A khaya for African art

Times Live | Andrea Nagel:


Standing like a strange monolith at the centre of Cape Town’s V&A Waterfront, a disused grain silo has been gathering pigeon guano for the last 10 years.

Tops: Thomas Heatherwick – demonstrating his Spun chair – was selected as the lead architect to transform the historic grain silos at the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town into an art museum. Image by: SHELLEY CHRISTIANS

The silo was once the tallest building on the skyline. Now a visionary group of art enthusiasts and a famous architect will turn it into an art gallery to rival the likes of Guggenheim Bilbao.

Briton Thomas Heatherwick was yesterday named as the architect to redesign the silo.

Explaining the design, Heatherwick said: “How do you turn 42 vertical concrete tubes into a place in which to experience contemporary African culture?

“Our thoughts wrestled with the extraordinary physical facts of the building. We could either fight a building made of concrete tubes or enjoy its tubiness.”

Heatherwick is known for commissions that include the redesigning of the iconic London bus, the much-lauded design of the Olympic cauldron for the 2012 London Olympics, and the UK pavilion at the 2010 Shanghai World Trade Expo.

Forty-two 33m-high concrete tubes, each with a diameter of 5.5m, will be sliced through to create an enormous cathedral-like space. The exhibitions will spread over nine floors in the two buildings on either side of the central design .

The complex will house one of the biggest and most significant collections of contemporary art from Africa and its diaspora.

The R500-million redevelopment project, a partnership between the V&A Waterfront and businessman Jochen Zeitz – who became the youngest CEO of the Puma brand at 26 – will be called the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa.

Curator Mark Coetzee will oversee the establishment of the art collection.

“The collection comes from all over the world. Until the establishment of a major museum to showcase it, the artworks have been split between Kenya, where Zeitz lives, Spain, Germany, South Africa and Switzerland.”

The building is expected to be completed by September 2016.


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