We were completely awestruck when we spotted the stunning Dar Hi eco-hotel over at Designboom. Located on a hill on the edge of the Sahara Desert in Tunisia, the modern project borrows from local traditions and materials to create an environmentally-sensitive retreat. French designer Matali Crasset’s first venture into architecture blends social and private spaces and keeps cool in the intense sun. The eco resort is made almost entirely from locally-sourced materials and labor — a refreshing reflection on the potential for localization in building design.
Tunisia is only a few hours from Paris, and the two nations have shared a strong cultural relationship since the mid 1800’s. Tourism is a growing industry, but most of the hotels are generic western designs which are ill-suited for the region. The Dar Hi stands out — not only on the hill in the small town of Nefta — but for its deeply embedded notion of localization. The interior woodwork, fabric, and decorations are made with local palm fiber and wood — in fact, a group called Palmlab researches uses for palm in a faculty located within the Hotel.
The floor plan of the retreat consists of outdoor shaded community areas, a central spa and bath, and rooms extended above that take advantage of the immense views while creating privacy and shaded outdoor spaces below. Not only are the clay bricks and exterior finishings made with local materials but the structural elements were developed using local building techniques.
Of course, to finish off the day, guests are invited to partake in locally-inspired cuisine developed by international chiefs located in the restaurant at the heart of the retreat — the design is French after all.