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The Silo Hotel, Cape Town

An opulent dreamscape of refracted light tops the city's forthcoming contemporary art museum

by Karen Day
on 04 April 2017

Walking into the three-room Royal Suite on the ninth floor of Cape Town's Silo Hotel is a little like entering a physical manifestation of “Diamonds On the Soles of Her Shoes.” Your dropped jaw is followed by a grin, and as the golden sun bursting through the floor-to-ceiling windows dances across the colorful space, you join in. It becomes easy to understand why Paul Simon wrote the euphorically vibey tune while surrounded by South African light; it is all-encompassing in its radiance. And as we recently found out, this newly opened hotel is the perfect place to revel in it.

For starters, The Silo is a mindblower in scale. The property occupies six floors above what will, this September, become the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (MOCAA), and together they’re housed in a historic grain silo complex at the foot of the V&A Waterfront. The tallest building in Sub-Saharan Africa when it opened in 1924, the monolithic structure stopped functioning in 2001 and is now the vision of British architect Thomas Heatherwick of Heatherwick Studios. He’s created a cathedral-like atrium within the center of the adjacent museum and wrapped the hotel’s 28 rooms, restaurant and bar in a mosaic of "pillowed" windows which bulge outward from the facade and reflect the brilliant blue sky like massive gemstones.

Inside, the geometric panels frame incredible views of Table Mountain, City Bowl and Table Bay Harbour; peering out through the collage of thick-lined panes adds a kaleidoscopic effect. Watching a hang glider soaring in the distance while you enjoy a fresh fish sandwich and local chenin blanc at lunch makes it all the more surreal. So does catching the prism of shadows that envelop your room at sunset. The rooftop sky terrace is pretty ideal for a sundowner, but seeing daylight dramatically come to a close from the comfort of your bed (or the giant porcelain tub) is somewhat unbeatable.

While the New York City-fast internet speeds make staying at The Silo a dream for business travelers, a real relaxation must is to spend time at the 4th floor spa. Cloaked in white and barring the South African sun, the space has a sort of Stanley Kubrick feeling to it that matches its modern services. From a neo-tissuedermie to a 24-carat skin architecture treatment to a charcoal detox (which we did and found so relaxing it was an almost existential experience), the menu includes 14 different kinds of facials in addition to myriad massages, crystal therapies and nail treatments. A stint in the sauna is sure to help with jet lag.

If this all sounds crazily luxurious, it is: The Silo is decidedly over-the-top in almost every way conceivable. The colorful furniture is a little loud but packs a strong, cohesive point of view, and no detail has been overlooked. Particularly the art, and not only because of Zeitz MOCAA downstairs. The hotel is part of The Royal Portfolio, owned by Phil and Liz Biden, who have four other properties in South Africa—all of which prominently feature works by the country’s top artists. Liz is an enthusiast and avid collector, and with this venture she’s even built a private gallery in the basement.

There is art scattered throughout, and begins in the industrial, cement-and-marble ground floor lobby. Here you’ll find commissioned works by Jody Paulsen and Frances Goodman, and a site-specific chandelier by Haldane Martin. Photographs by Cyrus Kabiru, Zanele Muholi and Nandipha Mntambo grace the communal walls upstairs, and in our suite hangs one of emerging artist Pierre Carl Vermeulen’s large-scale, gold-leaf “Sweat Prints.” Once the museum opens—which is set to rival the likes of MoMA in New York and London’s Tate Modern—visitors can pop by The Silo for a drink at Willaston Bar or dinner at Granary Cafe, where the art continues.

The opulence comes at a price, but The Silo is a worthy splurge. Rooms start from R12,000 a night (around $900) in the low season and can be booked online from The Royal Portfolio site.

Images by Karen Day

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