Posted in Projects on 12 June, 2017

The Silo hotel has been scheduled as one of the most anticipated hotel openings of 2017, and with good reason. Located in the elevator portion of the iconic industrial grain silo, the characteristic convex-shaped windows are all we’ve been able to see of the hotel until now, and it has fostered huge expectations. Tonje Odegard from SPACE had a look to see if the interiors were able to meet them…

Located at the V&A Waterfront of one of South Africa’s capital cities, Cape Town, sits the historic industrial grain silo complex that was used for grain production and storage until it closed in August 2001. When it opened in 1924 it was the tallest building in Sub-Saharan Africa, and for the 80 years it was in operation, it was at the heart of South Africa’s industrial and agricultural development.

Now, the 65-metre high redeveloped building houses The Silo Hotel, the latest addition to The Royal Portfolio’s quintessentially South African luxury experiences, and the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (MOCAA), set to open in September. The museum has the responsibility of guarding the future of African art, weaving diverse backgrounds into the fabrics of now. Although intricately linked with Zeitz MOCAA, The Silo Hotel will host its own collection of contemporary African art, showcasing both up-and-coming artists as well as established artists alongside commissioned pieces by Frances Goodman, Jody Paulsen and Pierre Carl Vermeulen. In addition, The Vault in the hotel basement will be a private gallery exhibiting upcoming African artists on a biannual rotation.

The industrial rawness of the building makes it the perfect place to combine with modern art and a contemporary luxury hotel. The contrasted mixture of historic infrastructure and modern design makes for an intriguing and fascinating appearance, an iconic addition to the Cape Town skyline. 

South Africa’s capital is a fusion of rich culture, diversity, art, intriguing food, design, and natural wonder. The capital’s venture into one of the world’s top travel destinations and cool cities is something that has been represented in the design and interior of The Silo.

The hotel has a spa, gym, rooftop bar with a pool, a library, and a private gallery.


The Silo is located in the elevator portion of the building, occupying the six floors above what will soon become the Zeitz MOCAA. The museum, designed by Thomas Heatherwick, Founder and Principal of London-based design studio Heatherwick Studio, will be a contemporary art museum to rival the likes of London’s Tate Modern, MoMA in New York and Museo Nacional del Prado in Madrid.

Heatherwick Studio was tasked with the transformation of the elevator house and the adjacent storage annex of six rows of seven silos, while carefully retaining its cultural significance – the studio has managed to incorporate many of the original industrial features.

From the outside, the greatest visible change to the building’s original structure is the addition of pillowed glass windows, inserted into the geometry of the hotel floors, which bulge outward as if gently inflated. The windows are inspired by grain kernels, giving a gentle nod to the building’s history, and allow an abundance of natural light into the hotel. The double volume windows are one of the key architectural features of the building and by night, these will transform the building into a glowing harbour lantern.

Internally, the design was space-restricted due to the two core elevator shafts that run through the building, as well as the cubic geometry of each floor. Through ingenious and innovative use of the limited space, Liz Biden, owner of The Royal Portfolio, has reinvented the classic formula for a hotel suite, bringing a luxurious, colourful, and eclectic interior space to contrast the stark industrial exteriors.

Public spaces

The Silo’s lobby sets the scene for the contrast between old and new, a look that is frequently showcased throughout the hotel. Suspended from the double volume ceiling hangs Haldane Martin’s contemporary chandelier, contrasted against the original grain hoppers.

While the lobby is located on the ground floor, the main public space is on level six. This level also houses the Willaston Bar, Granary Café, meeting spaces, the private dining rooms, the library and two superior suites. This is where the reception is, and is accompanied by a boutique shop (housing Liz Biden’s favourite books and accessories), as well as a weighbridge across to Zeitz MOCAA.

The area displays unique variations of whimsical interior ornaments, colourful contemporary African art, and an original machine head emerging from what was once the distribution floor of the grain silo working house.

The library, on level six, has some stunning Oslo chairs in an interesting purple fabric called Monkey Bean from Ardmore’s Zambezi Collection range.


The Silo’s 28 rooms are divided into seven room categories based on room size and views. The rooms are more spacious vertically than horizontally due to the unique architecture of the hotel, in particular the pillow-design of the windows. The double-volume rooms instantly makes them feel luxurious. 

As with all other Royal Portfolio guestrooms, each room has been individually designed and decorated by Liz Biden. With the help from designer friends Ralph Krall and Colleen Kosoy, Biden has used lively, colourful, and eclectic designs to juxtapose the industrial architecture.

Marrying the different historical periods of South Africa in her design, Biden aims to balance the stark industrial style of the architecture with aspects of classic glamour and contemporary comfort. The geometric lines of the windows are quite masculine, so Biden has attempted to contrast this with the use of textures and colours to create a more balanced and comfortable space for her guests.

There is no denying that the windows become the immediate design feature of each room, so the job of decorating the space in a way that complements the windows, rather than create an overwhelming impression, is difficult. Liz Biden has been able to create rooms that ooze of luxury, use colour and bold design, yet maintain a subtle balance that makes it elegant, inviting and beautiful.   

Each headboard of each room has its distinctive design, handcrafted using exotic fabrics. One of them incorporates the Royal Leopard design from Ardmore ceramics first venture into fabrics – from their Qalakabusha range, which means ‘new beginnings’.

Showcasing the best of Africa while setting an international standard for a luxury hotel, The Silo has used local manufacturers, whenever possible, to have the highest quality materials and craftsmanship.

Drawing inspiration from her travels around the world, Biden has acquired a unique and varied collection of art and interior artefacts. The Silo compliments Zeitz MOCAA’s collection while at the same time offering some unique pieces from Liz Biden’s own gatherings. These are integrated well into the interiors of the rooms, creating an intimate feel.   

More than 80 gigantic crystal chandeliers, handmade in Egypt, hang from the ceiling across the 28 rooms – some of the chandeliers are human-size.

The bathrooms have the best views in the city, with the deep-soaking bathtubs centred on another pillowed window, and an oblique view from the shower.

The Penthouse is The Silo Hotel and The Royal Portfolio’s crown jewel, located on the top floor with a 24 square metre balcony.

Bars and restaurants

Wanting to incorporate the historical importance of the building into the DNA of The Silo, The Royal Portfolio has added details of the building’s legacy into various areas of the hotel. One of them is by naming one of the bars, The Willaston bar on level six, after the first ship that transported grain to Europe, the SS Willaston. The bar merges seamlessly into The Granary Café, another eatery whose name hints to the building’s history.

The Willaston houses beautiful velvet upholstery and herringbone tiles. The masculine bar desk in dark wood has a number of sophisticated green lamps on it to liven the place up. 

The rooftop bar and restaurant is an interesting space with access to the Sky Terrace, elevated at the core of the building. Green astro-turf adds colour to the bare industrial concrete and there is a magnificent rooftop pool decorated with intricate blue mosaics.

The Silo is not just another beautiful luxury hotel with impressive design. It’s a contemporary space where art, history, architecture and luxury come together in one elegant mix. A truly unique hotel, The Silo offers something different in the world of high-end hospitality. Well worth a visit.

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