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British Designer makes his mark in South Africa

Internationally renowned British architect Thomas Heatherwick, unveiled plans to convert the 1920s Grain Silo Complex at the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town into a museum for contemporary African art

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Zeitz Museum of Contemporary African Art

The internationally renowned British architect Thomas Heatherwick, has made his mark in South Africa and across Africa as he unveiled plans to convert the 1920s Grain Silo Complex at the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town into a museum for contemporary African art, a project that is worth approximately R500 million (£30million).

Thomas Heatherwick is known for his award winning UK Pavilion at the Shanghai World Expo in 2010, the London 2012 Olympic Cauldron, the New London double-decker Bus and the redevelopment of Pacific Place, a 640,000m2 complex in the centre of Hong Kong.

Thomas Heatherwick spoke about this project at the annual Design Indaba in Cape Town under the auspices of World Design Capital 2014. Explaining the design to an audience of over 2000 people Thomas Heatherwick said, “How do you turn forty‐two vertical concrete tubes into a place to experience contemporary culture? The project has become about imagining an interior carved from within an infrastructural object whilst celebrating the building’s character.” “Unlike most art museums” Heatherwick says, “the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary African Art (MOCAA) will have its features on the inside rather than the outside”.

British High Commissioner Judith Macgregor expressed excitement over this project, which she said “was a showcase of the United Kingdom’s world-class design and innovation, which Thomas Heatherwick was taking forward in partnership with South African counterparts. This project was a demonstration of the continuing people to people links between our two countries, which would provide a fantastic and stunning home for contemporary African art”.

David Green, CEO of the V&A Waterfront, said, “Thomas Heatherwick understood how to interpret the industrial narrative of the building. His design respects the heritage of the building while bringing iconic design and purpose to the building. Under his mentorship as lead designer, local partners stand to gain not only in experience but insights and knowledge sharing.’’

Green explains that from the outset, the V&A Waterfront knew they wanted to repurpose the Grain Silo Complex, disused since 1990, in a manner that would combine ingenuity, resourcefulness and beauty. By preserving and representing the building as a centre piece for the district and as a cultural institution, its character and personality will be honoured, and this is what Heatherwick Studio has delivered with characteristic, boldness and creative flair.

For the Zeitz MOCAA project, Heatherwick Studio will partner with three local delivery partners; Van Der Merwe Miszewski (VDMMA), Rick Brown Associates (RBA) and Jacobs Parker. Jacobs Parker will be the lead designer for the Museum fit out. The Zeitz MOCAA project is in direct support of the Memorandum of Understanding on Cooperation in Arts and Culture signed between the United Kingdom and South Africa Governments in April 2013. The project marks the initial manifestation of a 3-year programme of enhanced and sustainable artistic exchange and collaboration highlighted by a South Africa-United Kingdom arts and culture season in 2014.

The importance of design has strengthened over the years, and good design is now seen to be a crucial element of economic and social development. This project affirms UK’s long-standing reputation as a centre of design excellence and innovation.

Published 11 March 2014