In a building project that took three and a half years and R500 million to construct, Cape Town’s iconic 1921 skyline Grain Silo was transformed into a much talked-about space that now hosts the most extensive collection of contemporary art from the African continent.
Crucial to the redevelopment of this heritage site into the recently opened Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (MOCAA), was selecting the right interior construction materials during the design phase.
From the outset, Mark Noble, project manager at V&A Waterfront, required materials that would not only support the museum’s construction requirements, but that met budget parameters and were environmentally friendly.
“We wanted to preserve the integrity of this 96 year old building,” Noble explains, “while converting it into a space that encompasses the comfort and sustainability of a world class museum. And one way to achieve this was to make sure we used expertly manufactured materials.”
The answer was drywall construction. Saint-Gobain Gyproc was contracted to specify 17 000m2 of Gyproc plasterboard solutions for the walls and ceilings inside Zeitz MOCAA, and Scheltema Ceilings and Partitions Cape was brought in to install.
“This development was a significant project and presented certain challenges due to the nature of the project. It meant that we needed to consider a distinct set of factors such as the safety of the museum’s visitors and artworks, structural capabilities and general comfort-enriching properties,” says Janet Thomson, Saint-Gobain Gyproc’s regional technical and specifications manager for the Cape.
The first step in Thomson’s approach was to enhance the museum’s safety by installing Gyproc Firestop RhinoBoard throughout. “This allows people up to 120 minutes to evacuate in the event of a fire,” she explains. Gyproc Moisture Resistant plasterboard was also used to help control moisture levels in the museum, which not only safeguards its precious collection from any potential water damage, but has practical benefits in rooms like kitchens, bathrooms, waste rooms and the basement where moisture levels are higher than usual.
Next she considered the weight to strength ratio of the walls required. “When it comes to material selection, weight is a limiting factor in heritage site projects and it’s particularly important to keep structural load to a minimum,” explains Thomson, who used a drywall that is ten times lighter than traditional walls, assembled with noggins, load-bearing studs and tracks to reinforce additional strength.
The results are interior walls which reach up to 23 metres in places, yet which are also strong enough to hold artworks of unknown weights, in varying places, while being light enough to comply with heritage building regulations and to be reconfigured while withstanding knocks and bumps.
For aesthetic appeal, Thomson used Gyproc RhinoLite Cretestone skim plaster to finish drywalls and ceilings throughout, creating a smooth luxurious finish. Lastly acoustic and thermal properties were prioritised to ensure a restful, quiet and comfortable environment. A Rigitone Acoustic Ceiling was selected to create a buffer against excessive noise and help minimize sound transmission between rooms.
“The result is an interior space that’s safe and comfortable to be in, and which met the fairly complex and stringent installation requirements while remaining structurally sound and aesthetically beautiful,” says Thomson.
“Installing the right materials contributed hugely towards the final outcome of transforming the old silo building into a sustainable architectural and artistic glory that now hosts some of the continent’s best artworks,” Noble concludes.