Connecting nature, culture and people with design

Yang Di
Olav Bruin is an architect from Nomadic Resorts, an interdisciplinary design company covering architecture, interior and landscape design.
Yang Di
Connecting nature, culture and people with design

Olav Bruin

Who is he?

Olav Bruin is an architect from Nomadic Resorts, an interdisciplinary design company covering architecture, interior and landscape design. As a designer, he is  intrigued by the beauty and wonder that nature across the world has to offer. It keeps on surprising him as he tries to incorporate these elements of wonder and surprise into his designs.

Tell us some of your works, and name the one you are most proud of?

Over the past decade I have worked on quite a few interesting projects, like the Panyaden School in Thailand or the Houttuyn wellness resort in Surinam, but I am most proud of Wild Coast Tented Lodge in Yala, Sri Lanka. It is a project where everything came together at the right moment and we created a unique safari lodge experience. This could only have happened with the synergy we shared with the client and a well-balanced creative team, all aligned and sharing the same vision.

The safari camp is located next to Yala National Park, characterized by rocky outcrops scattered across the landscape. These forms are echoed into the architecture of the resort, with boulder-like pavilions that are clustered organically together. The ambition to minimize environmental impact and isolate the nature of the site demanded a locally-focused, sustainable approach with natural materials, sourced locally as much as possible, and celebrating vernacular traditions such as mud brick and bamboo construction. The interiors celebrate local craftsmanship and high-quality materials that age gracefully and capture a feeling of exploration and wonder.

Connecting nature, culture and people with design
Courtesy of Resplendent Ceylon / Ti Gong

Wild Coast Tented Lodge 

Are you currently involved with any projects?

We are currently building a resort in India, and are in the design stage for a bamboo resort in Fujian Province; a bamboo museum pavilion in Anji, Zhejiang Province; an Onsen spa in Taiwan and a resort in Mauritius. 

Describe your design style.

I don’t design from a particular style, but usually draw inspiration from the natural or cultural context. This will give the designs a true sense of place and make them fit naturally into their surroundings, as I believe that our designs should serve as a bridge to connect nature, culture and people.

Quite often I can find inspiration during a site visit — a curled leaf, broken shell, an animal bone or an insect chrysalis may transform into a fully-fledged building.

What does your home mean to you?

My home is a rather eclectic collection of pieces that we gathered over the past years, so they remind me about the different moments of my life. Some second-hand chairs date back from my time as a student, some pieces are inherited antiques, while other pieces are from a bamboo furniture collection that I developed with the interior designer Bo Reudler, who  also designed the interiors of Wild Coast Tented Lodge.

Where are you most creative?

In nature, disconnected from daily hassles. Our projects are often on the most beautiful locations. I spend a few days on site fully immersing myself in the context, listen to the sounds of birds, insects and wind in the trees, enjoy the change of light during the day and explore the local wonders of nature such as waterfalls, rocks, insects and trees. Other areas of inspiration that trigger my creativity are the local markets and old traditional houses and temples.

What do you collect?

Usually I bring interesting artefacts from my travels, that can sometimes inspire me for my designs. For example, I brought a colorful woven table cloth from Sri Lanka, some fossils and crystals from Taiwan and a beautifully crafted bamboo basket from Japan. 

Where would you like to go most in Shanghai?

The experience I hope to find in Shanghai is a glimpse of a future city, but embedded in a traditional cultural context. I hope to visit Shanghai on my next trip to the museum pavilion we will work on in Anji.

What’s the next big design trend?

Bamboo is probably the fastest growing renewable building material in the world and therefore one of the most sustainable. Even though it is sometimes still referred to as ‘the poor men’s timber’ we have been using it for over 12 years in luxury hospitality projects.

China has probably the largest natural stock of bamboo, so with the increasing awareness of sustainability I believe that in the near future we will see more and more buildings utilizing this fascinating material. 

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