With interiors and an architectural style that’s deeply rooted in indigenous design traditions, the recently opened Bisate Lodge pays tribute to Rwandan culture while honouring its natural surroundings.
Set on the edge of the renowned Volcanoes National Park in northern Rwanda, Bisate Lodge is comprised of six spacious forest villas with spherical, thatched structures that echo the thousands of hills that dot the Rwandan countryside.
The lodge is the newest project from Wilderness Safaris, a sustainable ecotourism operator that specializes in providing wildlife experiences in remote areas of Africa. The 103-acre Bisate Lodge boasts stunning views of three volcanoes. The villas are even located in a natural amphitheatre of an eroded volcanic cone, further capturing the essence of the terrain. The resort is part of the spectacular Volcanoes National Park Headquarters, thanks to a pioneering onsite indigenous reforestation project—making it close enough for guests to take a morning gorilla trek.
The architecture and design was created collaboratively and led by principal architect Nick Plewman, with additional input from the National Ethnographic Museum, among others. The design team took inspiration from the Royal Palace at Nyanza and injected modern sensibilities.
The interior design references a variety of aspects of Rwandan lifestyle, especially the colorful textiles and heavy use of texture. Teta Isibo, a Rwandan fashion entrepreneur and founder of Inzuki Designs—who was also named by Forbes as one of Africa’s 30 Most Promising Young Entrepreneurs for 2017—was commissioned to collaborate with the project’s interior design team. It was led by Caline Williams-Wynn and her team from Artichoke to source locally-produced items and bring a vibrant authentic Rwandan flair to the interiors.
Recycled glass was used for chandeliers, volcanic stone was used in the fireplaces, black-and-white cow hides were used to reflect the rural way of life in the villages, and the traditional ibyansi milk jug motif is repeated throughout. Imigongo, a traditional art form unique to Rwanda where cow dung is mixed with different color soils and painted into geometric shapes, was also employed.
However, Bisate Lodge embraces its location in many more ways than just its design. “When we made the decision to invest in Rwanda, the last thing we intended to do was just to build a boutique lodge and sell gorilla treks,” Wilderness Safaris’ COO Grant Woodrow explains. “We wanted to ensure that our brand of responsible ecotourism made a real difference to both rural Rwandan people and biodiversity conservation.”
LOCATION: Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda
PRINCIPAL ARCHITECT: Nick Plewman