Garden for the Bishop’s House is a remarkable study in volcanic rock and the creation of ambiences with the use of vegetation and stone walls. The latter is used to emphasise the enclosed ambient and to add elements of surprise. In this small space, visitors can be immersed in the world of microcosmos, the structure of the volcanic rock where the surface has already started to change due to weather conditions and use. Carefully selected plants are starting to spread out, over and in between the dark stones, and moss is becoming a part of this beautiful pavement. Modest means were used to create this mesmerising garden. A bit like a meaningful haiku, Bishop’s House garden will give you goosebumps in very few words.
The jury also appreciated the reference to Thomas Church, whose legendary Donnell Garden inspired the kidney-shaped pool. Beautifully alienated in colour, materiality, form and embedding a reference to another time, it appears as if the designers were intentionally dealing with the contradiction of the swimming pool rather than the swimming pool itself. A very mature and precise statement!- from the award statements
The project is for a small lodge, catering for guests going to see the Mountain Gorillas at the nearby Volcanos National Park. The site is set within the residential zone of Runergheri town with issues of large houses overlooking the site as well as unsightly views looking onto various houses and tin roofs. It was very evident that we need to create an inward-looking design and create a series of courtyards to create intimate and private spaces.
The designed spaces consist of a main area around the new pool, some private courtyards, vegetable garden and the new parking and entrance into the old hotel. The client asked us to do a kidney shaped pool which is very hard to get right without the lines looking and feeling clumsy. We studied at great length Thomas Church and identified that the negative spaces created by the curves of the pool where as important as the shape itself. I’m some ways we hope our design is simple enough to create a calming pool, especially since it is placed within the heart of the design.
Large long steps lead up the restaurant and these are planted with the fast growing and light shade trees, Policais fulva. Next to the old renovated house we created a series of private courtyards for the ground floor rooms. Embracing high courtyard walls and intimately planted spaces our idea was to create calming spaces celebrating the local volcanic stone and the lush green of the highland vegetation.
As with all of our projects we always start with researching and exploring the local hardscape materials and the local plant pallet to understand what we can use to formulate the project to ensure it feels rooted and has a strong sense of identity which is closely linked to the sense of place, and ensure our proposal is sensitive to the nature of the site. Being surrounded by volcanos the common building stone is of course volcanic stone. The stone itself is relatively soft and can be both hand dressed and machine cut. Our exploration into the materials is a key and important part of the project.
Since we are in a location with very high altitude and high rainfall it was important that all of our hardscape solutions where permeable so all are laid in sand. The nature of the volcanic stone, which is naturally porous also means that various mosses are starting to colonise the stone. The natural co-existence of our intervention and the colonising plants is an important and successful attribute to the careful consideration behind the build-up of the hardscape.
With planting, we focused on two-phased planting. Long term we have re-forested the property using faster growing indigenous pioneer species found in the Volcanos National Park forest. Eventually, these trees will form the Privacy planting ensuring the spaces the guests are using: the pool area, the restaurant terrace and the private garden courtyards still maintain their privacy and importantly feel like they belong to the forest the guests have come to experience. The key ecological advantage is that we are re-introducing native forest to the urban zone and in doing so improving the ecology of the site.
Short term, we explored the local area in and around Ruenhgeri. Rwanda is very highly populated and most of the steep slopes of the country are heavily farmed. Bananas play an important agricultural role and have a wonderful advantage in that they grow tall fast, as very easy (and cheap) to procure and within a garden setting have a strong structural form. They also offer guests an amazing experience where they can sit and enjoy the sound of the wind moving through the leaves, observe and enjoy the fruit and truly feel like they are deep in the heart of Africa. We felt they would be a strong plant to use as a key screening plant and equally contribute to a strong sense of identity to the new gardens at Bishop’s House. Together with the indigenous forest layer, and the agriculturally inspired planting we use a variety of plants suited to the highland conditions.
Architecture offices involved in the design: DMJ Architects
Project location (For publicly accessible projects please include the exact address. For Private gardens place write Country or State): Ruengheri, Rwanda
Design year: Phase 01 (2017), Phase 02 (2019)
Year Built: Phase 01 (2018), Phase 02 (2019)