Time Out for Cape Town

by Media Xpose

By Gareth Griffiths

The Time Out Market is an international brand food and cultural market that aims to bring the best of a city together under one roof, offering a specially curated mix of the best chefs, restaurateurs, drinks and cultural experiences. A signature architectural refurbishment  project was completed late in 2023, unveiled to the media and opened to the public prior to the Christmas season.

There currently are seven Time Out Markets around the world – in Lisbon, New York, Boston, Chicago, Montreal, and Dubai. The seventh and most recent market, at the V&A Waterfront. 

Sandy Hayek, CEO for Time Out Markets globally, says that the main challenge facing the designers was to connect three buildings – the Old Power Station, Pump House, and Annex – into a single functional space. The layout respects the specificity of each building but encourages connections between them so that the guest experience can have different moments while remaining fluid.

She explains that working within and refurbishing an existing building, particularly one with such a rich history and architectural quality, presents a unique challenge and opportunity. It requires delicately balancing the technical requirements of a food and cultural market with the need to preserve the integrity of the original structure and industrial pieces of equipment.

“It’s a careful dance but ultimately results in a market environment that seamlessly blends innovation and modernity with the charm and tradition of its historical roots. It’s the kind of mix that ensures Time Out Market Cape Town  is a unique, welcoming and accessible place.

“In terms of technical and construction aspects, there was a thorough study of the buildings, and whenever possible, efforts were made to restore them to their original conditions by eliminating a series of past alterations that lacked logic and detracted from the aesthetic qualities of the ensemble,” she says.

The buildings’ past and present

Officially located off the North Quay, the market looks directly across the Alfred Basin, a working commercial and recreational harbour, with an amazing view.

It is made up of three historical buildings – the Pumphouse Building and the Old Power Station building which are conjoined – and also the annex on the Dock Road side of the main building, which was broken through and incorporated into the new market.

The Pump House was named as such because it houses the pumps that empty sea water from the Robinson Dry Dock in the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront. The building dates back to 1892, and was where the first electricity-generating “dynamo” was installed to help illuminate part of Table Bay Harbour, 10 years before the rest of the city

The first 16 lights were switched on from 25 April 1882. This number was increased to 22 from 3 October 1882. (source: www.cape-town-heritage.co.za/landmark/old-power-station.html )

Most recently the building played home to a well known former Waterfront pub and the comedy club.

By 1903, the first power station was replaced by a larger station, located in what is today referred to as the Old Power Station building. The source of coal for the generating equipment was conveniently close at nearby Collier Jetty, just 300m away,  located off today’s Clocktower Precinct, still referred to as the Collier Jetty.

Remnants of the former power plant and its gantries are still found inside the building, within the double volume area of the new Time Out Market, as static displays of its remarkable heritage.

Described by V&A Waterfront Development Project Manager, Bongeka Funani, as one of the most challenging projects that she has been involved in to date, the final product is not only cool and hip to visit, but contains some of the best food available in Cape Town.

The design and construction phase

Consisting of two conjoined buildings, the Pumphouse Building and the Old Power Station building, there is also an annex on the Dock Road side of the building, which was also incorporated, a seemingly simple operation. According to Funani however, the going was tough.

“The team had to deliver the project in less than eight months, which was very challenging, but the full development team and consultants helped ensure that we kept to the deadline. It meant working longer hours. That was not always fun, since this was not the only project I was working on. So I could not really capitalise on all available efficiencies, but I managed to deliver it nonetheless!”

To achieve this, the development team had to work closely with the tenant, the Time Out Market.

“Working with an international brand such as Time Out was an amazing experience and creating an opportunity for the local chefs to be able to showcase their talent was just an added bonus. However,  It was a dual effort between ourselves, as developers, and Time Out as our client. Such a building has a historical and heritage significance and we needed to ensure that the heritage principles were adhered with no compromise”, Funani adds.

The existing (provincial) Heritage Building status for both conjoined buildings was something that the professional team had to bear in mind all the time.  They were dealing with a historical building that has timestamped the traditional way of building of that era.

For Funani, it was the beautifully sculpted stone building noggings, used to support the beams of yesteryear that were sculpted from quarried granite by craftsmen of that era, that are memorable.

Sensitive building operations

Probably the most sensitive operation was cutting through the back-to-back walls belonging to the conjoined buildings, to open up the large floor space for the market.

It took considerable time and many presentations to get heritage approval for the process of cutting through two walls. Having received that, two new archways were cut, widened, and supported by brickwork while an existing archway was closed off. 

“The building has had a lot of work done to it over the years. It had many hidden layers. Some of it was only evident during construction. For example, the  arches separating the Pump House from the Power Station were assumed to be made out of vaulted brickwork. On closer inspection, it turned out that they were actually made of stone work,” adds project architect, Katlego Motene, of Toro Agency Design and Architecture.

“The resultant solution is due to many design workshops between Time Out and ourselves as well as balancing issues identified as heritage elements. The original intent of lining the openings with steel work had to be reassessed, and it was agreed that plastered arches would suffice from a heritage perspective. All in all we coordinated closely with the contractor and design team,” Motene adds.

Design intent

Mark Noble, the Chief Development Officer for Granger Bay at the V&A Waterfront says that the biggest challenge was dealing with two heritage buildings that had been subject to 25 years of  intermediate era fitouts.

How to make sense of the space and bring the Power Station back to its former glory?  How to also combine the two buildings sensitively whilst also keeping the access to the dry dock pump which is located in the basement of the Pump House,  were leading aspects that occupied the minds of the designers and engineers.

Removing the mezzanine structures, some of which were added during the intermediate era since 1902, enabled the building to be opened up to its original volumes. Adding a new mezzanine in the main turbine hall with a large central cut out allows visitors to enjoy the scale and volume of the space.

“From inception, the project had attracted special interest from Heritage Western Cape (HWC). We had to balance the design brief against stringent heritage requirements. The building also revealed itself as work progressed, instances such as discovery of a ‘lost basement’ proved to be very challenging,” Motene explains.

“The inconsistent thickness of the existing concrete surface beds proved to be challenging when coordinating services, and we had to reroute or omit their provision in some instances. Hence, servicing an old building and trying to modernize it whilst keeping its original charm were the real challenges.

“In some instances we resolved to reinstate elements as agreed with Heritage. This was done at the breakthrough between the Pump House and the Old Power Station. In another instance we had to call in specialist contractors to guide us on suitable solutions that would be acceptable to Heritage. The case in point is the remaking of the plastered brick pattern seen between the Annex and The Power Station. The use of tiles was limited to the kitchens,” he adds.

Colours that pop

An eye-catching iron balustrade and railing system on the upper level overlooks the ground floor dining area. According to Katlego, “The brief called for a colour that ‘pops’. The design response was inspired by the sea and the mountain, including the working harbour as well as fynbos, as found only in the Western Cape.” A specific RAL code was used (RAL 20210). Bearing in mind that the Time Out Market brand architecture is not fixed and depends on local conditions, the orange colour used is unique to the Cape Town Market.

The roof

The legacy roof consisting of asbestos sheets presented an unacceptable hazard. Hence, Noble says that the removal of the hazardous asbestos roof sheeting from the legacy buildings was done in line with V&A’s policy. It was replaced with pre-painted  AZ200 formed roof sheets to the V&A Waterfront specification.

See more about the market at  –  www.waterfront.co.za/food-and-drinks/time-out-market-cape-town/

Professional team

Developer: V&A Waterfront

Client/tenant: Time Out

Project architect:  Toro Agency

Quantity surveyors: BTKM

Engineers:  Structural: LH Consulting

                   Wet services & mechanical:  IQ Consulting

                   Electrical: KLS Engineers

Project managers: Candor Project Managers

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