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  • Lalibela /BC Architects

Architects: BC Architects and Studies  
Location: Lalibela,  Ethiopia
Project Team: BC Studies
Interior Décor: BC Studies
Project Year: 2013
Photographer: BC Studies
Website: www.bcarchitects.com

The Ben Abeba 'rock hewn hotel rooms' project was aimed at creating a contemporary and ecologically sensitive architecture inspired by the power of expression of the historical rock hewn churches in the town of Lalibela. It’s a project that was intended to sprout out of the rocks as an extension rather than an addition. 

The layout maximizes on the use of climate for providing comfort and offering intimacy and breathtaking views to the valley. A strict "local solutions" design philosophy generates a new vernacular, with natural and unprocessed materials and techniques implemented by local workmanship. Stone construction has been chosen for the availability of the material on the site and in nearby quarry, for the existing or expandable skills in building stone walls, for the ecological benefits stone masonry can offer, and of course for its aesthetical value. Rammed Earth flooring has been chosen for its link with vernacular practices, and again its aesthetical value. This high end guesthouse thus connects with social, ecological and socio-economical values sensible to the area and its people. More so the projects the values of BC architects and BC studies across Africa where they have intensively applied local tech and materials in both low cost and high end projects.

Sited on the north-west facing slope amongst some mature vegetation, the units are conceived in a linear set-up stretching along the contour lines organizing autonomous modules of 1 hotel room, linked to a seating area at the most down part. Simple cut and fill groundwork, carefully located to maintain vegetation and chosen slope, allows for common external areas along the pathway while the privacy of the hotel rooms is maintained by being raised at least 2 meters above the pathway. 

The rooms are carved into the hill on the back side, and open up to the west and northern views facing the road to Sekota. A cascading pathway generates communal external spaces that offer an entrance to a room and can as well be used as encounter spaces and fire pits with a view. A bigger view platform and seating area is created at the most down part of the site. Natural ventilation of the rooms is encouraged during the day while thermal inertia of stone walls radiates in an enclosed environment during the night to reduce the effect of coolness due to altitude. This moderation quality of the room is a direct borrowing from not only the historical Lalibela churches but most African traditional houses.  Bathrooms are voluntarily located on the corners in order to allow for natural cross ventilation at all time, the bath tub/shower and toilet enjoy a framed view on the northern and western landscape respectively.

 

The space between the room units is kept sufficient to expose views and integrate vegetation, keep privacy and nevertheless close enough to maintain a small village atmosphere. Subspaces within the units are topographically positioned to reinforce the relationship with the view. It is a project that can grow easily and in direction creating a village and informal growth as opposed to the formal hotel design.

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