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Western Cape members visit Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa

ZeitzNearly 30 members and guests joined the Western Cape branch for a site visit to this iconic structure in the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town recently. Tessa Brunette, architect with Arup, spoke about how Arup’s façade team delivered a series of varied and complex designs, the most visible of which are the iconic glazed ‘pillows’ that required close collaboration with the architect, in order to realise the technically challenging design intent, in a pragmatic and buildable manner.

She was then joined by Lloyd Rubidge who is architect and director of Van der Merwe Miszewski Architects (VDMMA), and managed the practice’s projects at the new Silo District in the V+A Waterfront. The Silo projects have achieved some of the highest Green Star ratings in the country, as well as multiple local and international industry awards. He was very pleased, he stated, to have been able to work with Heatherwick Studio (UK) and the local architectural team on the Grain Silo. For more information, see

The project was initiated by the V&A Waterfront for the purpose of re-imagining the historic Grain Silo Complex as the centre piece of the new Silo District. The complex, originally constructed in 1924, has been turned into a new not-for-profit cultural institution named Zeitz MOCAA (Museum Of Contemporary Art Africa). The museum focuses on collecting, preserving, researching and exhibiting cutting edge contemporary art from Africa. The building is also home to a 26-room luxury boutique hotel named The Silo Hotel which is run by the Royal Portfolio.

The original Grain Silo Complex consists of two primary structures being the Elevator Tower and the Storage Annex. The original structure of the Storage Annex was a bundled matrix of 5 m diameter; 28 m high cylindrical silos, with smaller interstitial star-shaped silos in the spaces in between. The structural integrity of these silos is in its tubular matrix form, with the only steel reinforcement being found in the horizontal plane. The lower levels of the Elevator Tower were similarly formed from concrete but creating square and rectangular storage bins.

In contrast, the top floors of the original Elevator Tower are a composite structure comprising steel- framed rectilinear building with minimally reinforced concrete used to encase the perimeter steel frame, primarily protecting it from corrosion.

Zeitz4The redevelopment project was one of demolition as much as new construction. Over 70% of the original Storage Annex concrete structure was removed and 50% of the Elevator Building.
To enable the removal of this amount of concrete whilst maintaining the structural integrity of the overall building, an entirely new reinforced concrete structure had to be built inside the old.

This new primary structure was required to enable the new structural loads to be adequately redistributed whilst retaining the form of the original buildings.


The eastern half of the Storage Annex was hollowed out entirely to make room for the construction of the new gallery spaces for the museum. The western half of the Storage Annex was re-sleeved to create the composite arch structure that forms the atrium. This full height void is the single, grand architectural (and structural) gesture that symbolises the history of the building and ties the Storage Annex into the Elevator Tower creating for the first time a single entity. The organic shape of the atrium was modelled on a super-sized South African kernel of corn.


Zeitz5This unique scallop cut has been methodically carved by hand and machine and will be finished to a high polish. The intent being that the carving out of the atrium looks almost effortless. This will also showcase the old concrete against the new. Exposing and celebrating the concrete structure allows the visitor to clearly identify the original structure of the building and understand how the new structural interventions have enabled this concept.

The event was well attended, and the branch was very grateful to have received a waiver of the venue room hire fee. The V&A Waterfront have been a great support to the Western Cape Branch and we are extremely grateful for their assistance this year.

It was a great opportunity for members to be able to combine a site visit with a short talk and the feedback from them was incredibly positive.







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