Combining striking modern design and pared back interiors, Marataba Trails Lodge in the Waterberg’s Marakele National Park champions sustainable design with a system that’s entirely off the grid and solar powered.
Here, HL chats to architects Paul Swart and Rob Marneweck to find out more about their low-impact approach and the various methods in place to achieve it.
What was your brief?
The design had to be off the grid, as green as possible, respond to the EIA scoping report and strict SAN Parks environmental regulations, as well as touch the ground lightly. As a result, we feel it maximises guests’ comfort, luxury and privacy in a minimalistic manner.
Our philosophy for all our projects is to create responsive and responsible sustainable designs, answering completely to context, the environment, client brief and lifestyle expectations.
Tell us about the low impact design of the property from an aesthetic angle
The long, lean central facility nestles at the foot of the mountain. Its location was chosen to minimise the impact on the environment, being careful not to hinder views, guest experience and contact with nature. Our intention was to keep the structure as simple as possible; we tried to re- interpret existing buildings that are attached to the mountainside in a more contemporary way.
Higher up, the five guest suites are elevated along the steep mountainside contours using stilted steel framed structures that touch the ground as lightly as possible. They’re clad with timber and fully glazed blow-away fronts to incorporate the drama of the views of the surrounding mountains and valley below.
And what about the green features you’ve put in place?
The lodge is completely off the grid with all power supplied by inverters from photovoltaic solar panels with battery bank storage.
This comes from a local borehole, which is then solar-pumped to storage tanks and gravity fed to the central facility and units, minimising moving parts and maintenance. We’ve used gas for water heating and cooking needs.
One very different and special attribute that sets this lodge apart from others is the use of rocket stoves. Set into earth benches and stone feature walls for space heating in winter, we’ve used two of these exceptionally efficient clean burning stoves in the communal building. You can put one log into the vent and the stove will burn up to 2000 degrees Celsius. You wouldn’t require more than half a wheelbarrow of wood for one sitting.
We opted for natural stone in the lodge walls and pathways, which we collected sensitively from the site in line with the EIA scoping report. All timber used is certified plantation timber and the wall insulation is made from recycled material.
Temperature control and shading
Lath sliding and ‘eyebrow’ screens in the suites provide shade from the sun, and, together with the sod insulated roofs reduce the visual impact of the buildings on the mountainside. The roofs have been seeded with endemic grasses, approved by SAN Parks. The windows are also double glazed in aluminum frames for lower maintenance.
Visit marataba.co.za to find out more about this exceptional lodge. To get in touch with the architects call them on 011-462-0217.
Text Mila Crewe-Brown