South African architecture is open for the holidays. Chiefly in some luxury villas completed last year on the Vamizi Island off the coast of Mozambique. The project demonstrates an appreciation of creating a superb design aesthetic through vernacular materials.
The design comprises a kaleidoscope of very open, very airy pavilions arranged between the existent trees, thereby diminishing the need to clear-cut greenery or raze much land. To enjoy the greenery and the coastline, 400 square meters of decking envelope the 500 square meters of interior space.
The client was a European family who planned “to use the house for getaways. Getaways as long as several months would mean that the house is fully livable and functioning with all the necessities,” said Michal Korycki, director of COA, a firm based in Cape Town, South Africa. The COA, or Craft of Architecture, portfolio ranges from single residential, resort and hospitality, corporate brand architecture, infrastructure and bridges through to large commercial and urban design projects.
Edifice walls combine fixed drywalls and perforated or louvered screens. Glass windows are nowhere to be found. Therefore, air continually flows through the pavilions. Other materials include local hardwoods, timber shingles, and masonry. Meanwhile timber shingles cover the rooflines, made dramatic with 45-degree pitches. The eaves beam sits above the 2600mm high doors.
Living zones contain dining and lounge pavilions similar in finish to the bedrooms. They are link by a timber deck and swimming pool. The six bedrooms are each separate units. They each contain a sleeping room with a lounging deck that looks out to the Mozambique Channel of the Indian Ocean, a bathroom, and a masonry-screened courtyard.
“Bedrooms are separated to fit cozily between the trees, this also allows for privacy. A large courtyard and living areas are provided for socializing,” Korycki said.
The Vamizi villas also reflect Mozambique’s diverse cultural background. The project features African, Portuguese, and Arabic influences, all of which play an integral part in sculpting the architectural elements within the design. The African influence is obviated in the light timber structures, fabric-and-timber-woven screens, and the lightweight, decorative timber construction among the walls, roofs, and floors, and the masonry backdrop that showcases these materials.
The Arabic influence inherently enhances passive design principles. It allows for privacy especially through a varied form of courtyard architecture. This decorative architecture creates contrast, effectively anchoring the lightweight and floating voids of the rest of the project.
Though the project’s components appear tucked within the trees, space is its biggest luxury.
“Your neighbor is a long distance away, so you get great privacy 30 meters from the beach. The building is tucked away from the shoreline into the coastal forest. This results in no visual impact from the beach.”
Realizing the project wasn’t always luxurious, though.
“The greatest challenge (was) working on a remote site – with access only by small aircraft or boat/dhow boat/barge. Logistics of material, labor and services is a full time job and understanding this while designing is imperative,” Korycki said.
As decorative building walls throw playful and beautiful shade onto the walls of the villa components, the beach, ocean, and forest present a dazzling array of colors for the owners and guests of the Vamizi villas.
This post originally ran in Perspective, a Hong Kong-based architecture magazine.