When I was a teenager I wanted to be an architect and design cool buildings. I don’t know why, but I enjoyed beautiful structures. Maybe it’s because, as a priest’s kid, I grew up in exquisite surroundings.
The Church of England knew a thing or two about extravagance and spatial awareness. Palaces, castles and churches were their forte, and they spared no expense in prettying them up. Think of the Gothic architecture of St George’s Cathedral in Cape Town, or St Paul’s in London and you get the idea. All along I’ve appreciated larger-than-life designs, spectacular lines and curves and disruptive concepts. I wasn’t smart enough to be a designer, and becoming an architect seemed like too much hard work, so I decided to become a journalist instead. Still today, whenever I find myself in a beautiful space, I will pause to reflect on its angles, structure and creativity – without being pompous and artsy about it.
I found myself pausing a lot at the Silo Hotel in Cape Town during a recent stay. The old grain silo building which houses the hotel is engaging, and will soon form part of a larger living space near the gateway to Cape Town’s harbour. It is an eye-catching monument to ingenuity and creativity, and embraces the light that Cape Town is blessed with.
Being part of The Royal Portfolio group of hotels means The Silo is a rose among roses dotted around South Africa. To name-drop the others, think La Residence in Franschhoek, Birkenhead House in Hermanus and Royal Malewane in the Greater Kruger National Park and you understand that their latest property is no less impressive, or luxurious. The Silo Hotel is built in the elevator tower section of the old granary. The granary was the highest building in sub-Saharan Africa in 1924 when it opened. It stood at 57m and took three years to build. The granary ceased to operate in the early 2000s until the V&A Waterfront decided to breathe new life into it a few years ago.
But enough about the past. The Silo Hotel is the forerunner to a bright and shiny future for the harbour, Cape Town and Africa.
Zeitz Museum Of Contemporary Art Africa (MOCAA) will open its doors in September and a new world of art, design and luxury living and eating will intersect in a magical way. The museum will showcase 21st century art from all over Africa and the diaspora.
Judging by the interior of The Silo Hotel rooms, visitors are in for a treat at MOCAA.
Owner of The Royal Portfolio, Liz Biden, can be credited for The Silo’s tasteful, yet stylish, interior, and the art that adorns the walls and hallways. You will find Mohau Modisakeng’s Ditaola series and commissioned pieces by Jody Paulsen, Must be the Rain and So Exotic, and Frances Goodman’s Blue Velvet and Hooded Lady I, II & III. Under the ground floor is The Vault, which is a special exhibition space for emerging African artists. First up is Kate Gottgens, a conceptual painter from Durban.
Most of the furniture was handmade in Cape Town by Moorgas & Sons. Inside the rooms, The Silo’s playful use of colour and shapes are an affectionate touch. It’s warm and welcoming, much like the staff at The Silo. Look out for guest relations and concierge manager, Hoon Kim – one of only 12 South Africans to be honoured with the coveted Crossed Keys – a member of the prestigious international hotel concierge association Les Clefs d’Or.
Our every whim was fulfilled without delay, and guests will learn a smile and chocolate on your pillow at night makes the stay that much more satisfying. But there’s more…
The windows. Oh, the windows deserve a mention all by themselves. They rise from floor to ceiling in spectacular fashion, leaving you feeling exposed to the outside world, but also powerful in a way knowing that few have the 360 degree view of Cape Town that you currently have. The windows bulge outward, making you feel like you’re sleeping in the clouds. Fear night though. At night, you can engage the automated blinds and cocoon yourself (and preferably a loved one) away from the world.
The exterior of the building was designed by Heatherwick Studio, founded by Thomas Heatherwick. What did I tell you about the English? The company is responsible for some of the most impressive living and working spaces in New York, London, Singapore and Shanghai. Now Cape Town can count itself among the fortunate few to have a world-class living space, complete with Zeitz MOCAA, The Silo luxury hotel, and a district that will be the a hive of activity and beauty, make it the envy of the rest of Africa, if not the world.