres
Ryan Torres

Here the "KEIM Concretal-Lasur", a thin-layer glaze also called mineral stain, was able to show its strengths. As a mineral coating, it preserves the visible, open-pored structure of the concrete as it does not form a film on the surface. In order to achieve an appearance as close as possible to that of untreated concrete, several sample surfaces were tested. KEIM Concretal-Lasur can be diluted in any ratio to achieve the best possible match with the original concrete colour. "We have tried different types of glaze, sometimes in stronger, sometimes in weaker dilution. And for pigmentation, we tested several shades of grey," explains Wolfgang Höger, Managing Director of KEIM's sales representatives in South Africa. "In the end, we ended up with an individual mixture of the two shades 9546 and 9550 in a ratio of 1:1. For the majority of the surfaces, two coats of Concretal-Lasur were sufficient. Only the particularly strong discolourations in the concrete were painted over several times by the painter". A total of 4,500 square metres were treated in this way. Visitors to the museum today have no idea of the elaborate, almost restorative after-treatment of the silo tubes. The concrete appears completely natural and even, as if it had come directly out of the formwork as it stands before our eyes now. The architects' idea for this space, which relies on the visual power of raw concrete, can thus reveal its effect undisturbed.
Text: Christian Schönwetter, Architecture and design journalist

photo_credit Ryan Torres
Ryan Torres

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