Cape Town’s prominent grain silo was once used to store and grade maize from all over South Africa. But with the advent of containerised shipping, the huge piece of concrete infrastructure was decommissioned and in need of a new purpose.

Shortly after the Victoria & Albert Waterfront had approached the studio to develop and adapt the site, an initiative began to create Africa’s first international museum dedicated to contemporary African Art. The two programmes coincided to transformt he grain silo into a new permanent home for Jochen Zeitz and Zeitz Foundation’s collection of contemporary art as the catalytic starter for the new museum.

The original building was composed of two main elements – a grading tower and a block of 42 tightly-packed silos. Rather than resorting to wholesale demolition, the studio took on the callenge to convert the multitude of contrete tubes into spaces to display art while retaining the silo’s industrial character.

The studio’s solution was to carve out a large central space from the cellular concrete structure to form a major social space that reveals the orginal intersecting geometries in an unexpected way. The perimeter thubes were then substantially cut back and converted into five floors of galleries for permanent and temporary exhibitions.

The finished carved tubes above the atrium space allow daylight in from above through thick layers of laminated glass, fritted with a pattern commissioned from the West African artist El Loko. The frit creates a walkable surface for the upper level sculpture garden, allowing daylight inside while protecting from too much heat building up inside.

In the grading tower, concrete walls were cut away between the structural frame to create new three dimensionally shaped windows that reflect a kaleidoscope of textures and colours that change throughout the day. At night, the glow of lights inside transform the tower into a beacon in the harbor.

source: Heatherwick Studio