The Silo is the Royal Portfolio’s newest project. Located in the heart of the V&A Waterfront, it will be the perfect addition to round out the portfolio of properties and an excellent hotel choice for Ker & Downey clients. We talked to Liz Biden, owner of the Royal Portfolio, about the design of The Silo and where she found her inspiration.
The Silo has been on Liz’s mind for years. Since starting the Royal Portfolio, Liz and her husband Phil had talked about opening a hotel in their hometown of Cape Town. Their dream will finally come to fruition in March 2017 with the opening of their newest hotel. It’s set in the heart of the V&A Waterfront in the historic grain silo. With the help of Architect Thomas Heatherwick, Founder and Principal of the London-based Heatherwick Studio who has been commissioned transform the elevator house and the adjacent storage annex of silos, the hotel is sure to make a statement.
Why was it important for you to add a property in Cape Town to your portfolio? What will The Silo add to the Royal Portfolio?
The Royal Portfolio is a family owned and run group of luxury hotels that we started in 1999 at Royal Malewane in the Kruger. We then added Birkenhead House in Hermanus and La Residence in Franschhoek. So we’re able to offer a safari, a coastal and a food and wine experience. But no circuit of South Africa would be complete without the art and culture of Cape Town. The Silo completes our jigsaw of quintessentially South African experiences.
How long was your search for the location of your Cape Town hotel?
Since we started The Royal Portfolio in 1999 we have always wanted to open a hotel in our home city of Cape Town. We have just been waiting for the perfect property in the perfect location.
When selecting a location for a Cape Town hotel, what qualities did you look for?
We hope that The Silo will become as synonymous with the Cape Town skyline as the Eiffel Tower is to Paris and the Sydney Opera House is to Sydney, so we were looking for an iconic destination. The V&A Waterfront is the largest tourist attraction in Africa – with more than 24 million visitors a year.
What is significant about the Grain Silo?
At 187 feet, the Grain Silo was the tallest building in Sub-Saharan Africa when it was opened in August 1924 after three years of construction. It closed in August 2001 after nearly 80 years at the heart of South Africa’s industrial and agricultural development. The Grain Silo played an integral role in terms of international trade as an export facility, but it also provided vital infrastructure to South Africa’s regional agricultural economies supporting local farming communities while also making a major contribution to the economic activities of Table Bay Harbour.
What about the historic Grain Silo makes it the perfect location for a Cape Town Hotel?
Certainly the location in the heart of the V&A Waterfront – a working harbour with spectacular views of the ocean, Robben Island, Table Mountain, Devil’s Peak, Lion’s Head, and Signal Hill. The Silo will be surrounded by museums, galleries, restaurants, bars, cafes, clubs, and of course the best shopping in Africa. The V&A Waterfront is the ideal spot from which to explore Cape Town and its surrounds.
How will the hotel tie into the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (MOCAA)? Will it influence the interior design of the hotel?
The Silo hotel is in the grain elevator portion of the Grain Silo building above Zeitz MOCAA which occupies the lower portion of the grain elevator as well as the 42 grain silos.
The museum is separate to the hotel, but we obviously share the same building. Zeitz MOCAA will be a huge draw card for Cape Town and for South Africa. An art museum to rival the likes of the Tate in London and MoMA in New York. So while it is separate, we will work closely with the museum and the V&A Waterfront to make the whole destination a huge success.
The entire building will have an industrial look and design which will carry through to the hotel. But the hotel will also be a comfortable, warm, and inviting space which will be achieved through the interior design. The art in the hotel will be in keeping with the collections of the museum.
Just like your other three properties, each room will be individually designed. Have you already started collecting pieces that will find their home in The Silo? Any you can tell us about?
I’ve been collecting pieces for The Silo for the last two years already! Sourcing pieces from Cape Town and around the world which are being stored in our family home much to my husband Phil’s chagrin.
I’m particularly excited about the original Cape Mahogany cabinets in the private dining room. They are extremely handsome and will be lined with yellow silk and gently lit.
Is there a theme for the rooms?
Each room will be different, but there is no theme. We are creating a style that complements the stark architecture and does not detract from the natural beauty of Cape Town through the 18-feet-tall windows. We particularly like the interiors of Soho House which achieve that balance between industrial, stylish, and comfortable.
What’s your process for selecting pieces?
I am always on the lookout for exquisite and unique pieces of furniture and art – whether on my travels or at home simply leafing through a magazine. I love combining pieces – something new with something worn. And I love creating pieces of my own. I often source fabrics and work with local manufacturers to create bespoke pieces for specific spaces in our properties.
A signature design element will be the pillowed window bays. What will these glazed panels add to the design of the hotel?
The building has been designed by Thomas Heatherwick, Founder and Principal of the London-based Heatherwick Studio. The pillowed glazing panels in the geometry of the grain elevator will bulge outward as if gently inflated. By night, this will transform the building into a glowing lantern or beacon in the harbour.
The other key architectural feature will be the enormous atrium carved out of the interior of the grain silos.
We’re excited for the opening of The Silo and think it will be the perfect addition to your South African itinerary. It’s opening in March 2017. For more information, please contact your Ker & Downey Travel Professional. To stay up to date on all of our online content, follow us on Facebook and Twitter.
*Photos courtesy of the Royal Portfolio.