Ilha Quisiva is very different from the stereotypical island concept and carries with it the rich connotations and flavor of an island lying close against the shore of the African mainland. Our brief to the architects for the design of a 48 bed fractional ownership resort on Ilha Quisiva presented a special and challenging canvass.

In the first place, the topography of Quisiva is flat and low-lying. It is a coralline island 339ha (830 acres) in extent covered by dense endangered coastal thicket. There is no fresh water and little topsoil.

Mozambique and the Quirimbas Archipelago offer a rich tapestry of influences and references from which to draw inspiration. The most obvious of which is the Afro-esque theme hackneyed so endlessly in Africa. Less commonly used are the historic Portuguese colonial and Arabic, and to a lesser extent, Chinese influences.

The island itself presents a history of African and Portuguese settlement on its western lee dominated by an iconic half-kilometer long, tidal spit of white sand presided over by the ruins of an ancient Portuguese fortim and a grove of tropical coconut palms. On its eastern shore, a natural marvel exists in the form of the most bizarre and primal seascape comprising hundreds of crazy coral pedestals formed by tidal action over eons of time. This extreme shore, flanked by dense natural bush and tiny mangrove communities, offers a uniquely surreal outlook across a marine wonderland. The many tiny coves and small private beaches present perfect sites for ultimate relaxation in complete seclusion and an endlessly absorbing guest experience.

Interesting local materials such as coral rock, the ubiquitous makuti thatch, superb scented hardwoods and marble exemplify the natural textures and colours of the built form in the region.

The design should maximize these stunning vistas over a sapphire sea and incorporate a response to the natural conditions, the most obvious factor on Iha Quisiva being the soporific intensity of the tropical sun and humidity moderated by the northwest monsoon in summer and the brisker southeast trades in winter. Other vital factors include the large tidal range and the rainfall patterns.

Lying as they do within the protected Parque Nacional das Quirimbas, the environmental impact of the intended structures and systems would be required to be kept as small as possible. This constraint affects the height of the structures within the bush canopy and their visibility from the sea and air approaches. This also affects the choice of construction techniques, which are influenced amongst other things, by the need to limit collateral damage caused to the surrounding bush, coral cliff and inter-tidal zone. In keeping with the “green” imperatives of our time, the resort systems should be as energy efficient as possible within the bounds of affordability and proven technology.

Island life is timeless, simple, relaxed and unpretentious. These qualities must reflect in the resulting design which should be fresh and original and deliver superb luxury and spacious comfort consistent with the expectations of discerning guests. Careful conceptualization should ensure surprise and delight and help sustain interest and renewed fascination with each successive visit. The structures should be durable and have exceptional finishes, and through meticulous attention to detail, contribute in large measure to the most sublime vacation experience on the coast of Africa.

A collaborative effort was decided upon during December 2006 between the South African architectural practices of Design Workshop headed by Andrew Makin and Janina Masojada, and Adventure Architecture headed by Silvio Rech and Lesley Carstens. The project design scope was divided, and the appointment to conceive the public areas of the resort in the form of an island village was allocated to Silvio Rech and Lesley Carstens. The appointment for the villa accommodation concept on the eastern side of the island was allocated to Design Workshop.

Both practices have achieved significant international acclaim and have been responsible for the design of some of the most outstanding lodge resorts in southern Africa and the islands of the Seychelles. Their outstanding responses to these design challenges are evident in the exciting and original concepts that have resulted for Ilha Quisiva. These concepts can be viewed at www.quisiva.com and reflect their sensitivity, intellect, craft, artistry and experience combining to produce a guest experience that will be difficult to surpass.