Arup received a commendation at this year’s South African Steel Awards for its work on the V&A Grain Silo Complex façade. Entered into the Architectural category, the V&A Grain Silo Complex is an example of architectural adaptive reuse. Once an agricultural silo for grain storage, the V&A Grain Silo has become one of Cape Town’s most desirable developments, containing The Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (MOCAA) and The Silo Hotel.

Grain Silo Hotel and Art Museum Tessa Brunette ArupAccording to Arup, the most noticeable and significant aspect of the use of steelwork on the project are the 98 pillow windows on the building. These are installed into the existing concrete frame, where existing masonry infill could be removed, at the rooms and restaurant of The Silo Hotel and on the top floor of the Zeitz MOCAA.

Other significant use of steelwork in the façade packages include folded glass windows built into the silo walls at the museum ground floor, supported by steel flat plate structure, as well as trafficable skylights. These are made up of nine trafficable glass panels supported by steel structure to the top of the silos over the museum atrium. In addition, a glass skylight between the silo building and elevator building is supported by steel structure.

Tessa Brunette, senior façade designer at Arup, says that Arup’s brief from Heatherwick Studio was to give new life to the redundant industrial building, repurposing it into something new for the V&A Waterfront.

“Arup developed the concept of the pillowed windows following the studio’s suggestion of installing convex windows into the upper storeys of the building in order to transform it into a glowing beacon within the city bowl. Achieving the pillow window geometry was the most significant challenge. Working collaboratively with Heatherwick Studio, we created a parametric 3D model that established a series of geometrical and technical ‘rules’, within which the studio had full control of the geometrical resolution by defining the projection of each node and the main joint lines. This allowed the architects to drive the aesthetic resolution within an entirely technically feasible framework, and for the complex design to be achieved efficiently and act as a sound basis for procurement,” she says.

This parametric model was used to generate a 3D model of each of the five window frames, including the required member size and orientation that was provided to Mazor, the steelwork fabricator, to produce their steelwork shop drawings. A close working relationship was required with the main contractor, WBHO, and the specialist façade contractor, Mazor, to fabricate and install these complex and unique façade modules, Brunette says.


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