Gross Barmen Resort

CompanyWasserfall Munting Architects
Lead DesignerJaco Wasserfall
Design Team Kobus Pretorius
PrizeArchitectural Design / Recreational Architecture

“Weak spring running over rocky ground” This project involves the refurbishment of the 1970’s hot spring resort of Gross Barmen located in the Otjozondjupa region in central Namibia. Frequented by nomadic tribes since the early days, Gross Barmen is a very special place steeped in history and deeply rooted in the early development of Namibia. It was the site of the First Rhenish Mission in 1844 and witnessed the rebellion in 1904 against German colonial rule, leading to a cataclysmic period in the history of Namibia and one of the earliest attempts at genocide in the 20th century. This architectural intervention endeavours to understand, acknowledge and interpret the so-called 'spirit of place', i.e. that which can be described as the 'silent testimony' of a site. The arriving visitor is introduced to the layered historic narrative of the site by means of an experiential journey, which starts at the gate to the complex. Here a massive curved wall rises from the natural veld announcing the presence of the Gross Barmen but revealing nothing of that which lies behind. A generous pedestrian ramp leads to the first floor entrance. Upon entering the building, the visitor is rewarded with a framed view of the eye of the historic spring, serving as focal point: when proceeding to the viewing balcony, the scene unfolds revealing a lush green oasis with sparkling blue pools of water surrounded by a series of buildings and a large dam beyond. The raised promenade continues the experiential journey, introducing the various building components that shield the oasis from the elements, and affording panoramic views of the surroundings: the ruins of the Rhenish mission house and church, cemeteries, police post and dam, and the mountains beyond.