Like the famous Lloyd Hotel in Amsterdam, every room in this hotel features a local creative mind. Similarly, too, this hotel is part of a programmatic rehabilitation of a rundown, post-industrial/post-manufacturing zone of the city center, deserted after the end of apartheid as white-owned businesses and affluent consumers decamped to the northern suburbs and created a "new" city in Rosebank/Sandton. As in Amsterdam, creatives—artists, architects, designers—take leading roles in this downtown Jo'burg revitalization, driven, though, by one developer, who owns the hotel, the apartments on the lower floors, and the arts mews, called Arts on Main [Street], two blocks down. The precinct is called Maboneng, meaning "place of light" in the Sesotho language of migrant laborers. Arts on Main houses several galleries and studios for artists and designers, and a vibey Sunday market, with some of Johannesburg's more interesting minds relaxing with hangovers, sunglasses, and some with kids, at outdoor cafes within the precinct. Though the surrounding area is gritty, there is CCTV and security. When the flashier wealth decamped, the predators followed their victims north, so you are probably safer here than in Sandton. Come sundowners, the Sunday party moves to the roof of the 12 Decades for magnificent vistas across the entire city, or, if you are feeling punchy, you can box into the punching bags at the rooftop gym. Do NOT book in here if you like cookie-cutter "business" hotels or pine for a normal life -- in fact don't be in Jo'burg if that's what you like. If you can tolerate, even relish, some impracticalities, like slippery tiles in the bathroom and beds on raised platforms, you will only find 12 Decades' rooms a pleasure, and savor the hotel's originality and courage. In fact, the rooms are more like art installations than anything else: they embroil you into an act of performance. You are on stage; you are a work in progress. The staff is eager to help and smooth out wrinkles in the "hotel experience": extra towels, ordering takeouts from the restaurant next door, plugging in space heaters in winter (this is the old merely "Modern" Johannesburg, no central heating or cooling). Their view is that they are on the road to better service. You probably will never forget your stay—and you are likely to meet truly interesting people. You can bring them home to entertain, cook for them: the suites are really self-contained apartments. Or take them to the on-site art cinema for an off-beat film. Even native Johannesburgers find the 12 Decades a trip, and a novel experience. You should hire a car, and you can park it indoors, on-site. Stay here to experience the City of Johannesburg in a way few others will. I highly recommend this for creative types, art lovers, and those with a sense of adventure. Our son aged 6 loved it, too. Our bed was vast, big enough for 6, like a huge, soft, playpen.
Each of the 12 suites is unique, created by one artist to represent one of the 12 decades of Johanne...
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