Grounded by Nature


The brainchild behind a concept or design is a collaborative vision that carefully explores the pain-staking design of every element and their materials to reveal their natural beauty in its purest form. These elements are real and raw are then shaped and transformed into objects of luxury

Sabi Sand Game Reserve in the Kruger National Park, South Africa, reinvents traditional safari-style architecture to create an altogether new safari experience of nature from within, with the new Cheetah Plains game lodge. Designed by ARRCC, Cheetah Plains combines state-of-the-art sustainable architecture with a pioneering afro-minimalist aesthetic; as a result, the game lodge contrasts confident contemporary inorganic forms with the natural landscape, creating something beautiful in the unexpected creative juxtaposition of seemingly opposing forces.

Just three separate, private components – that are referred to as Plains House – make up the brand new Cheetah Plains Lodge. Each Plains House has a private arrival courtyard with covered canopy, an expansive open-plan lounge, dining and bar space with adjoining air-conditioned wine room and a private family/media room. The shared spaces are each surrounded by four standalone bedroom suites, large enough to be considered as mini lodges in their own right. Progressing from the shared space into the bedroom suite and one will be faced with a generous open-plan lounge and bedroom space, plus guest toilet, and a walk-in dressing room. The bathrooms open directly to the outdoors, offering an exhilarating open-air bathing experience.

Cheetah Plains strives to embrace a contemporary ethnic design, with elegantly decorated houses nestled into the indigenous gardens of the camp. The ultrachic accommodation blends seamlessly into the African bush, creating a harmonious flow between pampered relaxation and the raw South African bushveld. Each bush home includes a private safari vehicle and designated field guide for the duration of your stay. The bush homes all flow onto the indigenous gardens and their wild surroundings. Other facilities available include a swimming pool, bar and lounge area, viewing deck, boma and well stocked curio shop.

According to lead architect, Stefan Antoni, the inspiration for this design came through when the team took into consideration that our lifestyles have become modern and built to suit our preferences while nature is raw and primal – and within this honest contrast a beautiful tension is born. He further added that the architecture of Cheetah Plains 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 in an immediate manner.

The angular architectural forms that are the aesthetic signature at the heart of the lodge design were inspired by the Acacia thorns native to the area. The convergent straight lines and expansive cantilevered roof structures of the lodge not only offset the architecture against its setting – a sculptural form or jewel in the landscape – but also frame and mediate the experience of the bush.

The open, seamless boundaries between interior and exterior have the effect of immersing guests in their environment.  This architectural response facilitates a much more profound and layered interaction with the environment than traditional lodge design. The fractured arrangement of the buildings also made it possible to retain established trees on the site and build around them, enhancing the lodge’s sense of integration with the environment and allowing to tread lightly on the site.

A unique sense of place is carried through in the abundant use of locally sourced natural materials and bespoke designs handmade by local artisans. Organic natural forms are abstracted in the patterns, forms, and rhythms of the interior design. The curvature of the black steel flues of the fireplaces, for example, contrasts artfully with the straight lines of the architecture. Richly textured fabrics, aged leathers, and wood grains have been subtly offset with sleek details in gold, bronze, and black.

Many of the furniture pieces were custom designed by ARRCC and OKHA in collaboration with local craftsmen, including Colin Rock, Pierre Cronje and Gerrit Giebel. One-off Pierre Cronje dining tables, each made from a single sheet of leadwood, establish a central feature in each house. Suspended above them, hand-blown glass chandeliers by Martin Doller reflect and refract the natural light from the surrounding bushveld. Each bar has been hand-carved from a single block of Travertine.

The walls are adorned with a thoughtfully curated selection of original South African artworks, many specifically commissioned from both established and up-and-coming contemporary local artists. The public sculptures include cheetah by Arend Eloff and wild dogs by Gail Catlin. At the same time, the integrated concept of architecture, interiors, and furniture design gently revolutionises the safari experience and advances the discourse of game lodge architecture.


Jon Case, Director of ARRCC

“Our job as architects and designers was to create the platform to observe Africa in its purist form. The buildings and Interiors are symbiotic, they are one idea shared in a truly unique location.”

article courtesy of Metropolitan Home 2020