Chinzombo Bush Camp

In House and Leisure’s May 2014 issue, on sale now, we document our most recent trip to Zambia where we stayed at the latest exclusive camp in the Norman Carr portfolio: Chinzombo. Conceptualised by architects Silvio Rech, Lesley Carstens and Jack Frenkel, a stay at any one of the six luxury villas is a one-of-a-kind safari experience, with its innovative architecture that allows the man-made structure to be enveloped by the surrounding landscape. Here Silvio Rech talks about the inspiration behind Chinzombo and what he hoped to achieve with the design. With Chinzombo we wanted to look at a new way of doing a bush camp without losing the feeling of being in the bush, and without the people who were going to these places feeling that it was too modern or too offensive. So we tried to come up with a new concept, a new way of being in the bush, and it revolved around the materiality. We were looking at a way of using a steel frame, putting it in the bush and making it non-offensive. It’s got a walking-stick colour, which blends in with the forest, and the way some of the units are placed in the trees, you almost feel as if the structure is part of the forest. From a material point of view, the steel frame was manufactured off site, which seemed to be the best way of doing it; off of the flat roof, the camp can can do rainwater collection or put up solar panels – another aspect of this new approach; the third thing was that instead of using normal timber we used reconstituted timber for the flooring. The combination of the steel paneling of the structure plus thatch insulation that collects rainwater, and the pre-manufactured flooring results in a modern, Mies van der Rohe type of structure, which is so clean and minimal that you actually focus more on the bush outside than the trinkets inside. It’s a clean, pristine environment that’s soft and accommodating. You notice the interior and simplicity of the structure and the nature outside more than you actually notice the building itself. It’s a polite way of placing an object in this landscape. In a sense Chinzombo stands apart from other bush camps. It’s hand made, it’s more modern, but at the same time, it’s actually more minimal and there is a connection with the ground, so you feel more a part of the bush. The use of man-made vertical thatch in the bedrooms, and the element of canvas conjures up images of tenting, which goes back to the other camps in the Norman Carr portfolio. The bathroom is made from the vertical canvas, beautifully detailed and double stitched in places, so the rigid pre-manufactured roof and floor combined with the handcrafted materiality in the bedroom and bathroom gives rise to quite a nice archetype. We like to be innovative. I think it’s a trendsetting piece of architecture in the landscape of the safari. Silvio Rech and Lesley Carstens Architecture and Interiors, 011-486-1525, Read more about this luxury camp in HL's May 2014 Easy Living issue.