Dating back to the 1600s, the area has a rich history and today’s custodians are tapping into this to build a foundation for the future.
Cape Town’s Victoria and Alfred waterfront has undergone significant renovations and has become South Africa’s most visited landmark, attracting 24 million visitors a year.
One of the biggest appeals of the area is the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa which was opened by Nobel Laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu. The museum building dates to the turn of the last century and has been transformed by Heatherwick Design Studio.
Thomas Heatherwick, designer, Heatherwick Studio discusses the project: “This has been the site that we were tasked with turning into the continent's first museum for showing the contemporary artwork of the people of that continent.
"That doesn't sound as powerful as when you compare though to Europe, Asia, North America, where there's a contemporary art museum in every city. Everyone wants to have that.
"The whole of Africa, this is the first major institution, public cultural institution, since the Cairo museum a century ago.”
The museum building was originally used to connect Africa’s grain trade to sea traffic. It was the tallest building in sub-Saharan Africa, dwarfing the port on which it stood. Instead of knocking it down it was hollowed out from the inside.
Thomas Heatherwick explains this innovative approach: “Our idea was that this building had stored trillions of grains of corn and moved vertically through each of these silo units.
"We managed to get hold of some of the original corn. We digitally scanned the shapes of those. Then we picked one of them and enlarged that digital information to be 10 stories high. And so, used that one grain of corn as the cutting device to give this building a heart.”
The core of the art collection on display was donated by philanthropist Jochen Zeitz and includes some of the biggest names in African art. It is an expression of today's African aesthetic, curated across 80 galleries. David Green, V&A Waterfront CEO tells CNN about how accessible the museum is to everyone and hopes to attract young visitors:
“The museum is free to anybody under 18. No attractions of this nature are free to people under 18, so it's very much a young-person thing.
"Every African will get free access on a Wednesday morning to it. So, I think we've started from the outset to say, ‘this is about inclusivity, accessibility. It's about everybody having their place, having their voice within the museum.’ ...and we're hoping that it will be a gift to Cape Town, the waterfront, and Africa.”
The programme learns that there was a less celebrated side to the docks - for centuries it was the place from which political prisoners, including Nelson Mandela, were dispatched to Robben Island. Today tours leave daily for a glimpse of one of the world's most famous prison cells.
Before apartheid, convicts were held at Breakwater Prison which was located by the port. Today the Breakwater Prison is a business school. Where walls once imprisoned, they now liberate through knowledge. Below lies an aquarium and arcades and beyond that a working harbour.
The harbour is also adjacent to the Royal Cape Yacht Club where a number of high profile sailing races such as the Clipper Round the World Race and the Volvo Ocean Race stop at thewaterfront. Vitor Medina, Commodore of the Royal Cape Yacht Club discusses how the yacht club works closely with the waterfront and the high profile international races:
“When it comes to the racing part, they work very closely with our club because we've got all the infrastructure in terms of laying marks, starting races, ending races. So, we kind of form a partnership with the V&A waterfront authorities, and the race officials, and we jointly manage the whole regatta or race, like the Volvo for instance.”