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Embracing African art

Gyproc created a world-class museum in a huge, old decommissioned silo that spans more than 9 000m2, which proved both a difficult and hugely satisfying project.

The Zeitz MOCCA museum located in Cape Town was a tricky set up but how did Gyproc design and construct a museum using such an unconventional structure?

“We wanted to convert the interior of the old Grain Silo building into a space that encompasses the comfort and sustainability of a world class museum,” says Gyproc’s regional technical and specifications manager, Janet Thompson. To achieve this, key factors such as weight, sound, safety and comfort had to be managed through stringent and intentional product specifications.

Measuring 9 500m2 the structure takes up nine floors. Constructed by roofing, ceilings and partitioning specialists Scheltema, the museum was completed in September 2017 and incorporates 12 different wall systems designed for bespoke and complex project needs. These span from displaying heavy artworks on triple volume walls, to protecting valuable pieces of art from fire and moisture and managing acoustics between different exhibition areas – all while preserving the integrity of the original heritage structure from which the museum was refurbished.

The project

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Aesthetic appeal was further enhanced by adding sustainable materials that protect the paintings and the museum. Image: Gyproc

Developers, V&A Waterfront, required materials that are light weight yet offer high strength. “This enhances visual appeal while adding practical value. Cost efficiency, superior acoustics, aesthetics and strident fire ratings were critical to the success of this project,” Thompson says.

Art features in the set up and construction of the museum. The rooftop sculpture garden comprises Saint Gobain’s multi-layered laminated glass. It has a magnificent panoramic 360-degree view with a Roof top Bar and pool. “The glass lights up the show stopping atrium. The developer wanted to incorporate art into the building fabric, so he commissioned El Loko from Togo in West Africa to emboss his new cosmic alphabet pattern onto our Lite-Floor Xtra Grip Glass Solution,” Thompson shares.

The nine floors feature 80 art galleries with Gyproc Cretestone installed and used to finish drywalls and ceilings throughout. “The Acoustician, SRL, required a sensory glasswool absorption break therefore all walkway ceilings between the 8O art gallery rooms have Isovers energylite installed above the Gyproc plasterboard flush plastered ceilings allowing for noise absorption,” she says, adding that intricate quality workmanship and precision were required to deliver, “These 80 white gallery cubes.”

Maintaining the integrity of a 96-year-old building while converting it into a space fit for purpose is challenging.

Getting it right

Maintaining the integrity of a 96-year-old building while converting it into a space fit for purpose can be challenging, especially when the client insists on not treating the structure SaintGobain 002externally so as not to alter its aesthetic appeal. Internally they faced a similar challenge, they had to seamlessly marry the old structure with the new.

View of the atrium ceiling. Image: Gyproc

“Triple volume rooms and 23-metre-high drylining meant ceiling installation required extensive scaffolding – this meant additional time and logistics planning. Changes in layout resulted in full reskimming of the Gyproc Cretestone walls. Additionally, shadow line ceiling was difficult to construct when finding a straight line with the uneven concrete,” explains Thompson.

Other challenges they faced and overcame include weather conditions and the logistics of getting materials into the structure with limited hoist usage. Safety and comfort of the museum’s visitors and protection of artworks was paramount along with ensuring 120 minutes to evacuate in the event of a fire.

High acoustic ratings were also required in the gallery spaces. “Ongoing performance testing was conducted and Scheltema succeeded against these rigorous standards,” says Thompson.

Overall look and feel

The developer says that installation of the right materials contributes hugely towards the final outcome of transforming the old silo building into a sustainable architectural and artistic glory. The result is an interior space that’s safe and comfortable, meeting the complex installation requirements while remaining structurally sound and aesthetically beautiful.

“We’re proud to say that all systems, including acoustic performance, were built to specification. Not only does the final finish provide remarkable aesthetic appeal which gently supports the art and interior building design, but we managed to attain optimal levels of natural daylight. We met the brief, and – despite some unexpected challenges, budget and time restraints – we are delighted with the outcome,” says Thompson.

The museum sits below the Silo Hotel which occupies six floors, which was featured in SA Roofing’s June issue. It is located in the grain elevator portion of the building from where grain was last lifted.


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