Unique is a word that’s often overused but there’s no doubt that The Silo Hotel, which sits at the heart of Cape Town’s V&A Waterfront, is one of a kind.
Striking from the outside and eclectically beautiful on the inside, this part art gallery, part hotel reflects the city’s changing fortunes; who would have thought that a century-old concrete grain storage unit would be the spot of choice to create an ultra-luxe hotel? We take a look at the elements that make The Silo Hotel stand out from the crowd.
The Silo’s story begins when Cape Town’s harbour was a hub of industry rather than the lively entertainment district it is today. In 1924, a great concrete structure made up of 42 silos that each held up to 30,000 tonnes of wheat, maize and soya, was constructed just steps from the waterfront. Ships destined for far-flung ports would dock and be packed with grains grown all over South Africa. The silos were used for their original purpose for almost 80 years before the building was abandoned in 2001. It wasn’t until the regeneration of the city’s incredibly popular Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, over a decade later, that this building got a new lease of life.
You could hardly imagine a more eye-catching urban hotel – the soaring cylindrical exterior is topped by a lattice of concrete pillars and multi-faceted windows that catch the sunlight on clear Cape days. From the inside, these floor-to-ceiling works of engineering art frame the city skyline, ocean and Table Mountain perfectly; the views are jaw-dropping at every turn. You may recognise The Silo from Amazing Hotels: Life Beyond the Lobby, a behind-the-scenes BBC programme presented by chef Monica Galetti and food writer Giles Coren. The episode gave us a glimpse into the hotel’s unrivalled art collection (more on that below), the distinctive rooms, the out-of-this-world service and the 11th-floor rooftop terrace. If the views from your room, the bar or restaurant aren’t enough, head up here for 360-degree vistas and a dip in the sky-high infinity pool. Like any five-star hotel worth its salt, The Silo also features a spa, a world-class restaurant and a top-notch bar where you can raise a glass to your Cape Town adventure.
Aside from its standout architecture, the jewel in the hotel’s crown is definitely the focus on modern art. And in particular, African art. The Silo shares the historic building with the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (Zeitz MOCAA) – the largest modern African art museum in the world. This not-for-profit institution celebrates 21st-Century African artists from every corner of the continent and beyond in over 100 galleries spread out across nine floors. Think of it as South Africa’s equivalent to London’s Tate Modern. And it’s not just about the pieces exhibited: the interior of the museum is a work of structural splendour. A handful of the original storage cylinders have been cut away to create a cross section of the past and a soaring cathedral-like atmosphere.
Image courtesy of Zeitz MOCAA & Iwan Baan
The journey through African art doesn’t end at the museum exit. The rooms and public spaces up in the hotel are like a mini gallery themselves with works collected from across the continent by the hotel’s owner, Liz Biden. No two rooms are the same when it comes to style as all the art works and eclectic furnishings have been hand-picked to create unique and sublimely comfortable spaces. There’s no mistaking you’re in Africa at The Silo Hotel.
Finally, there’s The Vault, the hotel’s exclusive subterranean gallery where local artists’ work is exhibited on a six month rotation. Liz Biden champions up-and-coming painters from around Africa and gives them a space to showcase their incredible talent and get their work in front of collectors and art lovers. All but one of the art works are for sale – the final piece is kept by The Silo and added to the hotel’s carefully curated collection. To discover more about Cape Town’s emerging art scene, read our interview with the Silo’s Art Concierge, Irene Boaventura.
Giving back and ‘investing in Africa’ is an important part of The Royal Portfolio’s (owners of The Silo Hotel) values. It’s as important to them to help local projects, protect the environment and ensure a bright future for Africa as it is to provide unbeatable service to its guests. Each of The Royal Portfolio’s hotels supports a range of local projects that matter the most to the local community. The Silo Hotel works with Leliebloem House, a centre for over 60 young children and teenagers who need a safe space away from troubled families, providing much-needed funding and arranging weekly visits to the home by the hotel’s staff. Guests can get involved by donating money or ‘packing with a purpose’ and bringing small supplies with them to Cape Town.
2020 brought a new challenge to the people of South Africa when the government began a national lockdown to slow the spread of COVID-19. This increased the need for food assistance throughout many communities in Cape Town and beyond. As well as working with Leliebloem House and Atlantic Hope (a safe house for vulnerable babies), The Silo Hotel has supported Ladles of Love, a local project staffed by volunteers who provided over 2 million meals since 20th March 2020.
This feature was published on 19 November 2020. The information within this feature is correct to the best of our knowledge at the time of print. Feature by Heather Flanagan.