Two One-of-a-Kind Guest Retreats in Zambia Are Outfitted for Roaming or Relaxing
Chongwe River House
In Zambia on the Chongwe River, a tributary of the Zambezi, Robin and Jo Pope hired safari guide Neil Rocher to design a safari retreat whose undulations follow the contours of the trees he used as the frame.
The Chongwe is the primary water source for herds of elephants that feed in lush groves near the house.
The main room contains the sitting and dining areas. A winter thorn trunk, appearing as if it had fallen there, serves as a table base and bench seating.
The Popes gave Rocher carte blanche to experiment with forms. He molded the reinforced-concrete walls so that no surface is flat and no corners meet at right angles. “The concept,” he explains, “was an organic termite mound coming up from the ground.”
Even the baths—where the showers are waterfalls and some of the basins are carved out of Zambian stone by sculptor Eddie Mumba—look right out over the river and the bush. There are no doors in the house, but curved entrances ensure guests’ privacy.
Luangwa Safari House
Situated on the Popes’ private land next to Zambia’s South Luangwa National Park, the house is shaded by ebony trees. Rocher aimed for a fortified aesthetic, though he left one side entirely open. “Nature on your doorstep,” proclaim the hosts.
Rocher salvaged 25 dead leadwood trees, weighing five to seven tons apiece, to form what he calls the superstructure of the house. In the double-height main room, hand-painted fabrics from a local factory pair with furniture and lamps made by Lusaka craftsman Matt Peacock.
Guests on safari might see Thornicroft’s giraffes, which are endemic to the region. The Popes, who have been in the safari business for several decades, provide vehicles, experienced, armed guides and a private chef and house manager.
Chongwe River House: Hotels: architecturaldigest.com