When the team at KLG Architects, a South Africa-based company that specializes in contemporary design, was asked to design a retreat deep inside a nature reserve, the result is architecture that respects nature while providing a safe, comfortable and off-grid space for humans in it.
Located in the Kogelberg Nature Reserve, 1.5 hours outside of Cape Town, the retreat’s purpose is to accommodate the environmental staff who work on the reserve as well as provide guest amenities, which include a natural swimming pool and several cabins.
The challenges were significant with the remote location, including an inability to get large equipment into the region, so the team began by studying the landscape to understand the topography and vegetation. Careful consideration in protecting the fynbos region was a primary goal. With this central focus, the team selected a location for the structures that would have the lowest impact and began sketching designs on paper. In the end, the architects created five two-person cabins and three six-person cabins set in place with minimal site impact, including small concrete supports. Each cabin is raised off the ground, allowing animals to cross and water to flow beneath. A network of floating boardwalks connects the cabins while preserving the natural environment.
Pine was selected as the primary building material due to its availability and natural gray fading that allows it to blend into the landscape. Each cabin is situated to highlight the views and comes complete with an outdoor deck with a private pergola for protection from the sun and heat. Inside, small wood-burning stoves warm the cabins at night while strategically placed vents provide cooling cross-ventilation. High specification insulation throughout the cabins further contributes to energy savings.
The designers also incorporated off-grid technology such as waterless Enviro-loos. This form of dry sanitation relies on heat from the sun to convert sewage into compost without the use of water, chemicals or electricity.
The water that is needed in the retreat is sourced from the nearby Palmiet River, which is treated at a new water purification plant. Full solar geyser systems were used throughout. In addition, green roofs are planted with carefully chosen endemic grasses, which help cool the space. As described by KLG Architects, “The resultant design sits harmoniously in the environment and connects the user to the natural landscape, providing a perfect retreat experience.”
Photography by David Southwood via KLG Architects