Marula Game Ranch
Location: Windhoek District, Namibia
Project completion: July 2016
Architect: Robertson Baker Lochner Architects (RBL)

Poised against the dramatic geology and hilled environment of the Namibian plateau, the gardens of the Marula Game Ranch residence overlook and find their root in the meandering bends of the Schaap river that skirts its edge.

Rather than cover an already beautiful hill with endless lush and ‘exotic’ gardens, a more restrained approach was applied when considering the design. The principal strategy behind the landscape is a linear navigation route informed by the idea of a charm bracelet. The metaphor of the bracelet consists as a primary axis/route or chain that gives order between the residence and the river with secondary elements/jewels that adorn and link up to the central route/chain.

Design energy and focus was placed on the charms of the bracelet, moments scattered along the main navigation routes, providing respite from the harsh environment. These include arched walkway structures, curiosity courtyards, deep rock pools and terraced spaces that replicate the rocky ridges and open river bed that characterize the site. Courtyard structures are designed to provide cool retreat and depth of shade from the desert heat, while providing protection to plants from cold winter winds. Pathways and structures alike are respectfully designed and sculpted to fit around and into existing rocks and trees, treading lightly in places while solidly grounding themselves in others. The approach to materials is simple and layered, mimicking textures of the immediate environment while proving a backdrop to the delightful play of shadow and light that bring life to each of the spaces.

Water, a scarce resource in the arid Namibian environment, is used as a narrative to organize, connect and guide the visitor to each sequential space and moment, literally threading the entire garden together.

150 000 plants sourced from across South Africa based on their ability to survive the climatic extremes of the site were added to the existing base of grasses and flowering annuals. Across a site of 30 ha these individual plants are arranged along movement lines to bring added colour and texture through the changing seasons.

The challenges of working in remote locations and inhospitable environments are complex, but by spending time understanding the uniqueness of a landscape and its ever-changing nature one finds exciting, innovative and contextually appropriate solutions that can be hand crafted from the very landscape itself. We have learnt much from this project but the amazing resilience of landscape continues to surprise and inspire us as Landscape Architects.

GreenInc © 2017 Next