The Zeitz MoCAA  Heatherwick Studio

The attention paid to contemporary African art and design production has seen a constantly growing rate in recent years. Festivals like Design Indaba and Cape Town Art Fair, both hosted in the South-African capital, keep fueling this interest, providing international exposure to the state-of-the-art of the African scenario. It was at the 2014 edition of Design Indaba that the project for the new Zeitz MoCAA (Museum of Contemporary Art Africa), the first major museum dedicated to contemporary art in the continent, was officially revealed by Thomas Heatherwick, leader of Heatherwick Studio, and author of the design. The project recovers one of the historic landmark of the city, the heritage listed Silo building, set in the core of the Victoria & Albert Waterfront. Heatherwick Studio kindly shared with Art Super some pictures of the construction site that show the smart strategy behind the design. The intention is to preserve the iconic image of the building, a light intervention is made on the exterior – installing curved glazing panels inside the original partitions of the building, while the major efforts are concentrated on the interior, where a central open space is carved out from the concrete structure of the silos. Works are now in an advanced phase and the design of the exterior is almost complete. The museum is planned to open on the 22nd of September 2017. Zeitz MoCAA, favorably placed in one of the most touristic and frequented areas of the city of Cape Town, will thus play a fundamental role in supporting the visibility and preservation of contemporary African artworks.

776_02_mr_zeitzmocaa_interior_credit_heatherwickstudio150529_exteriorsite_credit_heatherwickstudio150615_aerialsite_credit_heatherwickstudioImages courtesy of Heatherwick Studio

Mapungubwe and Alexandra Interpretation Centers Peter Rich


Mapungubwe Interpretation Center. Copyright by Obie Oberholzer 

The South-African office PR Design, based in Johannesburg and led by architect Peter Rich, is well known for its life-span interest and efforts in the preservation of local heritage and identities. This issue is particularly stressed in two of its most famous architectures: the Alexandra Interpretation Center and the Mapungubwe Interpretation Center. In these works, Peter Rich manifested its care for the recovery of local history going beyond the simple aesthetic outcome. Support from local communities has been integrated in the early phases of design and realization processes, mixing these contributions with contemporary techniques and materials. The Alexandra project is settled in the township that has been Mandela’s first home in Johannesburg. Conceived as a bridge spanning over the street below, it creates two public spaces under the main suspended body, encouraging a spontaneous appropriation from the community. Local elders, custodian of the oral tradition, were consulted to define the themes at the base of the project. The Mapungubwe Interpretation Center, shortlisted in the Aga Khan Award, is placed in the Mapungubwe National Park. The center, articulated in a series of vaulted spaces, display to visitors the history of local ancient populations. Its organic design combines advanced engineering calculations, provided through the collaboration with MIT and Cambridge engineers, with the recovery of a 600 years old construction system, for which local groups of unskilled workers were trained and employed.


Alexandra Interpretation Center. Copyright by Iwan Baan

Education Africa New forms of local architecture


The education, starting from pre-school, is recognized to be at the center of the process to overcome the inequalities of contemporary South African society. In later years, NPO organization like ‘Bauen fur orange farm’ and ‘Education Africa’ have realized several projects for School and Pre-school facilities, of which South Africa has an urgent need, in impoverished areas of the country. Both organizations work in collaboration with different European Universities, which organize courses where students are requested to pass several weeks on site, to physically build the structures. Local people are also trained and involved in the constructions, so that when courses end, they are able to complete the buildings, and achieved in the meanwhile the skills to do regular maintenance on the facilities, and possibly help themselves for future constructions. These experiences are producing new forms of local architecture in the territory, that mix traditional building rules with contemporary design. Most importantly, they create occasions for mutual learning and fuel a process of sustainable social development.


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