The New Game Lodge.

The latest in luxury game lodge design, a combination of modern architecture with traditional materials, launches the safari experience into a new era of ecological consciousness.

Published: July 2015
Video/Photos: Supplied

Say the words “game lodge” or “safari” to most people and a pretty predictable picture pops into their minds. It’ll most likely involve gum poles and thatch, probably in a rondavel structure derived from the hunting lodges of the colonial era. For some reason, while other kinds of architecture have seen radical change, the old-style lodge has persisted. Well, until now, that is. Both architects and lodges have begun to realise
the potential for architecture to have a

profound effect on the experience of nature. As opposed to the nostalgia that has dominated the game lodge design tradition for so long, a number of new lodges are drawing on modern architectural innovation in their designs. Rather than being jarring or at odds with nature, these radical reinventions are bringing visitors closer to nature.

Here are three of the best lodges for design where art meets nature, and improves both:

andBeyond Sandibe Okavango Safari Lodge, Botswana

Sandibe Safari Lodge in the Okavango Delta was recently revamped by its original architect, Nick Plewman, together with the UK’s Michaelis Boyd Associates. Built from wood, the swooping curves of this remarkable structure manage at once to be spectacular and sympathetic to the natural setting, complementing its beauty rather than imposing on it. The lodge’s organic shapes and natural materials blend in beautifully with its surroundings. It’s clad in shingles like the scales of the pangolin that inspired its form, and other sections draw on local basket-weaving techniques. The experience inside the “skeleton” of the lodge is nothing short of magical, as it plays with your sense of scale. Sandibe might be incredibly photogenic and spectacular to look at, but it never makes the mistake of trying to compete with its natural setting, so it fuses the best of both worlds.

Built from wood, the swooping curves of this remarkable structure manage at once to be spectacular and sympathetic to the natural setting.
The wooden interiors, while seeming modern, are inspired by the shapes and forms of a skeleton, so that walking through them is like being in the (very stylish) belly of the beast. The furnishings were sourced from South Africa’s top furniture designers.
While it is undeniably modern and avant-garde, Sandibe is an African-inspired design built not only to look spectacular, but to facilitate game viewing and bring guests closer to nature.
A curving boardwalk leading to a circular viewing deck continues the architectural language of curved and organic shapes that predominate throughout the lodge, once again immersing guests in nature through thoughtful and inspired architecture.
A traditional feature of traditional game lodges, such as the boma, is given the modern treatment, but nonetheless preserves one of the most enjoyable of safari experiences, outdoor dining.
The swooping, curving architecture of Sandibe’s 12 suites blends indoor and outdoor space, providing not just privacy but a sense of solitary communion with nature.

Chinzombo Camp, Zambia

Architects Silvio Rech and Lesley Carstens have had a massive influence on the evolution of the safari lodge over the course of their careers, and are famous for designs such as the Makalali Private Game Lodge in Hoedspruit, designed almost 20 years ago, as well as the villas at Seychelles’ North Island resort, where they fused natural material and local craftsmanship to create sensual experiential architecture. At Norman Carr Safaris’ new camp, Chinzombo, they have retained the sensuality and texture, and the sense of architecture as something that fuses with the visitor’s experience of nature – but in the form of modern glass and steel pavilions. The contrast between the pared-back modernist form and the richness of the local materials is central to the experience. The lodge’s pavilions are undeniably beautiful and unobtrusive in the landscape, and almost entirely recyclable, but retain their connection to nature through their use of materials. Chinzombo is an icon in the avant-garde lodge aesthetic. Who said appreciating nature couldn’t be a modern experience?

Chinzombo2

 

At Norman Carr Safaris’ new camp, Chinzombo, they have retained the sensuality and texture, and the sense of architecture as something that fuses with the visitor’s sense of nature.

Singita Lebombo and Sweni Lodges, Kruger National Park, South Africa

To go to the origins of the new wave of safari lodges, it’s necessary to go back a few years, to 2003, to discover one of the first structures that departed from the hackneyed traditions of lodge design, and opened the door to some of the new approaches we see today. Singita Lebombo and Sweni Lodges, designed by the architects of the Constitutional Court in Johannesburg, designworkshop : sa, had to comply with certain standards of sustainability and ecological sensitivity in their design. They needed to be designed in such a way that they could be taken down after 20 years and leave the landscape looking untouched.

The style is somewhat modern, somewhat traditional and barely touches the land, standing on a rocky promontory on long, steel stilts. Aluminium frames are covered in screens made from latte, making them look modern, but combined with local and traditional materials in such a way as to create a dialogue between architecture and nature that enhances the experience of being there. Like all these three lodges, the Singita lodges are luxurious to the extreme, but engage with their setting in a language of modern ecology as nothing before ever could.

Aluminium frames are covered in screens made from latte, making them look modern, but combined with local and traditional materials in such as way as to create a dialogue between architecture and nature… and engaging with their setting in the language of modern ecology.