The Nest at Sossus, designed by Porky Hefer

The Nest at Sossus, a striking new exclusive-use villa with its design inspired by the communal nests of Namibia’s social weaver birds, has recently opened this February within the country’s Namib Tsaris Conservancy.

This wildly creative thatched property designed by Porky Hefer has been under development for the last eight years and is a unique addition to Namibia’s luxury portfolio. It’s certainly an incredibly special time to visit Namibia.

The nearest town is 125km away and wildlife, which congregates around a floodlit watering hole, provides the only company. Seclusion is just one of The Nest’s selling points. On hand are a local chef, butler and guide, as well as a helipad. It’s a short flight to the World Heritage Site of Sossusvlei, home to glowing red sand dunes, and Deadvlei, a graveyard of 700-year-old camel thorn trees.

So how did this project begin? Well it was on this same spot that, nine years ago that South African designer Porky Hefer and friend of the Dobree’s, Swen Bachran, owner of the 24,000-hectare conservancy, camped out. They had come to survey the site as a location for a dwelling that could be a scaled-up version of the ‘nests’, pod-like furniture that Hefer was becoming known for (last year, one of his ‘Humanest’ hanging chairs, handwoven in kooboo cane, sold at Sotheby’s for £12,500).

While Hefer drew every last detail for his idea, Bachran was on a quest of his own. In 2010 he had bought the original plot of land, a former farm, as a weekend escape from Windhoek and Cape Town, where he runs property businesses. He soon acquired more land and, “fuelled by a passion for nature”, he explains, set about “rehabilitating the results of a hundred years worth of bad farming practice”. The area was once populated by abundant wildlife, thanks to its almost year-round natural pools and waterfalls. Bachran installed new roads, removed miles of fencing and is gradually reintroducing antelopes, zebras, giraffes, big cats and rodents. There are also plans to reintroduce the endangered black rhino too.

“It was an organic process. We built everything on site using local artisans and materials in the traditional style of the area. Building off the grid was both a difficulty and a blessing,” explained the designer, who spent three years finding a local builder up to the task. “It meant we could do what we wanted but logistically it was insane.”

Audience participation was also a problem, baboons dismantled the outdoor shower and a leopard cub shacked up under the foundations. Hefer and his wife, designer and curator Yelda Bayraktar, began work on the interiors, later handing over to Cape Town design specialists Maybe Corpaci and Yelda Bayraktar. They opted for locally sourced reed roofs and the walls are clad onto a steel inner structure with handmade bricks clad with granite from the site. The team used Kiaat used for furniture, cabinetry and cladding and teak for the floors.

Accommodating up to seven guests, the property features four en suite bedrooms (one designed especially for children), a library, swimming pool and children’s playground.

While they dreamed up their crazy scheme (Hefer had never designed a house before and materials would need to be transported from 480km away), they observed the vast, labyrinthine nests of the local sociable weaver birds. Such nests can house hundreds of birds, who gather in different ‘rooms’. Outer, cool spaces during the day, and warm, inner areas when night-time temperatures plummet. So why not apply their efficient techniques to a house for humans, thought Hefer?

“For years, I pitched my nests to safari camps and lodges. People didn’t get it, but I kept on trucking. Finally, I met someone mad enough to say yes,” he says. “Swen and I are a pair of obsessives who never take no for an answer.”

Photography by Katinka Bester

Nicky’s World February 2019