We are excited to announce the winners and awarded entries of Eleven’s Safari Competition, our eights international architecture and design challenge!

For this challenge, we invited the creative comunity to take an architectural safari into one of the wildest, most exciting and beautiful unique corners of Southern Africa: UNESCO’s Matobo National Park in Zimbabwe. In Swahili, the word ‘safari’ means journey, and this is exactly where we went through our competition: a journey into the romance and adventure of the wild, into the customs, local rituals and the beating heart of Africa through your senses. The outcome of this journey? A new super sensory safari lodge concept the likes of which the world has never seen before, nestled in the heart of Matobo’s granite rock formations and mysterious ancient rock paintings.

Matobo National Park is a small biosphere pocket south of Zimbabwe’s second largest city Bulawayo. It’s famous for its undulating hills riddled with monolithic granite boulders which hold within them fascinating and mysterious caves filled with ancient Bushmen rock paintings. The park is also a sanctuary for the endangered Black and White Rhino population and is, therefore, a key hub in the conservation efforts of this rare animal. Aside from the rhinos, the park is home to a whole variety of African wildlife. All in all, made Matobo a magical safari location to dive deep into the natural and cultural wonders Zimbabwe has to offer.

The aim of this competition was to imagine a new safari lodge for Matobo: one which blended traditional wildlife adventure activities with new ones linked with culture, tradition and conservation, and one which allows the visitor to experience its unique context fully. We were looking for a super sensory safari lodge, the first one in the world, which uses design as a pivotal part of the experience. How can architecture become a mechanism for experiencing the adventure, magic and romance of a safari in Matobo? The creative comunity has responded.

This competition was run in partnership with award winning safari company African Bush Camps. Their world famous lodges are located in some the most fascinating, wild and remote landscapes found in Southern Africa, from Zimbabwe to Botswana and Zambia. The winning team won a week long super sensory safari compliments of African Bush Camps and got to experience the adventure of exploring the exhilarating Zimbabwean landscape with some of the worlds best guides.

This competition was also run to raise awareness of African Bush Camps Foundation, a charity which our safari partners run in parallel to their ventures in support of local culture, education and conservation.

Winner & People’s Choice
by Erik Knauss & Jacob Southard (USA)

The jury winner and the people’s choice of this challenge takes us on a super sensory journey through four sites, each designed to correspond and reflect their changing surrounds. The project respects and integrates itself beautifully into its natural surroundings and takes inspiration from natural forms and structures found locally. The design focuses on creating different experiences, views and activities for the user and utilises its surrounding with low lying buildings and natural looking woven observation towers. The design even incorporates a conservation memorial creating awareness for local conservation issues. The project is very well thought out and would be a fantastic place to experience the beauty of Matobo National Park.

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by Abhishek Desai (India)

This project focuses on the two main aspects of Matobo National Parks, the endangered Rhinos and the granite rocks. Its aim is to create an intimate observatory lodge where guests can secretly interact with the rhinos, while respecting their natural surroundings. The project cleverly dissolves into the park’s rock formations while the traditional beautiful circular structures of the lodges allow for uninterrupted views of the park and its wildlife. The design’s main aim is to allow users to interact with the environment while having as little impact on it as possible.

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Honorable Mention
by Joanna Lisiak (Poland)

This project’s main aim is to create a sanctuary among the Matobo hills and produce a spiritual understanding alongside the traditional safari experience. The monolithic granite rock formations are reflected in the design, which includes a sequence of passages that allow guests to reach the core of the lodge. This sensitive design allows the user to connect and engage with the environment on more that one level.

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Honorable Mention
by Anete Egle & Mensun Yellowlees-Bound (UK/Latvia)

Cleverly mimicking the surrounding environment, this interesting design is based on a combination of cave systems and African style mud huts, in the form of domes reflecting the Matobo Hills scenery. Using natural local building materials and techniques, this design provides an immersive experience for the guests to explore the structures and their environment while allowing them to discreetly merge into their surrounds.

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Honorable Mention
by Hitesh Mehta & Matthew Lewis (USA)

This beautifully drawn and presented project provides guests with an authentic holistic experience. Situated on a communal farmland on the edge of Matobo National Park, the design aims at give guests a much broader and immersive interaction with the local community and the surrounding nature. It does so by introducing guests to local symbology, customs, rituals, history, vernacular construction techniques, architectural forms, tradition, cuisine, and wildlife conservation. The result is a full immersive, well-rounded multi-sensory experience blending nature with culture.

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Honorable Mention
by Jordan Felber & Rachele Voigt (USA)

This ‘floating’ lodge design provides an intimate escape as well as a fantastic viewing platform for the user to enjoy Matobo. The stilt design is very respectful of its surroundings, creating minimal impact on the environment as well as a very flexible module able to adapt to it’s surroundings. The luxury has not been overlooked either, each lodge includes a romantic balcony and infinity pools offering unprecedented views of the park. The communal area is situated at the top of the hill, allowing guests to experience priviledged views over dinner or a sundowner … or two.

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Honorable Mention
by Yoshiki Sekikawa & Shota Kobayashi (Japan)

This contemporary design turns the safari lodge itself into a dynamic viewing platform designed to encase and incorporate its natural surroundings, creating a minimal impact on the environment. Clever use of the natural rocks have been used not just for structure but for thermal warmth in the cooler months.  The concept allows the animals to become lodge residences, providing well needed shade and water for them, bringing the wildlife right to the door of the guests and a unique viewing perspective.

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Honorable Mention
by Constantin Riekehr (Germany)

Housed within the granite rock formations, this lodge aims at giving its guests a panoramic view over the park while allowing them to experience the raw natural beauty of their surroundings. Photovoltaics on each dwelling provides electricity, lighting and additional heating, making each building independent and self-sufficient. This design creates an intimate hillside retreat that allows guests to experience the beauty of Matobo’s rock formations first hand.

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There are many more visions of Safari to discover.

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We would like to thank our competition jury for working with us in this competition: Beks Ndlovu (CEO, African Bush Camps), Derek Solomon (Animal Behaviour and Communication Specialist/Author/Private Guide), Rob Janisch (Biomimicry and Genius of Nature Guru/Private Guide), Chris Browne (Owner, Fox Browne Creatives), Debra Fox (Owner, Fox Browne Creatives), Charlene Hewat (CEO, Environment Africa), Eloise Carr (Editor & Creative, Eleven), Andrea Verenini (Founder, Eleven).

A huge thank you goes to African Bush Camps, our amazing competition partners.

*This event was run in partnership with African Bush Camps and also in support of their charity African Bush Camp Foundation.