In perfect company
When you build a hotel in one of the most beautiful cities on the planet, overlooked by a geographical feature recognisable the world over, then it truly must be special if it becomes the talk of the town. Or, in this case, the talk of Cape Town.
The Silo Hotel has been garlanded with awards since it opened in 2017. International architecture and lifestyle magazines have rushed to hand out the acclaim. ‘Best City Hotel in Africa 2020’, ‘Best Achievement in Design’, numerous World Travel Awards nominations… not bad for something which started out life as a mundane concrete grain silo. This family-run hotel isn’t owned by a global hotel brand and there is no star chef. Instead, it draws on its unique history, cutting-edge design aesthetics and a location that, let’s be frank, puts it at an unfair advantage compared to most other luxury hotels.
The silo itself was built in Cape Town’s bustling industrial harbour complex in 1921. Dockers would lift the grain up from the track bed so it could be weighed then cleaned, packed into sacks and dispatched, right where an exceptional six-storey hotel now sits. Today, that hotel glimmers in a sparkling light, its distinctive floor-to-ceiling windows creating a spectacular ‘cushion effect’ because they give the impression of being slightly inflated. There are a total of 82 windows, each made up of 56 glass panels. When the Cape region’s famed sunlight hits them, they become yet another gorgeous visual jewel in a city with its fair share of them.
But the site doesn’t just house a hotel. Underneath, in the main silo structure, is the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (Zeitz MOCAA) – the largest museum of contemporary African art on the entire continent. At 57 metres in height, the silo used to be the tallest building south of the Sahara. The renowned British designer and architect, Thomas Heatherwick, created 80 exhibition rooms from the 42 silos within it. With its industrial heritage and exquisite collection, you can see why many believe it can become Cape Town’s equivalent of that leading light of modern art, London’s Tate Modern.
Back in the hotel, after reaching the lobby, we glide 25 metres up to the actual hotel entrance. The splendid Granary Café is a dash of colour and magic, an alluring array of richly patterned fabrics, contrasting colours and sumptuous combinations of silk and satin. Every one of the 28 rooms in this eclectic hotel is individually decorated and furnished – the singular creative vision of the owner herself, Liz Biden. Avant-garde art hangs on the walls of spectacular, high-ceilinged rooms which feature round sofas finished in turquoise silk. The bathrooms, which are reminiscent of ballrooms, feature Egyptian chandeliers. They act as a seductive visual contrast to the austere, industrial architecture of the historic district that constitutes the Victoria & Alfred waterfront outside.
A meeting point for African art
Over the course of her travels through Africa, Liz Biden has compiled a splendid art collection that supplements the collection of the Zeitz MOCAA in the building below. There are works from some of the best contemporary artists in Africa, with pieces from Cyrus Kabiru, Mahau Modisakeng and Nandipha Mntambo found in the rooms. Another area, The Vault – located in the basement – has constantly changing exhibits, becoming yet another reason for guests to return.
View from the top
If you swap basement for roof, you’ll be treated to yet more delights. Make your way up to the 11th floor and you’ll find an infinity rooftop pool and sun terrace. Here it can get a little fresh at certain times of the year, so panes of glass protect against the ‘Cape Doctor’, the city’s famously variable south-easterly wind. Grab a plate of oysters and tempura and take in the sea air and the view of Table Mountain. A reminder that this hyper-modern, contemporary hotel has forged a relationship with something formed hundreds of millions of years before humankind itself existed.
The Silo takes the art experience to a whole new level with a focus on contemporary African art
This story is part of the 25 Years of Porsche Travel Experience anniversary series. We take you on a virtual world tour around the globe – with a new, fascinating episode each week. Click here to read all stories.