Traditional crafts and native materials form the highlights of the Benguerra Lodge, Mozambique, designed by London-based Michaelis Boyd Associates along with interior designer Marguerite Louw.
A white sand beach and thickset bushes make up the surroundings of the Benguerra Lodge, a luxury beach retreat on an unspoilt island in the Indian Ocean. Located on the Benguerra Island, the second largest island of the Bazaruto Archipelago in Mozambique, this place is re-designed by Michaelis Boyd Associates, a London-based architecture and design practice, using traditional local construction. Elements such as thatched roofs, reed walls and a timber structure have been combined with a modern design edge to create stylish spaces that remain cool in Mozambique´s hot weather.
With pathways leading from the main areas to each of the fifteen -guest rooms, the design embraces the rich and complex heritage of the island. Working alongside interior designer Marguerite Louw, the design team selected traditional Mozambican crafts and materials to converge with elements of Portuguese colonial design, such as richly patterned fabrics or handmade terracotta tiles.
Boyd´s approach to the project focused on maintaining and enhancing the local environment and wildlife. Timber decks frequently open up to allow local Lala Palm trees to grow through them, and the waste water from the lodge is recycled to irrigate the plants and trees.
Cut off from mainland infrastructure and supply lines and using predominantly local labour and materials, the lodge design pushes the limits of construction within the island environment. The design evolved through a series of iterations and creative experiments to arrive at a suitable solution.
Living in luxury
The fifteen guest rooms include ten casitas, which have traditional majeka thatched roofs, outdoor showers and expansive timber decks leading out to infinity edge pools facing the beach. There are two cabanas, with local caniso reed walls and thatched roofs, and a family villa. Each of the guest rooms is accessed through a winding path that leads through the bush before turning off to the rooms and giving breath-taking views of the beach and the Indian Ocean.
Boyd re-modelled the decks and pools for each room to make the most of the sea views and to ensure each room has privacy. Pools have infinity edges that face the sea, giving the guests a thrilling swimming experience.
Boyd also added two small structures outside each room to offer shade. One of them is replete with a shower and features a hanging bed to provide a sheltered space to retreat to between swims. The second one sits on the deck beside the pool, and can be used for meals or simply as a comfortable space for sun bathing.
The main building of the lodge is a dramatic timber-framed structure thatched with majeka. This building hosts a bar, a reception and a beach shop. With its huge simbiri beams and tall thatched roofs, the main building is almost camouflaged by the density of the bush. The open garden patch in front of the building has several huge Ficus trees.
A pagoda with local jasmine climbing up it leads to an extended gable and into a room with a garden view. The Dhow Bar stands to the left side of the room. From the room, one can head straight for the beach. The view is framed by the simbiri structure and the loose hanging edges of the majeka thatched roof. Behind the lodge are a number of dunes covered with bushes, which help shelter the lodge from winds that blow from the Indian Ocean.
Years ago, the Dhow, a local sailing boat, was washed up onto the beach in a cyclone, and has been converted into a bar. A large sail stretches over the whole bar to provide shade and shelter.
The Benguerra Lodge is rightly called a retreat, and not a resort, as it defines luxury amidst nature.
Text: Sumisha Gilotra