Situated on the periphery of Queen Elizabeth National Park in South West Uganda, one of Africa’s finest parks, Kyambura Gorge Lodge is a newly completed eco tourism venture focusing on wildlife conservation, wetlands restoration and community engagement.
The lodge comprises of eight Bandas (rooms), each spacious with its own private decks and luxurious bathrooms. There are four Gorge Banda’s, nestled between trees alongside the raging torrents of Kyambura Gorge, home to an isolated population of chimpanzees, and four Savannah Banda’s, placed along a ridge with panoramic views across Queen Elizabeth National Park and the Mythical Rwenzori Mountains beyond.
The main areas of the lodge: dining, lounge, bar, pool, massage, reception etc, have been integrated with the remnant buildings of an abandoned coffee processing plant. The original structure has been restored with a series of external spaces added to the fringes of the buildings to create amenity, shaded patios, external living and viewing terraces.
Our client encouraged us to respect local traditions, values, to create an experience born of the place, whilst benefiting the environment, the local community and the company. The lodge’s design bases its conceptual foundation on locally found materials, local building typologies and objects, constructed with locally sourced labour and skills.
Locally fired clay bricks, sourced from a number of surrounding communities provide the main building material for the Savannah Bandas, which explore the diversity and beauty inherent in building with bricks that each have differing sizes, colours and textures.
Roofs and wall cladding on Banda’s and the refurbishment of buildings from the old coffee processing plant use recycled corrugated iron. The old and rusted corrugated iron was collected from surrounding villages in a ‘rusty roof exchange’ where new roofs were built, for local schools and those in need, in exchange for old ones.
Inspired by the ingenuity of African ‘up-cycled’ objects, building materials, tools and knowhow, the lodge has been designed and assembled from a pastiche of locally available materials, furniture, found objects and skills.
Nothing is wasted, all broken, waste materials and objects, complete with imperfections and flaws, are utilised and expressed. Whilst such a strategy is sustainable by nature, the context from which it is generated is born from necessity to source locally in remote regions and an inclusive interior design process informed by material availability and skills specific to the local Ugandan craftsmanship.
Natural materials area expressed and contrasted. Varying brick types, hues from local timbers, bamboo and reeds are juxtaposed to create a complex display of depth, light and shadow. Indirect light is allowed to filter through gaps between blade walls and roofs, reed screens are clad cover mosquito mesh to allow dappled light to wash the papyrus matt ceilings. Surfaces are awash with the glow from morning sun and the crimson reds of the Ugandan sunset.
During the harsh midday sun, direct light is excluded from interiors spaces by the large overhanging roofs. Carefully placed lighting and splashes of colour are integrated to provide a counter to the earthen tones of the natural materials.
Each Banda is prescribed a colour tone inspired by the pastel coloured paints and mud washes used in contemporary Uganda mud huts.
The raw surfaces of the natural materials are expressed internally as they are externally. The textured surfaces create a backdrop for found and salvaged objects. Trunks made from recycled metal, sideboards from roadside shops and old chairs that have been mended anew with minimum of effort, leaving traces and scars from previous lives.
Remnants of local fabrics found in markets are collaged together with end of line London high street fabrics sent to Africa for resale and distribution, to create bedspreads, curtains and pillow covers. Recycled hessian coffee sacks, paying homage to the sites previous life as a coffee plantation, are patched and sewn together to create curtains.