Vamizi Island Villas
Vamizi Island Villas – “Inspired by Nature”
Description from COA – Craft of Architecture (COA) were appointed onto this challenging project after participating in a limited design competition involving a select panel of East African, South African, Mozambican and international firms. COA were asked to develop detailed architectural proposals for a series of Villa types on the island. This process began with the principals of COA spending considerable time, over numerous site visits, obtaining an intimate understanding of the unique island of Vamizi and the specific site features to develop the ‘Vamizi Aesthetic’.
Vamizi island is set among the Quirimbas Archipelago, in a marine conservation area off the coast of northern Mozambique. The waters surrounding Vamizi Island boast some of the most significant and endangered habitats and wildlife in the western Indian Ocean, with over 180 species of pristine coral and over 400 species of reef fish. Six individual luxury villas were designed (Villa names: Casa Marjani, Casamina, Kipila, Papilo, Suluwilo, Tartaruga) scattered along the edge of the Island which have all been built according to stringent sustainability practices. These lodges were all creatively designed to blend effortlessly into the idyllic surrounds, using natural island elements in the build, such as local shells and excavated igneous volcanic rock with coral limestone walls and hand carved windows. Each villa is individually decorated in its own elegant style with ensuite bedrooms, spectacular dining rooms and peaceful lounging spaces around private pools or the beach.
The project was completely off the grid in the true sense – there was no power, no water – even the roads needed to be constructed. Everything had to be brought to the island, down to the last screw. We had to think of everything prior to construction because you couldn’t nip off to builder’s warehouse to pick up some extra nails.
The Villa’s were also the client’s dream holiday houses. Some of the client’s had owned the plots for years and had been dreaming of the potential visions. Also the clients were very committed to the overall vision for the island and preserving the pristine and protected environment.
All of the woodwork and a large part of the villas, were made from local timbers on site – with a large workshop setup for carpenters. German carpenter’s were brought from Europe and they lived on the site, bringing sophisticated skills and working with local building teams to create an interesting blend of traditional African techniques and high end European finishes. It was very experimental; carving out various patterns for louvres or screens from sketches sent via the internet from the European clients or the Cape Town design office.
Vamizi architecture aims to reflect the multi-cultural history of Mozambique with its African, Portuguese and Arabic influence playing an integral part in sculpting the architectural elements within the design. The African influence is seen in the detailed timber structures, the woven fabrics, decorative screens and hand carved features, all of which are integrated with solid, natural elements. It is this same lightweight construction that allows the buildings to ‘touch the earth lightly’ to minimize their impact on the environment.
The Arabic influence is used to introduce a varied form of courtyard architecture that allow for privacy and enhances passive design principles. This decorative, solid style of architecture is used in moderation to create contrast with the lightweight and floating timber structures and assist in creating an anchoring effect of the structure. A ‘pavilion’ type methodology is used to avoid existing trees and natural features which will also fragment the scale of the building, as well as assist with natural ventilation.
One of the Villa structures (named Tataruga – Portuguese for Turtle) was made entirely from natural sun bleached casuarina trees found on the beaches. Casuarinas were planted by Portuguese sailors so they could see the flat islands when sailing between them.
They are in continuous cycle – nothing grows beneath casuarina trees planted close to the beach – therefore beach sand erodes them and they eventually fall over (and get bleached by sea and weather). We needed over 50 of these massive trees, which couldn’t be found on Vamizi alone, so we explored neighbouring islands over a one week period. Using GPS we marked the trees we wanted so the construction team could follow behind with a traditional dhow, floating the trees out beyond the reefs on high tide with diving buoyancy jackets and dragging them back to Vamizi at snails pace behind the dhow over the course of a few weeks.
As there is no air-conditioning, villas are completely open to allow for cross ventilation. This allowed us to experiment with the open design concept without the limitations of having to shut everything down, as we would in other climates.
With the many cultural influences affecting the aesthetic, solid passive design principles form the backbone of the buildings, combined with the sustainable materials of the local environment, to create an architecture that is unique to the Vamizi Island.
Should you wish to visit Vamizi Island go to for booking information.