This innovative resort in Mozambique is a triumph in sustainable design


When Nina Flohr set out to build the Kisawa Shrine, a new resort town on Benguerra Island, off the coast of southern Mozambique, she had a very clear mandate. “I wanted the architecture to be guided by what we saw around us,” says Flohr, referring to the waves of the Indian Ocean and the giant dunes that surround the property’s 22 bungalows, spread over 750 hectares. The point was to blend in rather than interrupt. Kisawa, which opened this fall, is touted as the first 3D printed complex, but Flohr sees this as just one part of the sustainable design mission. “I think the use of 3D printing is an example of spirit of the place, ”says the Swiss-born entrepreneur, who served as VistaJet’s Creative Director until 2016. In fact, she used technology to make building materials from what was already there. at hand: namely, sand and seawater. This mortar became the blocks used to achieve everything, from the natural texture of certain facades to floors to bathtubs in guest bathrooms.

A guest bedroom.

Elsa Young

The gym of the natural wellness center, covered with local grass.

Elsa Young

Flohr also wanted the design to reflect the people and traditions of Mozambique. Since the project began six years ago, its workforce has been 80% local, including carpenters, thatch roofers and textile manufacturers, half of whom are women. To this end, expert weavers interweaved herbs in sliding door panels and baskets while artisans carved chairs and tables from local jambire and sambiri woods. Flohr also stocked up further, wishing to “celebrate African craftsmanship from across the continent”. She collected clay pots made by the Nupe tribe in Nigeria and hand-carved chairs by the Makonde people in Tanzania. Other antiques and works of art have been recovered in Senegal and Ghana. The result is an elegant blend of the organic and the modern, with sleek touches like brass bedside lamps, marble tables and simple ink portraits by British artist Frances Costelloe, each depicting one local employees of the complex. (Flohr cites as inspiration the mobile structure of the Tropical House by Jean Prouvé and his modernist approach to African design.)

And then there’s Kisawa’s non-profit sister property, the Bazaruto Center for Scientific Studies, a solar-powered marine research center established in 2017. The hotel is helping fund the operation in which Flohr calls for a “resort-to-research” approach to the hotel industry. “A lot of tourism in Africa revolves around safari and wildlife conservation, but there is also such a rich marine life here,” says Flohr. You can go spot sharks and marlins or explore the ocean with divers. 3D printing technology is now being used to help restore and expand the region’s coral reef. “After the pandemic, people want to learn and relive things,” says Flohr. “They want their vacation to be meaningful.”

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