THE KENYAN ADVENTURE – Discussion 12

All of us must have, at some point in time, savored the vague moments between sleep and wakefulness – the almost magical moments when the hazy dreams take on a most ethereal quality.

It almost seemed like a real-world manifestation of an architect’s detached dreams when Tony presented before us the images of Kenya’s Shompole Resort. Located on the outskirts, this huge resort seems like an extension of an architect’s poetic fantasies.

The resort welcomes a user with its pristine white walls and spotless white flooring with the wooden members and the thatched roof providing highlights. There seems to be an almost whimsical integration of water bodies of various shapes into the plan. The volume of the resort is wrapped around the existing trees and is open with no doors or complete walls – leading to amusing scenarios where birds fly right into the resort and set up nest on the trusses of the roof.

The resort offers a limited number of suites – each suite in itself offering rooms of huge proportions. The level differences vary in a quirky manner and tony confessed to have tripped on several of the many level variations. The open space planning moves through the lounging areas into the bedrooms and to the toilets in a seamless manner. A huge Swimming pool that looks out into the sparse landscape forms the part of the suite.

However, the resort, Tony testifies, is a housekeeping nightmare. A heavy storm can devastate the walls – that are merely metal grill reinforcement covered over by a mixture of cement, clay and plastered , though forms fanciful shapes – collapses in an event of a storm , common to the African nation. The pure white flooring needs vigilant monitoring and the many water bodies, if not cared for, become breeding ground for mosquitoes and insects.

The resort, dreamlike in many aspects failed to impress our forum, and some declined to even term it as good architecture- for good architecture, they argued, is never detached from rationality. Functionality forms the crux of aesthetics and grace without prudence is meaningless.

However, the forum was in agreement that one lesson that one can imbibe from this resort is the use of natural materials and the innovative detailing in parts of the resort such as the coves that hold the lanterns and line the pathway or the effective lampshade of bamboo strips that attaches itself to the electric light filtering the glow of the light.

We concluded with the judgment that middle path , as the enlightened Buddha said , is applicable in architecture as well – and the middle path between functionality and fancifulness defines aesthetics.

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