Didimala Lodge's owners made only two requests: make our building audacious, and make it green. Edwin Anderssen from Dumani Architects won the bid. Situated 30 miles north of South Africa's capital, the five star lodge was built from 10,000 wheat straw bales. Wheat straw is an ideal building material since it is cellulose-based, meaning there is nothing for the critters to eat, and it is essentially a byproduct that might otherwise have gone to waste. To date, such luminaries as Nelson Mandela and Tony Blair have experienced the luxurious side of sustainable architecture here. Let's hope many more will do the same.
The wheat straw bales were wrapped in chicken wire (a kind of light metal fencing ubiquitous in South Africa) and then covered in a layer of gunite. While an expensive and not-so-earth-friendly material, gunite nonetheless ensures the building will last a long time. The floors were made with polished screed and inlaid with pebble borders.
The entire facility, which includes a 20 room lodge, a massive boardroom that seats 30, a function hall, and even an underground, soundproof cinema with 50 rotating seats, is built from the strawbale. Note the interior seating and shelving, all moulded into a soft, wavy form that is typical of versatile building materials. The roof was constructed with post-beam thatch. Didimala’s genius in a country like South Africa – still somewhat behind on the eco-scene – is to make a building genre typically reserved for “treehuggers” highly sought after by the upper classes.