On a recent visit to South Africa, I had the pleasure of visiting the much-anticipated Silo Hotel, the latest addition to Cape Town’s already world-class accommodation portfolio. The Silo occupies a prime position on the historic V&A Waterfront; to say it is merely eye-catching would be an injustice, not to mention an understatement!
When it started life back in the early 1920s, it was at the heart of South Africa’s agricultural industry, used for storing, packaging, and distributing grain to the country’s farming communities. Built in two distinct parts, it comprised the elevator tower, inside which the hotel now sits, and the grain silos themselves, which will house the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (MOCAA), due to be completed soon. In 1924 the grain silo, at 57 metres high, was the tallest building in sub-Saharan Africa. It seems felicitous, then, that the structure is as ahead of its time now as it was over ninety years ago – albeit for very different reasons.
The façade of the building has been designed by the famed London-based firm Heatherwick Studio, who decided to celebrate the building’s industrial heritage rather than strip it away. The biggest aesthetic change to the external structure has been the addition of huge pillowed glass windows. These billow outwards as if gently inflated, offering guests stunning views of Table Mountain and the surrounding city. The designer’s aim was to ‘transform the building into a glowing lantern or beacon’ in the harbour nightscape. Although I boast absolutely no architectural credentials, in my opinion this concept has been a resounding success!
When you enter the building, a quick elevator ride takes you to the reception area on level six. Above this level are six further floors of accommodation, containing 28 individually designed rooms and suites. If you were to assume that the building’s unique design is any less impressive from the inside than the outside, you would be very wrong. I stood quietly for a minute or two while my host chatted with guests and couldn’t help but notice that each new ping of the elevator was accompanied by ‘wows’, ‘good griefs’, and various other similar mutterings. It also made me chuckle to see that nearly everyone was drifting around reception with eyes turned skywards, sporting a slightly dazed expression. It was at this point I realised that I too had wandered off to a random corner of the hotel and that my host was now waving happily at me, keen to continue the tour.
Back on ‘Planet Earth’ and we continued up to the rooms, where things become more curious still. The corridors are very stark and utilitarian, with none of the ‘wow factor’ that the rest of the hotel has in spades. This is a clever move, as it makes the décor behind the plain grey doors pack an even bigger visual punch than it might already do. The interiors are the brainchild of Liz Biden and, like each of the other three properties in the Biden family’s Royal Portfolio collection, The Silo’s style is exceptionally unique. It is an eclectic and luxurious mix of old-world glamour, bold splashes of colour, and modern art, which seems to draw inspiration from around the globe. This, combined with the fabulous feature windows, of which every room has at least one, kind of reminds me of looking into a kaleidoscope.
Did I mention the five-star spa… the rooftop pool and bar… the sky terrace with 360 degree panoramic views? No? Well, it has those too, and so much more. I think The Silo is going to be a property that divides opinion – something that makes this bold a statement surely has to – but I challenge you to go and not be impressed. I know that I certainly was.