The Sand Cabins at Nima Lodge
Internal cabin size: 40 m²
Deck size: 22 m²
Location: Hoekwil, Wilderness, Garden Route
Escape to Nima Lodge’s enchanting Sand Cabins, a trio of timber hideouts in the heart of the Garden Route. These undulating cabins are a testament to sustainable design, crafted from locally sourced materials to create a harmonious balance between modern luxury and the raw beauty of the natural world. With comfort at the fore of every contoured slope, the rhythm of this verdant land is the only soundtrack you’ll ever need.
Wilderness and the greater Knysna area have a rich history of timber construction. We wanted to respect this tradition, and therefore decided to construct the three new cabins out of similar locally sourced materials, such as South African pine. Since it’s local, the material has a low travel carbon footprint. It is beautiful, grows fast, is a renewable resource, lightweight, and easy to work with, meaning the builders are less in danger of injury during construction. Timber can easily be recycled or re-used, minimising wastage and preventing the material from ending up in landfill.
The cabins were built on timber poles (with reduced concrete and steel as foundations), allowing them to float above the landscape causing minimal interference to the existing vegetation. Just like we all will, the timber exterior of the cabins will gently age over time to become a beautiful silvery dark grey.
The Nima Lodge cabins, at once contextually relevant yet reinterpreted, are the first buildings Stretch Architects did entirely out of timber; therefore, we needed to find the perfect contractor for the job. If it was not for Knysna Timber Homes’ knowledge and experience, the project would never have turned out the way it did. This project again proves the importance of collaboration.
The shape of the Sand Cabins is a direct response to their context and intended use. These timber hideouts are essentially little love nests, and privacy was a big driver in determining the footprint of the cabins. The V shape of the plan does three things: it frames and embraces the endless views and sun towards the north; shelters the cabin and deck from the wind, while also promoting privacy between the units; makes you feel safe and immersed in your own world.
We wanted the entrance to the cabins to be a bit of a mystery. The door is tucked in between the toilet tower and the bedroom platform, and is purposely designed to be as heavy as possible to emphasise the feeling of safety and retreat once you arrive and close the door behind you. Upon approaching the cabin, guests see nothing but a series of curved timber walls with no windows in them. However, once you open the door and enter, the opposite happens… The solidity of the rear wall is replaced by the transparency of the front, allowing the breathtaking panoramas to rush in to meet you.
Rhythms of nature
The Nima Lodge cabins are designed to celebrate the rituals of everyday life. At its core, the three new Sand Cabins are shaped by the multiple attempts to best marry the incredible natural surroundings with the rhythms of sleeping, reading, bathing, cooking, and so forth.
From the sunken bath to the toilet tower (with one of the best views imaginable), every element brings a touch of ease. The bed, which is raised and elevated above all the other spaces, expresses this concept the best. Despite the cabin’s small square meterage, by creating multiple level changes through ‘stepping each activity to the next’ we created a volume where everything feels like a journey and each space becomes its own little world. For example, transitioning from the kitchen area to the bed, you step down from the bathroom into the shower and into the bath in a convenient flow of movement.
Timeline and triumphs
The project took about two years from start to finish. Covid-19 played a big role in shaping the final iteration of these cabins. The tourist industry was on its knees, but this forced us to distil the project down to its essence by including only what was important and necessary to the design. This period gave us time to let the ideas evolve and grow into what they needed to be. It is not often that you have the luxury of time as an architect.
It takes a good client to make a good building. From the beginning the client wanted the cabins to be beautiful (she never compromised on this), and to celebrate and share the incredible location with future guests in the most honest and special way possible. We wanted to create a building that is considerate of place and people, and we think Nima Lodge’s Sand Cabins captures the appeal of both.
MEET THE TEAM
Architect: Stephen Hitchcock and Dave Long, Stretch Architects
Interior designer: Nima Lodge Interiors
Landscape Architect: Honiball Architecture
Contractor: Knysna Timber Homes
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