The grain silo was the tallest building in Sub-Saharan Africa at 57m when it opened in August 1924 after three years of construction. Much like that initial construction, the redevelopment of the building has taken almost three years since breaking ground in May 2014.
From dream to reality
The redevelopment had international vision but it is very much a local success story that has engaged a vast cast of characters and businesses creating jobs and pioneering engineering and architectural opportunities. A development of this nature must remain relatively fluid in order to deal with the numerous challenges discovered on site along the way. The experienced team has had to adapt and enhance the design as the project has evolved.
During the redevelopment, the building has grown to 65m and the external façade of the grain elevator has transformed into an intriguing modern tower through the incorporation of 82 pillowed glass windows carefully inserted into the geometry of The Silo Hotel. Zeitz MOCAA occupies the lower part of the grain elevator and the 42 grain storage silos.
There are a further 20 pillowed glass windows on top of the grain silos themselves taking the total count of these colossal fixtures to 102. Each window protrudes over a metre, is roughly 5.5 metres tall and contains 56 triangular glass panels.
Looking through these windows is a unique experience – a compound eye gazing upon one of the most beautiful cities in the world. A modern lens that feels at times like being at the helm of the Millennium Falcon.
Comfort & Design
Comfort and design are not always the most sympathetic bedfellows. Much of The Silo Hotel development has been about finding a balance between contemporary industrial design and guest comfort and enjoyment.
Liz and the rest of The Royal Portfolio team place guest comfort and enjoyment at the heart of everything. The pillowed glass windows themselves have been a great example of these at times opposing ideals – reconciling spectacular design with guest comfort in terms of temperature, light and privacy.
Heatherwick’s initial vision for the grain elevator portion of the building did not contain any opening windows – a pleasing aesthetic but an impracticality for a luxury hotel. A compromise was reached where every room in the hotel would have access to fresh air by incorporating sliding doors and balconies into the centre of each of the four external walls.
Each bedroom is fitted with black-out blinds that unfurl automatically from the ceiling while each bathroom is fitted with sheer blinds allowing guests to enjoy the incredible views in privacy. Trench heaters, under floor heating and air conditioning ensure guests’ comfort through the seasons.