Zip Zap Circus Academy

Tsai Design Studio

This is the motto of the Zip Zap Circus which is a social circus founded in Cape Town in 1992, by the Esteve family to inspire young people and help build a new culture of peaceful co-existence in South Africa.

The building of the Zip Zap Circus Academy, which is located in Salt River, immediately reminds one of a circus tent flapping in the wind. The concept is clear and well executed. The organizational planning reinforces the concept. The red and yellow distinctive fins give it a playful majestic atmosphere in the slightly drab surroundings. The street edge creates a user-friendly entry to the facility.

Once inside one is in a tight foyer which is the urban stage. Passersby can watch with intrigue. The main volume is a simple rectangular tent-like space with a triple volume accommodating trapeze, trampoline and other circus equipment.

The south side becomes the serving space with wardrobe and change rooms below offices above. The circulation is articulated as the social interaction between the observer and the observed and is key to the overall design intention. There are balconies from where the performances or practices can be watched. Every space is flooded with natural light and the visibility between spaces make it a very interactive environment.

The spaces provide a perfect home for the young students and the teaching clearly shapes the lives of many young circus enthusiasts.

There is a tangible tent like magic in the building and the panel enjoyed the energy it brought not only to the inhabitants and users, but to the urban quality of the area.

Architects: Tsai Design Studio
Project Team: Y. Tsai & Cathy Skillicorn
Structural Engineers: Sutherland Engineers
Mechanical & Fire Engineers: Sutherland Engineers
Contractor: nMC Construction
Facade screen: World of Windows