An immersive retreat in the Sabi Sand Game Reserve in South Africa by ARRCC
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An immersive retreat in the Sabi Sand Game Reserve in South Africa by ARRCC

Cheetah Plains lodge by ARRCC reflects an aesthetic that is uniquely African yet unconventionally modern.

by Zohra Khan Sep 09, 2019

The Sabi Sand Game Reserve in South Africa lies adjacent to the Kruger National Park with no fences between them; therefore allowing lions, elephants, cape buffalos, leopards and rhinoceros to roam freely in its vast natural landscape. Within the reserve, a new lodge accommodation called Cheetah Plains is conceived to sit in a meditative poise designed by Cape Town based architectural and interiors studio, ARRCC. The lodge offers an immersive getaway for visitors who come to seek the park’s abundant wilderness, while looking for luxury at its best.

Our lifestyles are modern; nature is raw and primal. It is in that honest contrast that a beautiful tension exists. – Stefan Antoni, Lead Architect, ARRCC
  • A cozy suite amid the natural surroundings of the lodge | Cheetah Plains | ARRCC | STIR
    A cozy suite amid the natural surroundings of the lodge Image Credit: Adam Letch
  • Entrance of one of the Plains houses | Cheetah Plains | ARRCC | STIR
    Entrance of one of the Plains houses Image Credit: Adam Letch

The design of the lodge reinvents traditional safari style architecture with simple contemporary details. An afro-minimalist aesthetic renders the spaces distinct where a series of edgy inorganic forms are laid alongside biomorphic compositions. The result comes together as a jewel sitting in the forest that frames and mediates the experience of the bush quite naturally.

“The architecture exists to enhance the experience of the outdoors – not to mimic it, but to complement it so that guests may experience the bush more directly, more immediately,” says lead architect, Stefan Antoni.

Conceptual sketch | Cheetah Plains | ARRCC | STIR
Conceptual sketch Image Credit: Courtesy of ARRCC

Unlike typical lodge typologies where a central communal space comes surrounded by boxy residential suites, Cheetah Plains is split into three separate yet organic private components referred as Plains Houses. The designers opted the fractured arrangement of the lodges to retain the existing trees on site, an intervention that enhanced the built architecture’s sense of integration with its environment.

  • The use of locally sourced materials weaves the outdoors in its landscape | Cheetah Plains | ARRCC | STIR
    The use of locally sourced materials weaves the outdoors in its landscape Image Credit: Adam Letch
  • Sharp straight lines sits in contrast to sinuous biomorphic compositions in the outdoors | Cheetah Plains | ARRCC | STIR
    Sharp straight lines sits in contrast to sinuous biomorphic compositions in the outdoors Image Credit: Adam Letch

Each of the houses has a common living space offset by four standalone mini lodges. The former has a generous open-plan layout that comprises of a shaded arrival courtyard, a large living and dining area, a patio terrace amid a heated swimming pool, a cinema and a wine tasting room. The latter includes a bedroom, a commercial kitchen and a walk-in dressing space next to an immersive open-air bathing area.

Living area of one of the Plains houses | Cheetah Plains | ARRCC | STIR
Living area of one of the Plains houses Image Credit: Courtesy of ARRCC

A locally sourced material palette roots the lodge in its landscape and allows the architectural forms to flow seamlessly from the outside to the inside, all along creating bespoke statements. This includes off shutter concrete walls that render crisp straight lines as well as corten steel and timber elements bringing earthy richness in the outdoors. “The honest expression of these materials selected to age and weather naturally over time, lends the design integrity and a sense of natural transformation and growth,” say the architects.

The patio terrace with shaded pavilion and the pool | Cheetah Plains | ARRCC | STIR
The patio terrace with shaded pavilion and the pool Image Credit: Courtesy of ARRCC

Referencing the nature-inspired design, certain elements stands apart within each of the houses. One such example is the sculptural pool pavilions, of which the rusted steel roofs resonate with the canopy of local Tamboti trees. The porous cantilevered branches of the pavilion filter dappled sunlight that closely resemble the light that filters through the thicket. Another one that catches the eye is the angular wall arrangement, clad in concrete and rough stone that connects to the acacia thorns indigenous to the area. 

  • Raw stone and concrete walls against timber ceiling create a creative contrast of softness and warmth | Cheetah Plains | ARRCC | STIR
    Raw stone and concrete walls against timber ceiling create a creative contrast of softness and warmth Image Credit: Adam Letch
  • The angular walls are inspired by the acacia thorns indigenous to the area | Cheetah Plains | ARRCC | STIR
    The angular walls are inspired by the acacia thorns indigenous to the area Image Credit: Adam Letch

In contrast to the outdoors’ encompassing linearity, the interiors offer an endearing softness with a smidgen of grittiness. Richly textural fabrics, aged leather upholstery, wooden furniture, glass partitions and sleek details in metal, bronze, and corten steel stand against rough stone and raw concrete walls. ARRCC worked with interiors studio OKHA to design many of the furniture pieces for the suites, which were handcrafted by local artisans. These include dining tables crafted from a single sheet of leadwood as the central feature of the houses, hand blown glass chandeliers, hand carved travertine bars, and a thoughtfully curated selection of African paintings and sculptures dotting the interiors. “The idea was always to redefine luxury and usher in a new language of African design for safari,” claims Mark Rielly, ARRCC director of interior design.

The project carefully integrates architecture, interiors and furniture design into the safari experience, where every space and detail evokes something beautiful, and something unexpected amid the creative contrast of nature's seemingly opposing forces.

  • Open seamless boundaries between inside and outside offers an immersive experience for the guests | Cheetah Plains | ARRCC | STIR
    Open seamless boundaries between inside and outside offers an immersive experience for the guests Image Credit: Adam Letch
  • Sleek details in bronze, corten and black steel artfully abstracts the interiors | Cheetah Plains | ARRCC | STIR
    Sleek details in bronze, corten and black steel artfully abstracts the interiors Image Credit: Adam Letch
  • Interiors spill onto the natural landscape | Cheetah Plains | ARRCC | STIR
    Interiors spill onto the natural landscape Image Credit: Adam Letch
  • Meandering paths leading to the Plains houses | Cheetah Plains | ARRCC | STIR
    Meandering paths leading to the Plains houses Image Credit: Adam Letch

Project Details

Name of the project: Cheetah Plains Lodge
Location: Sabi Sand, South Africa
Architecture and Interior Decor: ARRCC
Project team:
Architecture: Stefan Antoni, Jon Case, Wade Nelsen, Emmanuelle Kuchocha, Luke Zanon, Kelly Titus, Terisha Raatz
Interior Décor: Mark Rielly, Nina Sierra Rubia, Anna-Katharina Schoenberger, Tanisha Niell
Bespoke Furniture: OKHA (Adam Court, Thomas Hinde)

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About Author

Zohra Khan

Zohra Khan

A formal education in architecture combined with an avid interest in architecture journalism and design criticism led Khan to professionally venture into writing and research. She has worked in design communication for more than two years, generating content for mondo*arc india journal. When not writing, she kicks back by dabbling on social media for STIR.

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