Cape Town’s Old Biscuit Mill Adds Silo Conversion to the Mix

Private Property South Africa

The Old Biscuit Mill in Cape Town, one of the most creative and commercially successful hubs in the country, is converting the six storey high old silo on the property into a state-of-the-art design space. Owned by Indigo Properties, the Old Biscuit Mill - previously a run-down mill - encompasses a collection of dynamic offices, a range of workshops and designer stores, delicious farm stalls and decadent cafes and regularly hosts day and night markets and festivals in Cape Town.

According to Barry Harlen, director of Indigo, the company has always had its eye on the old grain storage silo standing on the Woodstock based property, and two years ago plans to develop it were approved. Now, work on the silo is well underway. The bulk of the silo will be occupied by the Cape Town Creativity (CTCA) which will move into the silo upon completion of construction.

An artists impression.

The CTCA will occupy five floors and will open its doors to students in 2013. Degrees in interaction design, audio - visual studies and communication design will be offered by the Academy.

“We’re taking the creative domain out of the playground and placing it on a professional level,” says Francisca Gebert, chief executive officer of CTCA. “It’s all about ‘design thinking’, in which science and art come together and we think beyond prettiness, to functionality, sustainability and usefulness.”

The Old Biscuit Mill has already had a major upliftment effect on the area says Harlen. Indigo also recently purchased the Woodstock Industrial Building on Albert Road. It is now called the Woodstock Exchange and is currently being redeveloped into a hub for creative tenants.

Tackling a silo conversion is no easy task though as Harlen explains. “We had no idea what was inside the silo when we started. We found more silos and tons of concrete. It’s a much bigger project than we thought and it’s been an incredible process of demolition. We’re doing something quite unique, using concrete cutters to cut panes of five to eight tons each and lifting them out with a crane.

“The next step is casting floors. There’ll be five new levels, with Cocoá Fair in the basement, floors one to five for the Creative Academy, and the top, the sixth floor, will have a glass floor and panoramic views. We’re looking at placing a good food operator up there.”

Indigo also had to think very carefully about how to let light into the silo whilst maintaining the integrity of the structure. “The building is windowless now, of course, and from our courtyards we’ll have small windows so as to preserve the look as much as possible. The big windows allowing light in will be on the far side. And then we’ll have a frameless glass lift going up the silo on the courtyard side,” explains Harlen.

The silo conversion, coupled with the fact that it will house an academy dedicated entirely to design, dovetails neatly with Cape Town’s designation as 2014 World Design Capital. The title is given to cities which use design for social, cultural and economic development. Needless to say the Old Biscuit Mill is doing just that with aplomb.

Check out more things to do in Cape Town here

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