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A Timeline of Cape Town's Zeitz MOCAA Silo Building

Iwan Baan, Supplied

Dredged in history, the building that plays host to the brand-new Zeitz MOCAA has been a part of Cape Town since the early 1900s. It seems only inappropriate that now it will be the first contemporary African art museum in Africa. 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.

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A vintage photograph of the Grain Silo.


A Zeitz MOCAA Building Timeline:


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

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The building was originally painted a yellowish colour.



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

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Designer Thomas Heatherwick.



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


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

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A rendering of the design for Zeitz MOCAA.



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


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.


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


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.

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Removing the original paint has revealed a weathered concrete finish.



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.

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The 'pillow' windows were manufactured in South Africa.



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.

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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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