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Zeitz MOCAA museum opens in Cape Town

Zeitz MOCAA – the world’s largest museum dedicated to contemporary art from Africa and its diaspora – has opened in Cape Town. 

The facility was officially opened to the public on Friday 22 September. 

More than four years in the making, the boldly ambitious project to reimagine the V&A Waterfront’s historic grain silo into the world’s largest museum dedicated to contemporary art from Africa and its diaspora has reached completion.

The grain silo’s architectural redevelopment from disused industrial building into a cutting-edge contemporary art museum was undertaken by London-based Heatherwick Studio in conjunction with local South African architects, and funded by the V&A Waterfront at a cost of R500-million. 

Mace served as project manager and contract administrator for the ambitious scheme, working closely with the entire project team over the last four years to ensure that the challenging build was delivered effectively and efficiently. 

Mace has worked with the V&A Waterfront since 2011 as project manager and contract administrator for entire Grain Silo cluster. This compromises six buildings with a range of uses – No.1 Silo through to No.6 Silo – as well as the Zeitz MOCAA Grain Silo itself. 

The museum itself has 9,500 sq metres of custom designed space, spread over nine floors, carved out of the monumental structure of the V&A Waterfront’s historic grain silo complex. The galleries and the cathedral-like atrium space at the centre of Zeitz MOCAA have been carved from the silos’ nearly hundred year old dense concrete cellular structure of forty-two 5.5 metre diameter tubes that pack the building. 

The development includes 6,000 sq metres of exhibition space in 100 galleries, a rooftop sculpture garden, state of the art storage and conservation areas, a bookshop, a restaurant and bar, and various reading rooms. The museum will also house a Costume Institute, and Centres for Photography, Curatorial Excellence, the Moving Image, Performative Practice, and Art Education

Ben Coster, Mace’s Project Director for the Grain Silo, said: 

“This is by far the most technically complex project that we have delivered in South Africa – the remarkable design and the Silo’s heritage status have meant that we’ve had to solve a number of unique technical challenges over the last four years. 

“At times, the project resembled an archaeological mining site as we safely navigated through the tunnels and tubes, managing concurrent ‘bottom up’ and ‘top down’ demolition works alongside the new construction works. Overall we achieved five half million man hours without lost time inside the building. 

“I’m so proud of the result – it’s a beautiful building that I’m sure will become an iconic symbol of contemporary African culture.” 

Mark Coetzee, Executive Director of the ZeitzMOCAA, said: 

“Standing at the opening of the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa is somewhat surreal. It has been a long and challenging journey, but we are delighted that we have been able to create a platform of such scale and influence for Africa.”

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