renovation of the beach front venue
A project for the renovation of the beach front facilities of the “Sunset Bungalows” holiday resort in Kendwa Beach, north of Zanzibar, Ugunja island.
The program regarded the design of a bar in combination with its sitting area, DJ spot and dance floor and a restaurant with its kitchen, storage and also dining, buffet and lounge areas. Furthermore, in the initial brief a swimming pool and an area dedicated to individual commercial boutiques were included in the design of the beach front, but those were not included in the realization of the project.
It is a project that enhances the indubitable natural beauty of a Zanzibari beach, respects its sensitive location and at the same time provides all the expected luxury and comfort and allow the visitor to enjoy one of the most beautiful sunsets on this world.
What was special about it and the main motive for us to accept taking the challenge of its renovation, was the open character and identity of the existing situation. Welcoming and facilitating equally the touristic ‘elite’ and the local community. From the first meetings with the owner, we understood that he had a vision to embrace this identity but in a different, more contemporary setting, as the competition from the surrounding emerging holiday resort was growing fast.
The most noticeable element is the ‘parapata’, which is the Swahili name for a brilliant architectural feature, existing in most of the residencies around the island. It is a, most often, concrete slab which receives the rain water from the roof and functions like a big gutter, leading the water out of the building and to the ground. The ‘parapata’ is normally located above the entrance hall of the house, serving as a threshold. In our building, we incorporated this idea as an element that would both give a clean finish for the ‘makuti’ (thatched) roof and also function as a gutter for the huge amount of storm water, collected from the roof, during rainy seasons.
The combination of modern, clear and somehow minimal design with the traditional building and handcraft techniques, brought an amazing result that we cannot really fit into a specific architectural style.
The concept was to understand the existing, respect it, embrace it and enhance it, make a plan but be open to alterations and suggestions coming from the experienced local practices, and try to combine all this with a result that visitors would appreciate, and… have fun!
The inspiration was a combination of things. Definitely the location and landscape, which we loved since the first moment and wanted to create something sensitive and beautiful. But it was mostly the skills of each one of the builders, carpenters, furniture makers, iron welders and so on. The inspiration was an ongoing procedure, influencing our ideas every day by understanding what we had at our disposal and how we could guide it and use it.
Local materials, local workforce and respect to the Zanzibari culture and way of working. Passive design strategies, which are absolutely essential when designing something in tropical areas; everything is open and offers a cool and safe experience, only by exploiting sun position, wind direction and vegetation in strategic locations, without the use of any mechanical means. Last but not least, the storm water that is collected from the ‘parapata’ (concrete gutter) is guided in specific outlets and ends up watering the plants.
Amélie Chauvin, AforA Architects