The architecture world is abuzz with news of designer and engineering whiz kid Thomas Heatherwick’s plans to turn an outdated grain silo in Cape Town into the future home of contemporary African art museum Zeitz MOCAA as part of Victoria & Albert’s Waterfront project.
Instead of gutting the structure and removing the closely-packed 42 concrete silos, each just 18 feet in diameter (not exactly conducive to viewing art), Heatherwick decided not to fight the preexisting conditions, but to “enjoy its tueb-iness” and open up the interior by carving out a large space inside. “Rather than strip out the evidence of the building’s industrial heritage, we wanted to find a way to celebrate it,” he said.
The building, which was once the city’s tallest, we regain some of its former stature with an interior space many are likening to a cathedral. The upper portion of the silos will be preserved, drawing the eye from the open area on the ground floor skyward, where a glass roof will flood the museum with natural light.
How Heatherwick will hollow out a chunk of the silos without compromising the building’s infrastructure remains to be seen, though given his track record of engineering feats, we’re sure no one doubts whether he’ll pull it off. All told, the nine-story structure will include 80 galleries over 65,000 square feet and include a rooftop sculpture garden. Here’s hoping this inspires renovations—and not total tear-downs—of other former food manufacturing plants around the world. Opens in 2016.