The Grain Silos | The Original Shoreline

The Grain Silos
The Original Shoreline

The Grain Silos

The building that plays host to the brand-new Zeitz MOCAA has been a part of Cape Town since the early 1900s. At 57 metres, the Grain Silo was once the tallest building in Cape Town when it was built in 1921. It was decommissioned as a grain silo in 2001, and gradually became more derelict. In 2017, it was converted to the remarkable Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (MOCAA), in a spectacular contemporary reimagining of this historical building.

V&A Waterfront, Silo District, S Arm Rd, Waterfront, Cape Town, 8001

10AM – 6PM

087 350 4777

The Grain Silos

The building that plays host to the brand-new Zeitz MOCAA has been a part of Cape Town since the early 1900s. At 57 metres, the Grain Silo was once the tallest building in Cape Town when it was built in 1921. It was decommissioned as a grain silo in 2001, and gradually became more derelict. In 2017, it was converted to the remarkable Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (MOCAA), in a spectacular contemporary reimagining of this historical building.

V&A Waterfront, Silo District, S Arm Rd, Waterfront, Cape Town, 8001

10AM – 6PM

087 350 4777

The silo was built on the original shoreline. During excavations for the 2017 renovation, a shipwreck, titled, the Grain Silo wreck was recovered from under reclaimed land while digging foundations for the parking lot. Artefacts found include: old leather, shoes remains, coconut shells, canon balls and ropes. The ship is dated between the late 1700s to 1820s.

To understand the origin of the old grain silo, as well as the extensiveness of the renovations that took place, follow our timeline from 1924 to 2017.

1924 The Grain Silo is opened, becoming the tallest building in Southern Africa (it remained the tallest for some half a century thereafter). The building was originally painted a yellowish colour.

2001 The structure is closed for use as a silo, but remains in place at Cape Town harbour, derelict and unused.

2006 Ravi Naidoo, founder of Design Indaba, shows the Grain Silo building to architect Thomas Heatherwick for the first time. 

2011 Talks regarding the future of the Grain Silo continue between David Green, CEO of the V&A Waterfront, and Heatherwick Studio.

2012 Heatherwick Studio creates digital scans of a kernel of corn that are used to model the conceptual design of the atrium of the building.

2013 The track sheds are removed from the building and taken away to be restored – they have now been returned to the building and form its distinctive entrance.

March 2014 Thomas Heatherwick presents the project and design concept at the Design Indaba conference in Cape Town.

April 2014 Major construction work on the Zeitz MOCAA project commences.

2014 The distinctive new ‘pillow’ windows are conceptualised and a South African manufacturer is commissioned to create them.

2014-2015 Between two and three million person-hours are required to cut through the concrete tubes of the silos to form the new atrium and gallery spaces within the building.

2015 The old exterior paint (which was a yellowish colour) is stripped away from the exterior of the building, revealing a rich and beautifully weathered concrete finish beneath

2016 The ‘pillow’ windows arrive on site and are individually craned into place on the exterior of the building.

2016-early 2017 The custom-made lifts and spiral staircase arrive on site and are inserted into the partially carved ‘tube’ spaces set aside for them on one side of the atrium space.

The original track sheds now form the main entrance to the museum.

September 2017 The Zeitz MOCAA opens its doors to the public for the first time and the ‘second life’ of the historic Grain Silo building begins.

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