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V&A Waterfront to see a R500m ‘repurpose’

Old Grain silos get new life.

Old grain silos are increasingly courting the attention of property developers who give them new life.

Central to such developments is the word “repurpose” – the new buzz word across the country and in property circles.

The idea is to tear down walls and build projects from the bottom-up, but transform existing infrastructure into productive spaces.

Cape Town has become the latest city to embrace the idea, with its plans to repurpose the 90-year old Grain Silo Complex at the V&A Waterfront.

Boasting 42 silos, 33 metres high and spread across 120 hectares of land, the old infrastructure has been sitting idle since 1990 and will soon get a new lease of life.

The V&A Waterfront management which owns the grain silos is behind the project to transform the infrastructure into a not-for-profit art museum, in partnership with Jochen Zeitz of sustainable development organisation Zeitz Foundation.

The rationale for the “Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa”, was to address the V&A Waterfront’s challenge of attracting more people to the precinct and to revive the art scene, according to CEO David Green.

“We believe there is a great opportunity for art and a permanent space for contemporary art. Cape Town lacks a real draw card in terms of a museum,” he explains.

The art collection featuring local and international pieces will be showcased in 9 500m2 space spread over nine floors.

The museums funding structure

The development project will cost around R500 million, the bulk of which will be funded the V&A Waterfront, with no government funding. “We will be looking at patrons of the museum for donations,” says Green.

To make up the cost of the development, pledges of an undisclosed amount have been made by Jochen Zeitz. He will also bear the museum’s operational costs.

The 30-month redevelopment is set to be completed in September 2016.


The V&A Waterfront has partnered with London-based architect and designer Thomas Heatherwick of Heatherwick Studios.

Once the tallest building in Cape Town, the brief to Heatherwick Studios was to preserve the original industrial identity of the building to illustrate and maintain its early working character. As such, the old grain silos will retain some their historic characteristics.

Most of the construction and development will be outside of the building as “externally the buildings are not attractive but internally they have character”.

Cape Town’s architectural industry will also get stuck into the project. While Heatherwick Studios will be in charge of the repurposing project, local architectural companies will contribute to the design and building of the museum.

Van Der Merwe Miszewski Architects, Rick Brown Associates and Jacobs Parker, are the local companies which stand to benefit from the redevelopment. Despite being on board, the local architect’s role in the project is being “discussed as the project is still in the conceptual phase”.

Johannesburg’s grain silos

Johannesburg has its own grain silo development story to tell. Newtown’s Old Mill Junction grain silos have been transformed into trendy student apartments. Property management company Citiq is behind the R40 million project.

Citiq is forging ahead in Newtown having acquired more disused silos located opposite the recently developed student apartments for R120 million.


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