Green building meets evolution in this beautiful boutique hotel designed by Activate Architects in South Africa. Located on the Letamo Estate in the Cradle of Humankind, the origin of all human beings, the building takes its inspiration from the World Heritage site's rich evolutionary history. Although the original buildings on site had to be deconstructed, the architects made an impressive effort to incorporate many reused materials into their new design. They also rehabilitated the surrounding landscape and waterways previously degraded by mining and poor environmental management.
Although the existing buildings could not be incorporated into the new design, many of the materials were donated elsewhere or broken down and recycled as a new construction material. This includes much of the waste rock left behind by a former mine.
The project features a green roof in addition to concrete retaining and cavity walls, which ensure a high thermal mass. This keeps the buildings warm during winter and cool during summers and reduces electricity needs by almost 75%.
Previously serviced by defunct septic tanks, the facility now includes a black water treatment plant that converts hotel sewage into potable water. The overflow channel of the large farm dam, which interrupts flow to the Bloubank River, was transformed into a natural wetland that complies with local environmental regulations. Storm water is channeled into the rehabilitated dam.
Where possible, invasive plants and trees were removed and re-purposed as mulch or building materials and then replaced with up to 140 indigenous species, restoring the natural veld landscape. The rooms, media center, boardroom and restaurant are all partially tucked underground, while sculptures scattered throughout the property pay homage to the origin and evolution of human beings.
The playful dialogue between architecture, landscape, and history offers more than just a subtle hint of the fragile interconnection of life. And that is a fine thing to behold.