Twelve years ago, when acclaimed British designer Thomas Heatherwick first visited the concrete silo complex towering over the V&A Waterfront’s harbour edge while attending the annual Design Indaba in Cape Town, he knew instinctively that the rather grim-looking, "magnolia gunge"-covered tubular structure could be transformed into something extraordinary. What he didn’t know was that, six years later, he would be commissioned to find ways to turn the disused factory — built in 1924 as a sorting, storage and shipping depot for SA’s mealie crops — into the world’s largest African art gallery. Heatherwick and his team of more than 20 London and SA-based designers and architects, who have worked on the project for the past six years, have certainly achieved just that. Stepping into the Zeitz Mocaa’s central interior, one is immediately struck by the monumental scale of the cathedral-like atrium. It has literally been carved out of the dense cement walls of about a dozen tubes, each abou...

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