The Joburg Contemporary Art Foundation (JCAF) gallery is a reconceived idea of the traditional ‘white box’ gallery.
The project entails the conversion of a turn-of-the-century electrical substation and tram shed, which serviced two tram routes: L1 between City Hall and Rosebank and L2 between City Hall and Zoo Lake (1932), into a world-class contemporary art gallery. The building is a listed provincial heritage building and the client and architect both had strong ambitions to restore the building in a respectful way. This involved meticulous renovations and very well-considered additions.
The first step was clearing the site and restoring the structure to its former glory. This involved sandblasting layers and layers of paint off of the facebrick. Then removing, restoring, and replacing heritage components such as the light fittings, the steel doors, and steel window frames. The next step was to fit out the building with new services to accommodate the museum quality specifications needed for the artworks. This was done with extreme attention to detail as none of the services could be exposed or surface fixed onto the existing building. The services are predominantly housed in the existing network of tunnels below the building as well as being cast into the new polished concrete screed floors. The only two additions to the building were: a steel and glass façade to join the two structures which creates the reception area for the gallery, and the steel entrance structure.
The client for this project is JCAF, which is a non-profit organisation whose mission is to play a role in the globalising of contemporary South African art. At the heart of JCAF is a philanthropic initiative to advance the appreciation and understanding of modern and contemporary art, while educating diverse audiences. JCAF is a hybrid institution combining an academic research institute, a platform for museum exhibitions, and an innovative technology laboratory.