World’s eyes on Zeitz

The Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Arts Africa museum made it onto the Royal Institute of British Architects international list for 2018.

Just four months after its launch, the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (MOCAA) has made it onto the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) International List for 2018.

The list features 62 new buildings around the world which have unique architecture.

According to the Riba website, the Riba International Prize, which is open to qualified architects, will be awarded to a building which exemplifies design excellence, architectural ambition and delivers meaningful social impact.

The winner will be chosen by a panel who will spend a week viewing all the materials from the entries.

The R500 million Zeitz MOCAA, launched last year on Heritage day (“Zeitz puts African art in focus,” Capetowner, September 28 2017).

The building, designed by Heatherwick Studios, was converted from an historic grain silo at the V&A Waterfront.

It displays nine floors of contemporary art in all form, including digital, sculpture, modern art and paintings, in 80 gallery spaces.

The floors are built around the “heart” of the museum, the atrium, which is carved from the old silo’s structure of forty-two tubes.

Other features include a rooftop sculpture garden with a glass floor, state-of-the-art storage and conservation areas, a bookshop, restaurant, bar, and reading rooms.

This year will also see the museum house centres for art education, curatorial excellence, performative practice, photography, the moving image, and the costume institute

Zeitz MOCAA, executive director and chief curator, Mark Coetzee, said they were excited about the nomination.

“It’s a ground-breaking building. There are architectural designs that have never been tried before, so it was a risk. It’s nice to see the world taking note.”

He said the way people see museums have to be reconsidered, and the Zeitz MOCAA is a fresh idea of what a museum should be.

Mr Coetzee said when the idea to build the museum was first announced in 2013, he wanted “a honeypot that would invite people in”.

“The shape of the atrium, the glass elevators that shoot up and down the building and the garden with the glass floor – it’s like people get immersed in the experience.”

Mr Coetzee said he thinks the Zeitz MOCAA was shortlisted for its technical ability and aesthetic.

“This was a machine, not a building. It was never meant to be a building. The silos were closed. For someone like Heatherwick, who are industrial architects, to turn this into a public space was amazing, and it was very interesting to see.

“It is a heritage building so there were many challenges, but now, it has all the things a museum needs and more.”

In a press release from Heatherwick Studios, founder Tom Heatherwick elaborates on the unique undertaking.

“The idea of turning a giant disused concrete grain silo made from 116 vertical tubes into a new kind of public space was weird and compelling from the beginning. We were excited by the opportunity to unlock this formerly dead structure and transform it into somewhere for people to see and enjoy the most incredible artworks from the continent of Africa. The technical challenge was to find a way to carve out spaces and galleries from the 10-storey high tubular honeycomb without completely destroying the authenticity of the original building. The result was a design and construction process that was as much about inventing new forms of surveying, structural support and sculpting, as it was about normal construction techniques.”

Mat Cash, the group leader of the project, said the challenge was first understanding what was needed for an institution of such broad ambition, then extracting that space, flexibility and scale from an almost solid historic object. “Because the radical transformation of the space and function of the building risked losing the stories it had to tell, we needed to be brave and respectful at the same time. It has been an enormous privilege to work on a project of such significance.”

Riba president Ben Derbyshire said the Riba International List 2018 recognises the world’s best new buildings. “Most importantly, this significant selection of 62 projects illustrates the meaningful impact and transformative quality that well-designed buildings can have on communities, wherever they are in the world.”

Riba did not respond to enquiries about what the winner of the Riba International Prize will receive.

Other Zeitz MOCAA accolades include:

BLOB: Wallpaper* Design Award 2018; Best New Public Building – Joint Winner BLOB: Frame Magazine 2018 Innovation Award – Nomination

BLOB: World Architecture Festival 2017, Future Projects Awards – Highly commended

BLOB: Architectural Review, Future Projects 2017 – Commendation Award

BLOB: Chicago Athenaeum, Good Design Award 2017 – Sustainability – Winner

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