Using innovative contemporary architecture to create The Homestead

“When I looked at the drawings of The Homestead, I thought ‘who is doing this’? It was during the worldwide pandemic when everyone was facing difficulties. I thought it would not go ahead, but Dean Jay, the project architect, said that Wayne Scholes was not giving up. I had the idea of a person who dreams big and is also steadfast. When I met him, I saw that he was very pleasant and very humble. You would not expect that from someone of his magnitude,” said George Shambamuto.

In the words of our founder, Wayne Scholes, the philosophy of The Homestead is to create “a world made measurably better by every interaction we have, and every choice we make,” and George’s work — like the work of all our people, our staff members — helps to create that world.

George is the Consultant Clerk-in-Work for The Homestead. He liaises between the architect and the builders to bring the architect’s vision to rich and enduring life; a vision that is using innovative contemporary architecture to create one of the most luxurious safari lodges in South Africa.

“I am from Zimbabwe. I studied for a year in England. I went to the University of Central England in Birmingham. Then I couldn’t stand the cold, so I came back to SA! I came down in 2007. I went to the Durban University of Technology and started my Diploma in Architecture. In 2011 I graduated. I worked for a while and then I started working for Dean Jay Architects under the mentorship of Dean. He is a brilliant teacher and I spent 7 years in his company until I decided to fly and work for myself,” George continued.

He added thoughtfully “I moved away from architecture and moved into working in the field of on-site Clerk-in-Work. I saw that there was a gap in the market where architects suffered quite a lot because a lot of their detailing and vision was being sacrificed because they could not spend enough time on site like the old-style architects did when they literally helped the builder to bring their vision to life. So, I started my own company Ikhothamo Projects. I sat down with architects to ascertain what their intentions were, and work with them to bring those visions to life.
When I got the call from Dean to get involved with The Homestead, I was busy on another project. I was excited about the fact that it was a game lodge, as that also helped me to expand my own portfolio.”

Dean Jay knew that George was a perfect fit for the project. And George found to his amazement that it was no ordinary game lodge. It was a luxury game lodge in South Africa that was being constructed as a triumph of sustainable, eco-friendly, innovative modern architecture. He said, “I had worked on nothing like this before.”

The main building is constructed on raft foundations; submerged in earth like a raft is in water. It gives scope for movement, but it is securely held. The man lodge building has a planted roof, so do all the deluxe suites.

The idea is to make the building look and feel as if it has grown out of the earth; to have it blend into the surrounding landscape.

Most of the side walls are made of glass. Massive steel sliding doors have been specially constructed for the main building.

“Many things about this building are experimental,” George said, “Those steel doors are so huge that many contractors thought it was an impossible, crazy idea to make them!”

The huge steel doors open onto the deck, which has a view of a watering hole at one end and a magnificent infinity pool at the other end. They can open the entire building to the wild breath-taking view on a hot day, but they can also shut out the world for those times when people want to be cocooned in the stylish contemporary design of the luxurious interior spaces. The main building has pillars that run through the entire building. These pillars frame the different areas of the interior.

As well as the magnificent main building and the super luxurious guest suites The Homestead features a boma, a bird hide, and stunning staff accommodation. The staff accommodation is so luxurious that people cannot believe that those rooms are for staff! That reflects the philosophy of looking after your people, which is embedded into the ethos of The Homestead by Wayne.

Traditionally an old sundowner’s spot, there will also be a viewing deck right next to the bistro looking out over the watering hole. The bistro will be open to everyone, not just guests of The Homestead.

Beside the Bistro we are restoring a silo which will include a viewing deck on the top which is quite high up. Guests could even camp up overnight there under the stars.
Of course, working on some of the most innovative architectural designs in South Africa does come with a few challenges!

First of all, the site is in the middle of a big five safari game reserve in South Africa. On a luxury safari holiday in South Africa, everyone wants to see lions, leopards, rhinos, hippos, elephants, buffalos and more… However, if you are working, it is a different story!

George said smiling “Coming onto a site where there are animals walking around, I thought I had to look up every tree to see if there was a leopard waiting to pounce on me! Once we drove on to the site and saw a pride of four or five lions and the whole site came to a standstill to see the lions. We have also had a few false alarms. One time this guy came running in and shouting, ‘seen a lion, seen a lion’, and everyone was running around in different directions, trying to find cover and a place to hide and trying to figure out if a lion could get into it!

The hippos visit the waterhole right behind our site office. I once saw what looked like a little gym ball walking beside its mum. It was the baby hippo that was born on the site.

The elephants have recently been playing with the cabling and making a mess!

It is nice to see the buffalos. They have a real presence. It is something to see. When they walk by…you can’t describe it. You must see it to experience it. They’ve knocked down a few parts of the ruins. There is a kind of rapport between them, as if they are saying ‘we are who we are, we don’t care about anyone, we just do as we please’. Who is going to argue with a buffalo!

The weird thing is, that when you come onto the site on a Monday morning as I do, and do my rounds, you do see a lot of animal prints and droppings on site. So, clearly when we are not on site, they figure that we are not here, and they pad about on the site.”

And with the challenges, there are those heroes who rise to the challenges and overcome them.

George commented “If anyone ever came to me and said, ‘who would you choose as the guys who have contributed the most to this project, who had the most difficult job on the site’, it would be the stonemasons. I think it takes a special kind of person to look at a big boulder and hammer away at it with a hammer and chisel for hours to get it into shape. They go about their business patiently in every part of the site. It is a special skill. They are from the mountain kingdom of Lesotho. They are reaching the end of their work recently on the main build and are now rehabilitating the ruins.”

The theme of The Homestead ruins is love, peace and understanding. This theme permeates every aspect of our luxury South African safari lodge and the work on the ruins brings those themes to life.

The dining room amongst the ruins is designed for love; for people who want to enjoy luxurious, beautiful romantic interludes over breakfast, lunch and dinner. “I suggested that people could use this place as an engagement destination. They can immortalise their engagement there, and we could line the walls with the names of people who got engaged there and the dates on which the engagements took place. So, on their ten-year anniversary they can come back and relive that moment,” George said enthusiastically.

The yoga and meditation studio emanates peace. George continued “We are trying to create an ambience of peace, generated by activities like yoga and meditation, and so we are trying to convert that particular ruin into a kind of zen studio. We have specifically chosen the ruined building under an old fig tree amongst those ruins. It is a big fig that is integrated into the wall of that ruin.”

Understanding is created through a mini museum in a third ruin. It will be filled with artefacts of historical significance related to the Zulu British and Boer Wars. Many of the battles fought during that time took place in this area.

George paused and then said that the view all around is incredible. The concept of connecting the watering hole and the view, makes you feel as if you just want to walk along to the end of the deck in excitement, then turn to see more of that incredible, stunning view off the escarpment.

“Framing the views in the suites was interesting. At no point do you feel that one suite has a better view than another; they are all equally beautiful and slightly different. The suites are also completely private and separate from one another.

Working on The Homestead has been challenging, inspiring, and excitingly scary. You can’t help but be proud to be involved with everyone who is engaged in this project. Many of us are experiencing many ‘firsts’ on this project, because it is so innovative.”

He finishes by saying that the team can’t wait to see the brilliant things that are being placed inside this site, from the state-of-the-art briefing room with 360-degree imaging of the big five safaris you can take, to the top of the range luxury kitchens.”

Our guests will not have to wait too long to experience their first taste of exciting, innovative, sustainable, ecologically conscious contemporary South African architecture. They will sample it right here, when they arrive in 2022 to begin their luxury South African safari holiday of a lifetime at The Homestead.