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2013 Award of Merit - Kwanari Ecolodge
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Project Category: Planning and Analysis

Project Name: Kwanari Ecolodge

Project Location: Commonwealth of Dominica, West Indies

Date of Completion: Winter of 2013

Landscape Architect:  HM Design

(www.h-m-design.com) 

Owner: Kasswebb Ltd., Julian Webb, Faye Kass 

Landscape Contractor: Thall Engineering


Kwanari Ecolodge is located on the eastern (Atlantic Ocean) side of Commonwealth of Dominica and four miles south of the only native territory in the Caribbean – Kalinago (also known as Carib). Today, the Kalinago people are the poorest community in Dominica, so many young men and women leave for studies/work and never return. Numerous studies have shown that the future of the Kalinago people will be endangered if this exodus continues. It is with this in mind that Kwanari Ecolodge is being developed so as to create jobs and support the Kalinago.

The territory’s current leader, Chief Garnet Joseph, has been an active member of the analysis and planning team for Kwanari Ecolodge which is under construction and scheduled to open in December 2013. Many Kalinago have been employed as contractors and the domino-effect in the local economy is currently being documented. Ecotourists at the lodge will also visit the nearby Cultural Village where Kalinago community members have revived artisanry, dances and even some of the mother tongue through songs and theater. 

The Kwanari Ecolodge site occupies approximately seven acres and is the first master planned and designed ecolodge in Dominica with an international consultant team that represents several continents. The total development includes a wellness center, forest and ocean villas, tree house, library, conference/local community hall, infinity-edge swimming pool, organic garden, mouinas (native-built pavilions), boardwalks and trails. 

The in-depth Planning and Analysis places the social and ecological integrity of the region as a top priority. Seven forms of methodology were used to prepare the Conceptual Master Plan: Research into the history, culture, flora and fauna of the island; pre-site visit AutoCAD analysis; on-site metaphysical analysis and ground truthing; interviews with the various stakeholders; meetings and open discussion with a wide cross-section of citizens; On-site visits to numerous existing facilities (hotels, restaurants, houses, natural areas etc) and on-site Participatory Planning Workshops and charettes.  

Site analysis included both the Physical (Autocad, site survey, satellite imagery, Photography) and Metaphysical (six senses and deep ecology) methods of immersion, understanding and awareness. The Physical approach entailed a detailed layering process which included suitability analysis that resulted in a composite analysis map showing the most optimal places to site the buildings in-order to have the least ecological impact. Metaphysical approaches included both six-senses and eco-psycho analysis. Sensitive observations were made by each member of the consultant team as regards sight, sound, touch, taste and smell.

It is crucial that the ‘chi’ (energy) of the site is not disturbed during development and so each workshop participant became a part of the site to perform the sixth-sense exercise. An ecopsychologist was also contracted to conduct sensorial workshops and thereby connect the consultants and clients deeply with the spiritual energy of the site and its inhabitants, both floral and faunal. The results from the metaphysical workshops were then included in the Opportunities and Constraints Map which led to the creation of the Overall Site Plan. 

The applicant firm has been extremely careful not to destroy the forest feel of the site and contracted two local horticultural experts to identify every single tree over 6”caliper which were  inserted onto the base map. The firm then carefully sited the buildings so that none of the identified trees would have to be removed. A tree protection plan ensured that the building contractor protected every tree and then the firm made over 5 trips to Dominica to ensure that each building, pavilion and boardwalk was sited between the identified 6”caliper trees.

The planning philosophy for Kwanari Ecolodge is to create a project that meets the standards of an Authentic ecolodge set by The International Ecotourism Society. The Site Planning celebrates the most striking quality of the site - the meeting of forest and sea. All built additions are at a scale appropriate to the local ecological and cultural carrying capacity of the region. Every lodge facility is on stilts and tread lightly respecting the sites topography, hydrology, visual amenity, flora and fauna allowing all natural systems to function and grow uninterrupted. Only native species have been considered in the Planting Design.

During the winter, there is very little rainfall so water conservation techniques include grey water irrigation, rain water harvesting, and low water use toilets and showers. The applicant firm is introducing a whole new style of architecture and landscape architecture in the Caribbean – Forest Caribbean - which is a hybrid of the classic Caribbean architecture (with its pavilions, balusters with intricate fretwork, balconies, dormer windows,) and the ‘cabin in the woods’ (logs, stone, rustic, contextual design) architecture prevalent in North America and Europe.

Kwanari Ecolodge, will be authentically "all inclusive”- including and welcoming the local communities of the nearest village, Castle Bruce, Kalinago Territory and all those committed to a sustainable future for Dominica. The project will be a showcase for the crafts and produce of the local communities and provide a place to gather. 

Credits: 

Landscape Architect: Chang Du, RLA ASLA

 Consultant: Matthew Flynn, Vida Design Studio 

Architect of Record: Joffre Greene, ARCHITECTROPICS 

Project Manager: Lenny Andre, Andre and Associates 

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MISSION STATEMENT Leading, educating, and participating in the careful stewardship, wise planning, and artful design of our cultural and natural environments.
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