Varatraza Wind Riders

Project history


At the beginning a bare ground, some 50 year old filao trees, tortured by the wind, by the sun, by the absence of water, scattered but which protect the littoral cordon. Sand dunes, drafts, the Varatraza’s lair for ages.

How to set up bungalows and keep intact this impression of space, of environment arranged by the architect of time and wind?

The idea of incorporating each accommodation unit into a naturally protective arch of filao trees then emerged. A structure that is adapted to wind, sun and the absence of precipitation 8 months out of 12.

Then comes the period of trials, nights under the stars, days punctuated by the cycles of the sun and the moon. Little by little, a plan is emerging in our heads, a logic of implantation.

Some structures will be round so that the walls do not whistle, exposed to the strong Varatraza wind, others rectangular, recessed, sheltered in the garden, in the bush.

Some made of recycled cement bags, filled with sand according to the principle of vernacular housing, others in baobao, round and square wood, bamboo, palm leaves.

The first assembled bungalow, “the bush”, comes from a 15-ton Mercedes truck trip in search of “satrana” palm leaves for the roof of the living space.

We cross a village where men are busy assembling a traditional house in the Andrafiabe region: wooden frame, walls in baobao slice, stem of the leaf of the traveller’s tree, and bamboo frame and palm leaves tied on themselves.

After a few exchanges to understand and be understood, to order an identical one, the house finds itself in the truck ready to be reassembled in Sakalava.

This diverted kit house launched the starting point of the bungalow adventure and inspired the construction of the following with other techniques.

Energy issue ?

For the construction site: how to cut, saw and drill without electricity ?

We tried chignoles and handsaw, wood chisels and mallet … until we realized that extremely hard wood, the absence of an electric tool condemned us to spend too much time transforming it, modeling it !

The decision is made, the whole site will be done in Diego with tools and electricity, the wood marked and then transported, assembled on site.

We will leave a dozen circular saws, drills and sanders! Chinese or big brands will not resist! The Malagasy force of implementation, the nature of the wood sounds the death knell for the tools.

Then, by placing the test beds, in the bungalows, we determine the orientations, windows and circulation.

To make walls, a roof seems a sacrifice so natural is beautiful as it is, raw, 360 ° panorama, Milky Way, lifted and moonlight.

We are resigned to arranging the walls but then with large bay windows to enjoy the lagoon!

Protecting from the wind is better, and head in the stars? We also give up, but temporarily, to move forward, but the idea is now very present: working on inside / outside, giving the impression of living “outside” while enjoying a little comfort from “inside” and we will come back to the openings and transparencies.

The project is still evolving in 2020!

An eco-responsible commitment

From the start of the project to today, water and energy issues, associated with an environment conducive to our passions but hostile to life, have forced us to find sustainable ecological solutions.

Vegetable solutions

From the start of the project in 2013, we plant, plant and replant … indigenous, resistant species, multiplication of casuarina trees, baobabs, badamiers, bougainvilleas, coconut palms, vetiver, potatoes in Durand, acacias.

Discouraging results, less than 20% success after a windy season.

However, each shrub, each blade of grass, each tree, helped by shelters against the wind protects its neighbor, constitutes a habitat for insects and little by little the birds settle.

Aquatic solutions

Water for planting, for living, for construction site, for showers, toilets,  for cleaning, washing, rinsing…. Water for cooking, for drinking. H2O is everywhere and we will have to find it.

We dig 80 m from the coast and we find water that will allow its immediate use at 8m depth, nozzles in plastic cans, then nozzles in reinforced concrete ball rice, as it is used, it will soften.

Digging in sand is very curious: after a few meters, we put down the nozzle and we settle inside to extract the sand, the nozzle sinks gradually, we superimpose them until we reach the water. There, it gets a little complicated with the depth. Indeed, digging squatting requires a system to breathe ! An extended snorkel will do the trick …

The water obtained is just brackish but allows daily watering of the living plant and human being.

There remains the solution to conduct the water from the well to the sanitary facilities. A water tower is built on the heights of the land to accommodate 4000 liters drawn from the well with a solar electric pump. 15 meters high between the top of the castle and the sanitary facilities creates pressure on the lodge network …

Energy solutions

The solution for construction has been found: do nothing on site. Move everything where the electricity is. But for the operation of the lodge? Difficult to get around town to recharge phones and accessories? Pedaling? It is in reflection …

I remembered my grandfather railwayman who had a two-lamp oil lamp to signal on the tracks. The idea: to transport its energy between the points of use of this energy: sanitary facilities and bungalows, and to light up on the way.

So, with Markel we made these wooden boxes, equipped with LEDs and a battery that powers your bungalow or the sanitary facilities when you put them on their base, recharging being done in the morning during breakfast.

Some solar panels for this recharge, the lighting of the place of life and the kitchens, two slow discharge batteries.

Here we are consistent with our philosophy of least impact and happy sobriety to which we invite you.

What are our real needs?



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