The design, from the point of view of the architecture, the landscaping and the interiors, is based on a tropical African theme, but is contemporary in terms of spaces which are open plan and flowing. This makes a strong statement. The landscaping forms an integral part of the architecture, softening large blank walls, creating screens and “jungle” areas of dense planting to link room blocks. African artifacts have been placed randomly in the landscape to strengthen the theme.
The site was relatively flat to begin with and undulations were created to build level changes for screening in car parks and to afford privacy to guests. Contouring was an important part of the landscape design and “there is not a single straight line, everything is curved on an arc or a meander and we played games with bending paths and roads as an interest factor. The meandering aspect of the design also slows things down and creates a relaxing ambience, lending a casual and unpretentious atmosphere to the hotel,” says landscape architect Mark Young.
Site and earthworks
Certain areas along the beach were very exposed to on-shore winds and rough seas. Existing soil was sandy and imported soil was loamy and of good quality. The entire site had to be back?lled with available material (mostly sand) by approximately 1.5 to 2m, since structures were built at an elevation to prevent damage from ?ooding and excessively high tides. Eighty percent of topsoil was imported from a location 20km from site. Contractors faced restricted access to the site, building rubble, more than 10 other contractors all working on external works, and a 16 week completion deadline.
Planting and soft landscaping
Landmark Studios’ approach was a commercial one, designing large groupings of plants in a strong, bold way. “There is no subtlety in the planting – it is strong, heavy and powerful,” says Young. It does not display an ‘African-ness’ which is arid, but rather one which is tropical and the African theme is hinted at. “We have drawn inspiration from it,” adds Young. The high winds and humidity on the island meant a restricted planting palette yet there is mass planting in larger areas and the overall effect is a lush, tropical garden with an African feel. Large bands and sweeps of groundcovers and shrubs, chosen for foliage, texture or ?ower colour, contribute to an informal planting scheme and strong contrasting colours and textures emphasise this scheme. It was also necessary to create a balance with the planting and to provide interest for the numerous tourists who visit the island.
Bold focal points such as Agave spp., combined with large natural boulders, create points of interest and feature elements. Other focal points have been created by the use of Hyophorbe lagenicaulis (Bottle Palm), Hibiscus tilaceus (Screw Pine), Pandanus utilis (Coqueluche or Vacoas as it is known in Mauritius) and Alocasia spp (Elephant’s Ear) with its enormous leaves. A selection of palms, including over 550 Cocos nucifera, emphasise the tropical feeling throughout the landscaping. Bold groups of Crotons and Acalypha species do the same with their foliage colour.
A few other tree species include the pink flowering Bauhinia, Delonix regia and Spathodea campanulata, the African Tulip Tree with its bright orange-red clusters of flowers. Large quantities of the white flowering Crinum mauritianum grow throughout and the landscaping is a combination of plants displaying flowers at different times of the year, with foliage contributing a constant mass of colour. Ninety five percent of the shrubs and groundcovers used for the project were cultivated at the nearby Bel Ombre Nursery, which was established specifically for the project (See article on page 50).
Above, left to right: Landscaping and reflecting pool within the spa area; foliage contrast in the landscaping; curved rim-flow pool surrounded by pebbles – water flows over the edge, disappearing between the pebbles to be circulated again; the courtyard area.
The hard landscaping is characterised by the use of earthy tones, natural stone and thatch, for example in-situ brushed concrete footpaths with brown pigment and natural stone inlays at the intersections of footpaths and circles, laid horizontally. There is good circulation for hotel services and paths are wide enough to accommodate golf cars. However, there is limited access via these paths to the room blocks in order to provide privacy for guests. Visitors arrive at the hotel entrance and cross a large, curved, mirror-like pool via a wooden deck to enter the reception area. Here again, natural stone creates the steps and “flooring” in the reception courtyard. There are two pools – a formal one associated with the main reception and a resort pool which is long and narrow, informal and child-friendly. The reception area reveals a glimpse of the large slate-tiled pools and a breathtaking view of the sea. The curved rim-flow pools are surrounded by pebbles and water flows over the edge, disappearing between the pebbles to be circulated again.
Aerial view of the hotel
The resort pool is informal and child-friendly. Thatching adds to the ‘African-ness’ of the landscaping, underscoring the central theme.
Water features and ponds are located at the arrival area and spa. At the arrival area, the pond is private and natural and at the spa, there are two large, rectangular water features, tiled in slate. A small round, slate-tiled chilled pool is incorporated into the relaxation area and the other is an elevated reflecting pond which leads the eye down the central axis of the spa complex.
An extensive lighting system has been installed to maximise use of the gardens at night and uplighting turns trees, palms and artefacts into strong focal points. The gable ends of the building presented a challenge and large Ponganium (Frangipani) trees were moved and placed at gable ends. Long, narrow lights form a silhouette for the Ponganiums. Focal plants are also lit up at turning circles and junctions.
The irrigation system is fully automatic and covers all medium and high priority areas. An area reserved for further development has a turf valve system and public areas such as the spa and small planter areas at the reception use separate municipal water connections to prevent unpleasant odours. The rest of the garden is irrigated with treated water.
Above, left to right: The chilled pool at the spa is slate-tiled and incorporated into the relaxation area; African-style artifacts in the land-scaping strengthen the theme; pathways of brushed concrete meander through the gardens.
Nikki Delange of Top Turf, Mark Young of Landmark Studios and relevant staff members at the Heritage Resort are acknowledged for supplying the information used in this article. Photos courtesy of Nikki Delange and the Heritage Resort.
Return to the top of Heritage Resort