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Cape Town Grain Silo Becomes Luxury Hotel & Africa’s Largest Contemporary Art Museum

Repurposing old, abandoned, and decrepit spaces has become something of a passion for many modern architects. A stark, 90-year-old grain elevator amid Cape Town’s otherwise beautiful and bustling V&A Waterfront hardly seemed like a structure worth saving. But, while most Capetonians saw the tower as an eye sore, famed London design studio, Heatherwick Studio, saw a unique opportunity.

Nearly one hundred years after its construction, the massive grain silo — a long-time fixture of the Cape Town skyline — will soon reopen with a decidedly different purpose. Over the last few years, the structure has slowly been converted into a one-of-a-kind public space. When it opens its doors in September, it will feature a central, cathedral-style atrium, more than 80 individual art galleries, and a sculpture garden on the roof. The latter will offer sweeping views of Table Mountain and the city’s famous Atlantic harbor. The silo will become known as the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (MOCAA) and will officially be the first and largest museum in Africa dedicated to contemporary art. The cross-media, cultural space will display sculptures, paintings, interactive video installations, and photo works, plus feature a performance space. It further solidifies Cape Town as the most modern, most cosmopolitan city on the continent.

In addition, the top six floors of the silo will open as a stunning boutique luxury hotel. The property, dubbed The Silo, is part of Royal Portfolio’s list of upscale hotels. Each of the 28 rooms will feature unique, “pillowed” windows that bulge outward as though they were gently blown out like a steel and glass balloon. All are individually designed with a decor that’s equal parts eclectic, modern, and industrial. The top floor will feature a panoramic sundeck with a restaurant and a glass-sided outdoor pool.

Heatherwick Studio is well-known for its unique Olympic Cauldron designed for the 2012 London Olympics.  The studio’s founder and Design Director, Thomas Heatherwick, saw the silo’s redesign as a unique challenge, noting: “The idea of turning a giant disused concrete grain silo made from 116 vertical tubes into a new kind of public space was weird and compelling from the beginning.” The Zeitz Museum project joins the likes of similar abandoned industrial projects like the striking Elbphilharmonie concert hall in Hamburg and London’s Tate Modern museum.

The Zeitz MOCAA Museum’s grand opening will take place September 22 with advance tickets available for purchase now.

Images Courtesy of The Silo Hotel, Zeitz MOCAA and Heatherwick Studio

Mike Richard
Mike Richard has traveled the world since 2008. He's kayaked in Antarctica, tracked endangered African wild dogs in South…
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