THE SILO AT THE OLD BISCUIT MILL:
CHANGING THE OLD SILO INTO CTCA OFFICES, RESTAURANT AND CHOCOLATE FACTORY AND MARKET CANOPY – CONCEPT:
The Silo was built by the Pyotts family as part of their Biscuit Manufacturing Factory / Bakery in 1914.
It was used to store grain and flour for the Pyotts Mills company that was a bakery at the currently called “The Old Biscuit Mill” premises.
The Silo had gables on top in the early days in a Cape Revival Style which was unfortunately demolished a few decades ago.
For the past few decades the Silo was an abandoned structure with no other use than being an historical industrial landmark in the area.
The following items were taken into consideration with the changing of the Silo into premises for a college and restaurant:
- The historical nature of the existing buildings
All new work was done in a different material (steel & glass) to differentiate between the two. It is our vision that new work should not be hidden, but should be seen as a new layer that is added to the historical layer by the current generation. This theme was also applied when we restored / reinvented “The Old Biscuit Mill” in 2005. Thus the contrast between the brutality of the old concrete structure and the lightness of the steel and glass – old and new layers that are opposites, but together create a new architectural language.
- With the new changes to the building, reference to the previous historical use of the Silo is important. It must still be perceived as a Silo. Because the existing internal concrete divisions inside the Silo created such narrow spaces, they had to be removed to create sensible, usable space inside. By dividing the new roof level of the added top floor into sections, reference is made to the divisions between the 21 Silos (storage compartments) that were removed internally.
- The Bulk of the Silo was kept by only adding a few window penetrations on the South façade. All other penetrations were done on the North side which is not perceived from the historical “Old Biscuit Mill” site.
Also because natural light from the North side is the best for buildings in the Southern Hemisphere, the larger windows were kept to this side.
- Internally the all the existing concrete Silo walls were left unfinished (rough and untreated) as far as possible. The new interventions were shown in different colours and materials: dark charcoal ceilings, steel beams and off-white floors. The white coloured floors were chosen to ensure that the spaces are not dark and gloomy. On the first floor, glass floors were initially proposed to showcase the existing concrete silo cones at the bottom. Unfortunately this proved too costly, but is still visible with the timber floors between the cone walls as well as from the level housing the chocolate factory.
- In keeping with the “industrialness” of the building, all services are exposed and minimal ceilings were installed.
- Because of the small amount of windows on the South side of the building, a translucent internal wall system was designed to allow light into the building. More natural light minimises the energy usage in the day time.
- To accommodate the changeable nature of the college, the Mofex removable wall system was used for all internal walls. It also allows easy access to services inside the walls.
- The area in front of the Silo could be seen as the ‘market square’ of the “village” (The Old Biscuit Mill)
- This was previously an open harsh area – exposed to wind and rain in urgent need of protection.
- The challenge in designing a roof structure was to prevent a dark suppressed roofed area and to use the new structure to define a central village square in the middle of The Old Biscuit Mill that could be multifunctional.
- It should respect the historical buildings, but not mimic it.
- The new canopy is a light floating structure – translucent, but not exposed. It allows awareness of the existing buildings. It is open, but still protects. It demarcates an area, but is high enough not to depress and to allow a visual flow from all sides.
- With the backdrop of the Silo “cliff”, the stage with the canopy demarcates a new open, protected village square that allows for a multitude of activities: Markets, gatherings, shows, student activities, functions (even parking) – the new heart of “The Old Biscuit Mill”.
- The demolition the existing internal concrete walls of the Silo had to be done very methodically to prevent the external walls from collapsing. As the first concrete blocks were cut out (approx. 4m x 2m sections) and lowered to the ground by crane, it was discovered that there is almost half the amount of steel reinforcing in the concrete that was originally estimated. This caused the danger of the blocks collapsing when cut and breaking hoisted to the ground. It also caused the additional concern that the external walls may collapse and preventative measures were taken. As the demolition took place from the top, steel beams had to be installed to stabilise the structure. When doing a project of this nature it is extremely important to have an experienced engineer and contractor on board.
- In order to work on a project like this it is wonderful to have clients that can think out of the box.
- There are two clients: The owner (The Old Biscuit Mill (Pty) Ltd) as well as the main tenant (Cape Town Creative Academy)
- The owners have done various innovative projects and are not afraid to push the boundaries.
- The tenant is a “Creative college” and that in itself states their capabilities. They are designing and manufacturing their own furniture for the building.
- On this project we have had a creative relationship with a very positive two-way directional flow of energy between clients and architect, but also with the whole construction team.