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Competition: Motobo safari lodge, Zimbabwe

An open international ideas contest has been launched for a new safari lodge within Zimbabwe’s Matobo National Park (Deadline: 11 January)

Open to professionals and students, the competition seeks innovative proposals for a new multi-sensory holiday dwelling that responds to the rocky landscape of the ‎424 km2 UNESCO-protected park.

The call for ideas, organised by Eleven and supported by safari company African Bush Camps, aims to identify a new approach to lodge accommodation within the unique park which features ancient rock paintings and is a safe haven for both black and white rhinos. Proposals which deliver a ‘super sensory’ experience for guests are also encouraged.

Matobo National Park, Zimbabwe

Matobo National Park, Zimbabwe

Matobo National Park, Zimbabwe

According to the brief: ‘We are looking for proposals for a new safari lodge. One which blends 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 are 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? You decide.’

Founded in 1953, the Matobo National Park is a 44,500-hectare protection zone featuring a large number of breeding black and white rhinos along with zebra, giraffe, eland, cheetah, crocodiles, baboons and monkeys.

The park is located within the Matobo Hills and features a rocky landscape which is popular with hikers and tourists. The park features a range of lodges, chalets, campsites and conference facilities with popular activities including walks, pony trails, fishing, boating, game viewing, bird watching and marathon running.

The competition seeks proposals for new types of safari lodge which push the boundaries of conventional tourism and encourage visitors to engage with local conservation, culture and traditions. Proposals will be expected to be resilient, respectful of their surroundings and self-sufficient.

Matobo National Park, Zimbabwe

Matobo National Park, Zimbabwe

Matobo National Park, Zimbabwe

Earlier this month, Zimbabwe witnessed a coup in its capital Harare, located around 400km north-east of the park, which led to the country’s president Robert Mugabe resigning.

The call for ideas is the eighth contest organised by UK-based Eleven, which earlier this year launched a separate international ideas competition for innovative shelters to house survivors in the 48 hours after a natural disaster.

Judges include private guide and animal behaviour expert Derek Solomon; Charlene Hewat, chief executive of Environment Africa; Eleven Magazine founder Andrea Verenini; and Chris Browne and Debra Fox of Fox Browne Creative.

The overall winner, set to be announced 11 March, will receive two places on an African Bush Camps’ safari worth around £6,000 in total. The runner-up will receive £400 and a people’s choice prize worth £100 will also be awarded.

How to apply


The deadline for submissions is 11am GMT on 11 January


Standard registration up to 31 December: £80
Late Bloomer registration up to 11 January: £100

Contact details

Tel: +44 (0)23 92754278

Visit the competition website for more information

Q&A with Andrea Verenini

The editor and creative director at Eleven discusses his ambitions for the competition

Andrea Verenini

Andrea Verenini

Andrea Verenini

Why are your holding a competition for an innovative new safari lodge in Motobo, Zimbabwe?

Zimbabwe is a fascinating country with some of the wildest, unspoilt and magical natural wonders left on earth. However, its political and economical situations have plagued this nation and its people for decades, tainting and overshadowing its many unique natural assets, its rich culture and beautiful people. We recently visited Zimbabwe on assignment invited by our competition partners African Bush Camps - a leading safari company operating in Southern Africa - and have fallen in love with the place. Through this competition, we are aiming at putting the country on the map for the right reasons, whilst at the same time focusing on the concept of Safari as a journey through nature, culture and conservation. More specifically, African Bush Camp has recently developed a new type of safari called the Super Sensory Safari, which is a unique way of experiencing the African wilderness. Also, they are interested in expanding their safari loges by developing a new one in Matobo National Park: an important UNESCO world heritage site for both natural beauty, cultural heritage and the conservation of the endangered White and Black Rhino. Our competition wishes to expand on this idea of ‘super sensory’ and see how architecture – in the form of a safari lodge – can become part of this: a vehicle for experiencing the unique context of place Matobo has to offer. What does a super sensory safari loge look like?

Matobo National Park, Zimbabwe

Matobo National Park, Zimbabwe

Matobo National Park, Zimbabwe

What is your vision for the new development?

We don’t have a vision in terms of aesthetics. This is up to the designers to have fun with. The beauty of competitions is that one might have a vision of what their ideal solution would be as they are designing and researching the competition, but as the entries come in, there are endless more inspirations which you wouldn’t have previously imagined. It is design at its rawest and most exciting form. We do have a vision of what this new safari lodge could be in terms of concepts, however. We want something new. Something the world hasn’t seen before, and something that can be an inspirational blueprint which can kickstart a new type of safari architecture to blossom around the many beautiful parks of the region. Aside from a specific programme of spaces - which African Bush Camps wishes to have in the design –- we are looking for concepts which engage with certain notions. Due to their remoteness, designs have to be 100 per cent off grid, sustainable, resilient and have to respect the site. The landscape of Matobo - characterised by monolithic rocks - has to be somehow incorporated in the scheme. We would also like to see the safari lodge engage with the senses - as we mentioned earlier - and become something more than a tourist hub. We would like it to engage and promote local culture and customs, and abode an element of conservation in it as well.

What sort of architects and designers are you hoping will apply?

Our challenges are opened to professionals and students alike. We try to create competitions that can be appealing to anyone, while at the same time engage with fun ideas which can start conversations within the design community. Anyone is welcome to join. Our competitions are excellent ways for emerging talents – be they young dynamic practices or proactive students – to be seen and to build interesting portfolios. They are great ways of putting a studio on the map, and for individuals to get scouted by future employers or clients alike. We want our challenges to be a platform for designers to shine in fun and cool ways, which is something we work very hard to achieve and are very proud to produce.

Matobo National Park, Zimbabwe

Matobo National Park, Zimbabwe

Matobo National Park, Zimbabwe

Which other design opportunities are on the horizon and how will the architects/designers be procured?

We are a young, fast-paced company excited about design and ideas. This is why we try to run as many competitions we can each year. The hard work which goes behind organising the quantity of events at a high level pays off when we see the amazing projects that get submitted. We will have a competition start every two months, and run for four. This gives designers the opportunity of ever-renewing opportunities in a whole multitude of topics and fields and the chance to join ever competition should they want to. Our next competition started on 11 November and focuses on how to live on Mars: a follow-up challenge to our previous award-winning competition Moontopia on lunar architecture. It should be really fun. A month later, we will launch our bi-monthly architecture and design-lifestyle digital flipbook magazine, which will be a new product to add to our current media section of Eleven (our daily Elevenses posts and articles), and will be an additional platform to showcase rising talents from around the world and the coolest people, places, ideas and designs in the industry worldwide.

Are there any other innovative safari lodge projects you have been impressed by?

It is hard not to be impressed by the majority of safari lodges. They are beautiful designs set in enchanted landscapes. We are particularly fond of the lodges of African Bush Camps - which is one of the reasons we were so keen to work with them and partner up in this competitions. Each design is unique and beautiful, but what makes it even more special is that each lodge has it’s very own character which fits in with the context it is in and delivers a unique emotion and experience to the visitor. This is exciting, and it is exactly what we feel architecture should produce at its highest form.