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Massive grain silo transformed into South Africa's largest art museum

British designer Thomas Heatherwick’s studio spearheaded the revamp

Photos by Iwan Baan courtesy Heatherwick Studio

Thomas Heatherwick is at it again.

The British designer’s latest work, the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa in Cape Town (MOCAA), South Africa, opened today to press in advance of a public opening on Friday, September 22. And like some of his recent architectural designs, this Heatherwick number has a naturalistic form that looks a bit honeycomb-like.

This time, though, the structure’s form isn’t entirely a Heatherwick original, but rather the remains of a giant, disused grain silo that’s stood empty since 1990. Formerly South Africa’s tallest building, today it’s home to the country’s largest art museum at about 102,000 square feet.

Heatherwick’s design carves through the 116 concrete muscular tubes of the grain silo to create 80 galleries, along with spaces for education, conservation, and—natch—a bar and restaurant. On its facade, faceted windows give the hulking tower a futuristic look and let light into the cavernous interiors.

The successful opening of the museum coincides with a difficult period for Heatherwick designs around the world: In London, the designer’s Garden Bridge was scrapped after years of contentious discussions around the use of public money for a privately owned public space. And in New York City, plans for a floating park at Manhattan’s Pier 55 were dropped after a major benefactor pulled his financial support. Zeitz, however, is an eye-popping achievement, and one sure to attract visitors.

Already scheduling a trip to Zeitz MOCAA? You’ll find exhibitions of contemporary work by artists from across South Africa and the African diaspora. For architecture fans, the setting will surely be an attraction, too. Learn more over at the museum’s official website.