More Than Just A Pretty Facade–Zeitz MOCAA Opens in Cape Town 7


The anticipation of the opening of Africa’s first contemporary art museum, the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (Zeitz MOCAA) in Cape Town, is creating a buzz that is swarming the continent. The Victorian and Alfred (V&A) Waterfront Co., the developer who owns the site, has assembled the venerable team of Thomas Heatherwick and Liz Biden to helm one of the most exciting openings Africa has seen in years. Heatherwick is one of Britain’s most progressive designers, most revered for designing the Shanghai EXPO UK Pavilion. As the founder of the Royal Portfolio Collection, Liz Biden is South Africa’s premiere hotelier. Together they have created not only Africa’s first dedicated contemporary art museum, but also the luxurious Silo Hotel, which is connected to Zeitz MOCAA.

The unique vision for this project is now a reality, as the Silo recently opened. Heatherwick has orchestrated the transformation of the former grain silos on Cape Town’s waterfront into a state of the art multi-use complex. The Zeitz MOCAA project is a nonprofit joint development with German philanthropist, Jochen Zeitz, whose collection will be on display. Upon opening later this year, the museum will provide a stage for Africa’s brilliant contemporary art scene, as well as a much-needed platform to showcase the continent’s emerging talent.

When the granary opened in 1924, it was the tallest building in South Africa and played a crucial role in Cape Town’s development. Since it ceased operations in 2001 and has been abandoned since, locals have hoped for a resurrection or repurpose. Heatherwick’s innovative design revitalized the landmark while retaining its historic soul by preserving the original exterior and cutting through the vertical concrete tubes internally. Spanning nine floors, this unique complex will have amazing displays throughout the building that range from the hotel lobby, to the Granary Café, or guest library. Not to mention, there is more than 50,000 square feet of exhibition space that will highlight critically acclaimed local artists.

The building’s top floors are home to the Silo, the most recent addition to Liz Biden’s Royal Portfolio Collection. Biden has outfitted all her bespoke properties with one-of-a-kind designs and appointments, so her exquisite artistic taste aligns seamlessly with the Zeitz MOCCA collaboration. The Silo is her first full-scale urban resort, complimenting the existing Royal Portfolio Collection properties: Royal Malawene luxury safari lodge in Kruger National Park (which is the Biden family’s former home); La Residence wine country retreat in Franschhoek Valley; and seaside getaway Birkenhead House just southeast of Cape Town.

The Silo is most distinguished by the enormous domed pillar windows emerging from the façade’s industrial frame. Inside, Biden has created 28 individual accommodations that are flanked by an eclectic mix of classic and contemporary design with vivid fabrics and subtle hints of tribal art. The same ethos has been carried out into the hotel’s public areas, which includes a full-scale spa, the Granary Café, Willaston Bar and pool adjacent Silo Rooftop, all of which have quickly become the preferred gathering spots among Cape Town society.

While a bulk of the hotel is transparent, below the ground floor lies “The Vault,” the hotel’s private art gallery that will rotate a display of emerging contemporary African artists. Local Cape Town artist, Kate Gottgens, holds the honor of being the first to have her work exhibited in this special space. Many other artists of notable mention have also had their works featured throughout the complex during the grand opening, including Mahau Modisakeng, Nandipha Mntambo and intricate masks of Cyrus Kabiru.

Zeitz MOCAA rivals any of its contemporaries in London, Paris or New York. Combined with the Silo Hotel, it offers sophisticated travelers the perfect integration of high touch services, plush accommodations, fine dining and a vibrant contemporary art scene. Pairing this unique destination with a private safari balances an already unforgettable trip with a cosmopolitan edge. Add a few days in wine country to the itinerary, and you have the perfect trip for the adventurous and discerning traveler.