Take an Eco-Escape to a Spherical Forest Villa in an Eroded Volcanic Cone in Rwanda

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By Jennifer Baum Lagdameo / Published by Dwell
With interiors and an architectural style that's deeply rooted in indigenous design traditions, the recently opened Bisate Lodge pays tribute to Rwandan culture while honoring its natural surroundings.

Set on the edge of the renowned Volcanoes National Park in northern Rwanda, Bisate Lodge is comprised of six spacious forest villas with spherical, thatched structures that echo the thousands of hills that dot the Rwandan countryside. 

Take an Eco-Escape to a Spherical Forest Villa in an Eroded Volcanic Cone in Rwanda - Photo 1 of 10 - The forest villas were designed by South African architect Nick Plewman.

The forest villas were designed by South African architect Nick Plewman.

The lodge is the newest project from Wilderness Safaris, a sustainable ecotourism operator that specializes in providing wildlife experiences in remote areas of Africa. The 103-acre Bisate Lodge boasts stunning views of three volcanoes. The villas are even located in a natural amphitheater of an eroded volcanic cone, further capturing the essence of the terrain. The resort is part of the spectacular Volcanoes National Park Headquarters, thanks to a pioneering onsite indigenous reforestation project—making it close enough for guests to take a morning gorilla trek.

Take an Eco-Escape to a Spherical Forest Villa in an Eroded Volcanic Cone in Rwanda - Photo 2 of 10 - Each spacious 980-square-foot forest villa is made up of a bedroom, reception space, and bathroom. It's warmed by a central fireplace and features breathtaking views from the private deck looking toward Mount Bisoke.

Each spacious 980-square-foot forest villa is made up of a bedroom, reception space, and bathroom. It's warmed by a central fireplace and features breathtaking views from the private deck looking toward Mount Bisoke.

The architecture and design was created collaboratively and led by principal architect Nick Plewman, with additional input from the National Ethnographic Museum, among others. The design team took inspiration from the Royal Palace at Nyanza and injected modern sensiblities. 

Take an Eco-Escape to a Spherical Forest Villa in an Eroded Volcanic Cone in Rwanda - Photo 3 of 10 - Caline Williams-Wynn, her team from Artichoke, and Teta Isibo worked together on the interiors, which include colorful textiles and tons of texture.

Caline Williams-Wynn, her team from Artichoke, and Teta Isibo worked together on the interiors, which include colorful textiles and tons of texture.

The interior design references a variety of aspects of Rwandan lifestyle, especially the colorful textiles and heavy use of texture. Teta Isibo, a Rwandan fashion entrepreneur and founder of Inzuki Designs—who was also named by Forbes as one of Africa’s 30 Most Promising Young Entrepreneurs for 2017—was commissioned to collaborate with the project's interior design team. It was led by Caline Williams-Wynn and her team from Artichoke to source locally-produced items and bring a vibrant authentic Rwandan flair to the interiors. 

Take an Eco-Escape to a Spherical Forest Villa in an Eroded Volcanic Cone in Rwanda - Photo 4 of 10 - Bathroom interiors

Bathroom interiors

Recycled glass was used for chandeliers, volcanic stone was used in the fireplaces, black-and-white cow hides were used to reflect the rural way of life in the villages, and the traditional ibyansi milk jug motif is repeated throughout. Imigongo, a traditional art form unique to Rwanda where cow dung is mixed with different color soils and painted into geometric shapes, was also employed.  

Take an Eco-Escape to a Spherical Forest Villa in an Eroded Volcanic Cone in Rwanda - Photo 5 of 10 - "The emerald green color in the textiles and chandeliers is reminiscent of the verdant greens of the rainforests, as well as the vibrant markets that dot the villages throughout the country," says interior designer Williams-Wynn. 

"The emerald green color in the textiles and chandeliers is reminiscent of the verdant greens of the rainforests, as well as the vibrant markets that dot the villages throughout the country," says interior designer Williams-Wynn. 

However, Bisate Lodge embraces its location in many more ways than just it's design. "When we made the decision to invest in Rwanda, the last thing we intended to do was just to build a boutique lodge and sell gorilla treks," Wilderness Safaris' COO Grant Woodrow explains. "We wanted to ensure that our brand of responsible ecotourism made a real difference to both rural Rwandan people and biodiversity conservation."  

Take an Eco-Escape to a Spherical Forest Villa in an Eroded Volcanic Cone in Rwanda - Photo 6 of 10 - Recycled glass was used for chandeliers and black-and-white cow hides were used to reflect the rural way of life in the villages.

Recycled glass was used for chandeliers and black-and-white cow hides were used to reflect the rural way of life in the villages.


Take an Eco-Escape to a Spherical Forest Villa in an Eroded Volcanic Cone in Rwanda - Photo 7 of 10 - The dining area

The dining area


Take an Eco-Escape to a Spherical Forest Villa in an Eroded Volcanic Cone in Rwanda - Photo 8 of 10 - The volcanic mountainous terrain also resonates in the volcanic stone that's used in Bisate’s fireplaces and its surrounds, while natural ‘flamed’ granite is used for many surfaces.

The volcanic mountainous terrain also resonates in the volcanic stone that's used in Bisate’s fireplaces and its surrounds, while natural ‘flamed’ granite is used for many surfaces.


Take an Eco-Escape to a Spherical Forest Villa in an Eroded Volcanic Cone in Rwanda - Photo 9 of 10 - The spherical, thatched structures echo the thousands of hills that dot the Rwandan countryside.

The spherical, thatched structures echo the thousands of hills that dot the Rwandan countryside.


Take an Eco-Escape to a Spherical Forest Villa in an Eroded Volcanic Cone in Rwanda - Photo 10 of 10 - The incredible surrounding countryside

The incredible surrounding countryside

All sales and bookings for Bisate Lodge will be handled by Wilderness Safaris. For more information and to book, visit this link or email enquiry@wilderness.co.za.

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