A slick new safari space in Sabi Sand by ARRCC simultaneously grounds and inspires bush lovers
Lodges are a dime a dozen in South Africa. But those that approach safari from a fresh perspective are not as common. The new Cheetah Plains game lodge in the Sabi Sand Game Reserve in the Kruger National Park was designed by ARRCC in a way that immerses the guest in the landscape while creating a cocoon of luxury living.
Refreshingly combining high-end design and nature, the firm has successfully created a juxtaposition that highlights both aspects. The merging of state-of the-art sustainable architecture and an earthy Afro-minimalist aesthetic serves to complement the setting it’s built in. “Our lifestyles are modern; nature is raw and primal. It is in that honest contrast that a beautiful tension exists,” says lead architect Stefan Antoni. “The architecture exists to enhance the experience of the outdoors – not to mimic it, but to complement it so that guests may experience the bush more directly, more immediately.”
Split into three separate ‘Plains Houses’ – which in turn are made up of clusters of free-standing buildings, the design diverges from the typical lodge layout of a central communal space and satellite suites. The sense of contrast continues in the use of materials – clean-lined off-shutter concrete complemented by raw materials which ground the design in the landscape and allow an easy flow from inside to out.
Textures like hand-packed raw Mica, naturally rusting Corten steel and timber introduce warmth and rawness and are intended to weather over time, allowing the structure to evolve.
Where the architecture is linear and precise, the interiors introduce softness and texture (with certain elements like rough stone walls and weathered steel linking to the grittiness outdoors). “The idea was always to redefine luxury and usher in a new language of African design for safari,” says ARRCC director of interior design Mark Rielly. “The result is interiors that are at once uniquely African, yet undeniably modern with natural finishes and sophisticated detailing.”
Richly textured fabrics, aged leathers, and wood grains have been subtly offset with sleek details in gold, bronze, and black, via furniture, art and objets – many custom designed by ARRCC and OKHA in collaboration with local craftsmen, including Colin Rock, Pierre Cronje and Gerrit Giebel.
“The story of the design is a collaborative vision that carefully explores the considered design of every element and their materials to reveal their natural beauty and purest form, shaping elements that are raw and transforming them into objects of luxury,” says Rielly.