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The Silo By Heatherwick Studio

Elana Castle wakes up to a sweeping views of Cape Town’s verdant mountain-scape and Waterfront precinct from the innards of an historic grain silo, thanks to an ingenious architectural transformation by Heatherwick Studio.

“It sounds ambitious but we really do want to be the best hotel in the world,” responds Liz Biden, the founder and CEO of boutique hotel collective, The Royal Portfolio, when asked about her personal vision for Cape Town’s newest, and most undeniably captivating hotel, The Silo. Royal Portfolio’s latest nugget in their collection is located in one of Cape Town’s most historic industrial-agricultural buildings, The Grain Silo, in the bustling Cape Town V&A Waterfront precinct.

The mega-structure, once the tallest in sub-Saharan Africa, was decommissioned in the 1990’s, but has found a completely new lease on life as Zeitz MOCAA, a museum which now houses Africa’s largest collection of contemporary art, within its hollowed out concrete silos. The Silo Hotel is located over six floors of the building’s “elevator tower”.

London’s Heatherwick Studio are responsible for the building’s almost incomprehensible transformation which is characterised by 42 expansive concrete silo bins which the team have deftly carved and shaped, making way for the museum’s dramatic atrium. The 34 hotel rooms, have been neatly slotted in between the tower’s structural grid and elevator shafts.

Intent on preserving much of the building’s heritage, Heatherwick Studio have left the silo’s facade primarily intact. Amendments include the removal of portions of render to expose the textural quality of the original walls and the refurbishment of the original track-shed, its saw-toothed roof and latticework of interlocking steel infrastructure serving as a porte cochere into the hotel foyer and museum. The key adaptation to the facade are Heatherwick Studio’s inflated, 56-pane, 5.5 metre high windows which have been inserted into the enlarged punctures at the upper levels of the tower, drawing much-needed light into The Silo’s hotel rooms.

“The windows act like beacons, drawing attention to the building and serving as a form of signage for the hotel,” says Heatherwick Studio’s project architect Stepan Martinovsky. “We also love how the windows reflect the beauty of the city views back into the rooms.” Their multi-mullioned patterns create a industrial counterbalance to the rich layering of the hotel interiors. Biden, who is responsible for the hotel’s interior design, has leveraged the opportunity to showcase her extensive art collection showcasing some of Africa’s emerging and eminent contemporary artists, and Biden’s veritable repertoire of tastes and influences.

The artwork overlay is particularly evident in the building’s public spaces, which include a cafe, bar, private dining room and the foyer itself which features a contemporary chandelier by Haldane Martin, intentionally juxtaposed against the an original grain hoppers, a remnant of the Grain Silo’s illustrious past and futuristic present.


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