Michaelis Boyd Associates, the London-based architecture and design practice, has completed the redesign of Benguerra Lodge, a luxury beach retreat on an unspoilt island in the Indian Ocean.
The project involved the complete renovation and modernization of an existing lodge on Benguerra Island, the second largest island of the Bazaruto Archipelago in Mozambique. The lodge is nestled in the bush alongside a white sand beach, with pathways leading from the main areas to each of the fifteen guest rooms. Elements of traditional local construction, including thatched roofs, reed walls and a timber structure, have been combined with modern design to create comfortable and stylish spaces that remain cool in Mozambique’s hot weather.
In renovating the existing lodge, which had become tired and rundown over the years, Michaelis Boyd embraced the rich and complex heritage of the island. Working alongside interior designer Marguerite Louw, traditional Mozambican crafts and materials were selected to sit side by side with elements of Portuguese colonial design, such as richly patterned fabrics or handmade terracotta tiles. Michaelis Boyd’s approach to the project focused on maintaining and enhancing the local environment and wildlife. The client, Angela Enthoven, was a driving force behind the project and instrumental in the landscaping scheme, which sensitively reacts to the unique location to preserve and encourage the indigenous plant life. Timber decks frequently open up to allow local Lala Palm trees to grow through them, and the waste water from the lodge is recycled to irrigate the plants and trees.
Cut off from the mainland infrastructure and supply lines and using predominantly local labour and materials, the Lodge design pushed the limits of construction within the island environment. Materials and details that would be commonplace on other projects were often not available, and the design evolved through a series of iterations and creative experiments to arrive at a suitable solution. With an emphasis on craft and innovation, the solutions to these problems added to the richness of the project. The main contractor worked with local islanders and trained them up to give them the skills required to be top grade tradesmen.
The fifteen guest rooms include ten casitas, which have traditional majeka thatched roofs, outdoor showers, and expansive timber decks leading out to infinity edge pools facing the beach. There are two cabanas, with local caniso reed walls and thatched roofs, and a family villa. Each of the guest rooms is accessed through a winding path that leads through the bush before turning off to the rooms and giving breath-taking views of the beach and the Indian Ocean.
Michaelis Boyd re-modelled the decks and pools for each room to make the most of the sea views and to ensure each room has privacy. Pools have infinity edges that face seaward, so guests can look out to sea beyond the edge of the pool, and decks have been enlarged. Michaelis Boyd also added two small structures outside each room to offer shade, one, complete with shower, sits at the very edge of the bush on the beach and features a hanging bed to provide a sheltered space to retreat to between swims. The second sits on the deck beside the pool, and can be used for meals or simply as a comfortable space to sit out of the sun’s heat and read.
The main building of the lodge is a dramatic timber-framed structure thatched with majeka. Internally this building hosts a bar, reception, and a beach shop. With its huge simbiri beams and tall thatched roofs, the main building is near hidden from most angles by the density of the bush. In front of it there is a small clearing that forms an open garden area. The bush encroaches on it from the sides, and several huge Ficus trees provide shade from the sun for breakfast and lunch.
A pagoda with local jasmine climbing up it leads up to an extended gable and into the room, with a view of the garden, leading to the beach and the sea, with the dhow bar nestled to the left hand side. The view is framed by the simbiri structure and the loose hanging edges of the majekka thatched roof. Behind the lodge rise a number of dunes covered in bush, which helps shelter the lodge from the majority of the winds that blow in from the main body of the Indian Ocean. The bush then continues unabated along a flat stretch of ground until it breaks against the beach, and a few metres further the sea in the channel between mainland Mozambique and the island.
At the heart of the lodge, on the beach, is the Dhow Bar. The Dhow, a local sailing boat, was washed up on to the beach in a cyclone a number of years ago, and has been carefully converted in to a bar for guests to have drinks in the evening with a spectacular view of the sunset. A large sail stretches over the whole bar to provide shade and shelter.
LOCATION: Bazaruto Archipelago, Mozambique
ARCHITECTS: Michaelis Boyd Associates
PHOTOGRAPHY: Michaelis Boyd Associates, Dook, Luke Rowett