Rondel windows: MOCAA Museum in Cape Town
Architect: Heatherwick Studio
Location: Scheryn Pavilion, V&A Waterfont, Kapstadt (ZA)
After the former grain silo it is located in fell into disuse in the 1990s, its owners – Victoria & Alfred Waterfront – asked the Heatherwick Studio design team to find a new use for the building; meanwhile, the Zeitz Foundation was in search of a permanent exhibition space for its collection of contemporary art from all regions of Africa and the diaspora. The resulting MOCAA Museum now forms the cultural focal point of the lively docks area, which itself has become a tourist magnet thanks to restructuring.
The architectural implementation is as unconventional as Heatherwick's other buildings. The British designer started out with the idea of a huge single grain in the form of a void at the heart of the building. The studio accordingly hollowed out the 27-metre-high block, consisting of 42 concrete tubes each 6 metres in diameter, into a huge atrium from where gallery rooms can be accessed. Since the walls of the individual tubes were only 17 centimetres thick, they had to be strengthened on the inside with a 42-centimetre layer of reinforced concrete to prevent them from collapsing in on themselves during the hollowing out of the building. The difference in texture between the polished new surfaces and the rough old concrete contributes to the striking spatial impression of the interior.
In contrast, the gallery rooms, which start out on the basement level and continue up to the roof terrace on the seventh floor, are conventional cubic spaces. On the upper storeys square openings have been sawn into the existing walls in reinforced concrete and filled with prismatic glazing inspired by Venetian lamps. The Oriental-inspired diagonal patterning of the glass forms a contrast with the windows' conventional rectilinear post and beam frames, and at the same time fits in harmoniously with the equally prismatic geometry of the building's interior. In the 28 rooms of the Silo boutique hotel on the higher storeys, the windows provide the guests fantastic views of the sea and the Table Mountain.