Dar HI eco retreat in tunisia by matali crasset
original content
dec 01, 2010
Dar HI eco retreat in tunisia by matali crasset

‘Dar HI hotel’ by matali crasset in nefta, tunisia
image courtesy Dar HI

looking for a city break? a weekend away? short or long christmas trip?
parisian designer matali crasset has envisioned an experimental eco-retreat and spa in nefta,
a tiny village at the base of a palm-tree oasis in southern tunisia.
consisting of a composition of elevated houses protected by surrounding walls,
designboom visited the Dar HI before its official opening.

a pilotis of the Dar HI hotel overlooking the palm oasis
image courtesy Dar HI

the Dar HI is a contemporary experiment, something between a guest house and a boutique hotel.
it allows you to be in isolation. it is an experience of withdrawl, a place in which to take care of your body and mind,
as well as
exchanging and opening one’s self to the other in an exceptional
natural and human environment.

nefta is only a two-hour-and-fifteen-minute flight from paris, lyon, nice or milan, but you feel like
you’ve arrived at the end of the world,
‘ says matali, about the location of her first architectural project.
the tunisian town is a 23 kilometer distance from tozeur international airport (a 15 minute ride with the hotel’s free shuttle service),
is situated at the edge of the sahara desert.

two daybeds are incorporated into the design of each pilotis, offering
a sweeping view of the village, palm grove and desert beyond
image © designboom

the project has been designed so as to not be a replica. this is a new venture, built around the concepts of well-being…
an unexpected eco-retreat
.’ matali crasset worked closely with tunisian architect, mohamed nasr on the hotel.
the idea was to collaborate with the local artisans and not
import anything,
‘ she explains.
therefore only locally sourced materials, like palm wood and clay bricks have been used in the
building complex’s construction. ‘the hotel becomes a platform, a place for potential development of an environmentally
sustainable type of tourism in tunisia

the units is propped upon four stilts offering shaded areas below. large panoramic windows are characteristic of each pilotis.
image © designboom

for the Dar HI, matali crasset has designed a set of 17 ‘pilotis’ constructed from concrete sand
(mixing concrete and sand from the sahara). ‘I have conceived an architecture that is towards the indoors when outside
and towards the outdoors when you’re inside
,’ she explains. the architectural proposal is meant to create a harmony
between the natural location of the pilotis and the local life surrounding them. the development includes private
and public spaces, a thermal pool, restaurant and spa.

life is organized around the bow-window
image © designboom

tourism in tunisia has developed around the fashionable places erected
by tour operators in
international travel destinations, but a country
like tunisia, so replete with natural wonder,
encourages a journey of greater research. until now, the country did not even have original small boutique hotels
contemporary guest houses, let alone projects rooted in ecological hospitality.
with the Dar HI,
tourism in tunisia now takes a new turn, towards a more humane
and reasoned path.

the thermal pool with hot springs from the desert and patio space
image courtesy Dar HI

the sun loungers situated around the retreat act as cozy meeting places for two or three.
all furniture constructed in wood and concrete are designed by matali crasset.

outdoor lounging areas can be found below the units, providing shade to the communal areas
image © designboom

the raised rooms seem to be planted in the sand, located according to their sun exposure and panorama.
roofs of the lounge areas are made of palm wood situated below the elevated ‘houses’.
they provide communal areas for guests to socialize and relax.

image © designboom

Dar Hi is exposed to the southwest, overlooking nefta’s basin.
the elevated houses are all provide different views of the surrounding geographic location.

parasols with cane cover
image © designboom

cane constructions on the windows and umbrellas situated around the hotel provide
protection from the hot sun.

image © designboom

the Dar HI is a search for self-sufficiency and local development, using the resources available at hand
rather than importing materials from abroad. the facades perfectly mix with local architecture.
Dar HI’s main colours are ochre and sand with a comprehensive choice of bright colors to accentuate the
different social functions.

crasset worked with local craftsmen, observing their techniques – using beams and bricks – and building constraints,
in which contemporary materials have been combined with local artefacts for the final structure.

Dar HI’s layout is like a village

image © designboom

Dar HI’s layout is like a village and it is in harmony
with nefta’s landscape.
exposed to the southwest, overlooking the nefta basin, it is surrounded by a wall similar to those of local
following the
landscape’s shape and emerging from the ground. a fabulous light, a landscape that invites to meditation,
abrupt cliffs – the wonderful panorama is made of all these elements.

the thermal pool with hot springs from the desert at sun set
image courtesy Dar HI

the raised spaces offer breathtaking views different for everyone. some benefit
from views of the horizon overlooking the nearby salted lake and iridescent thermal pool,
replenished with water from the hot springs of the desert. others overlook the changing landscape of the oasis.
units situated lower to the ground are found amongst the communal areas of the hotel,
while those located at higher ground offer more privacy.

image © designboom

the project is aimed at enthusiasts of eco-spa

images courtesy Dar HI

the organization of the areas favors different possibilities to share moments with other people or to rest in a calm retired place.

image courtesy Dar HI

designboom’s room at our stay last week
image © designboom

the TV – videocorner and other collective spaces
images © designboom

the view is framed by simple architectural intervention, the lounging area is made of concrete and sand
image © designboom

… the unique panorama of nefta’s palm oasis.

(clockwise from top left) frédérick e. grasser hermé, cooking area behind glass windows, two female cooks from nefta, native organic food
images © designboom

the project is sustainable as the team has forged close relationships with the local inhabitants,
who will ultimately be responsible for the guest house, its everyday upkeep and success of the retreat in the long term.
local cooks are trained by world famous experts, to combine traditional local recipes with gourmets requirements
of the international clients.
FeGHtima – mrs. frédérick e. grasser hermé, cookbook author,
food consultant of top restaurants (and muse of alain ducasse, the first french chef to achieve six stars in the michelin guide)
likes her food to be simple and is particularly interested in organic food.

the Dar HI boutique by FeGHtima offers products selected or created by frédérick e. grasser hermé -
in this bazaar you can find typical local products, from essential oils and other plant aromas, to interior objects,
books, ceramics, cooking utensils, palm tree baskets and mats…

the kitchen and self-service area
image © designboom

no imported products, nor the so called ‘authentic cuisine for
tourists’ are offered,
but rather a self sufficient
and local development approach. here, artificial
folklore is not necessary. vegetables are grown in Dar HI’s
own gardens
in between the palms and the eco-tretreat has committed itself to buying all other food ingredients
from the production of the village of nefta, encouraging a cooperative system.

the daily menue is written on the window
image © designboom

locally grown bananas and dates make a special dessert.
the Dar HI offers a simple and healthy cuisine typical of the area.

fresh tunesian bread
image © designboom

lounging near the entrance area

palm wood is transformed and reinterpreted for use within the interior, roofs and doors constructions.

lounging near the entrance area
image © designboom

(left to right) philippe chapelet and patrick elouarghi
image © designboom

the young hotelier partners, patrick elouarghi (a french man of tunisian father and spanish mother)
and french philippe chapelet wanted to explore an alternate form of hospitality, to encourage an alternate way
of living and a more sustainable form of tourism.

rendering by matali crasset

the discussion  between philippe chapelet, patrick elouarghi and matali
crasset, began in 2005,.
their dialogue revolved around developing a new contemporary experience, a completely new concept
of hospitality
and serenity. after four years of construction and an investment of €2.5 million,
the Dar HI
opens the doors today. matali’s initial
venture into hotel design came earlier this decade,
with the Hi Hotel in nice (france), by the same owners as the Dar HI, mr. elouarghi and mr.
it opened in 2003 and features 38-rooms based around nine conceptual themes.

Dar HI logo

overall, matali crasset designed 3 different typologies for the hotel: the pilotis houses, the
troglodytes and the dunes.
nefta is an important religious village, a platform of sufism that gives a poetic and mystical dimension to it.
the ‘star wars’ movie was filmed in a village nearby, and the architectural set is still readily visited.

click here for part 2 of our documentation, for more images of the interiors, the steamy geothermal hammam,
and views onto the date groves and palm trees galore.
for further info, you might want to read the wall street journal article by lanie goodman.

Dar HI project info:
constructed area and terrace:
2347 m2
project manager:
matali crasset, assisted by marco salgado and francis fichot
execution architect:
mohamed nasr
shell building works & concrete masonry:
ELB, mr louhichi
follow up & surveying:
karconsult, tunis
EBF, mr ben jemaa
air conditioning:
SBMF, mr ben messaoud, tunis
mokded company, nefta
engineering consulting:
best engineering, tunis
control office:
excell control, tunis
mr hsine azouga
mr samir cherif
tightness engineering:
SNEC, tunis
mr mourad hsiki, nabeul
I.D all creations, mme barka douida, djerba

comments policy
login with designboom
designboom's comment policy guidelines
generally speaking, if we publish something, it's because we're genuinely interested in the subject. we hope you'll share this interest and if you know even more about it, please share! our goal in the discussion threads is to have good conversation and we prefer constructive opinions. we and our readers have fun with entertaining ones. designboom welcomes alerts about typos, incorrect names, and the like.
the correction is at the discretion of the post editor and may not happen immediately.

what if you disagree with what we or another commenter has to say?
let's hear it! but please understand that offensive, inappropriate, or just plain annoying comments may be deleted or shortened.

- please do not make racist, sexist, anti-semitic, homophobic or otherwise offensive comments.
- please don't personally insult the writers or your fellow commenters.
- please avoid using offensive words, replacing a few letters with asterisks is not a valid workaround.
- please don't include your website or e-mail address in your comments for the purpose of self-promotion.
- please respect jury verdicts and do not discuss offensively on the competition results
(there is only one fist prize, and designboom usually asks renown professionals to help us to promote talent.
in addition to the awarded designs, we do feel that almost all deserve our attention, that is why we publish
the best 100-200 entries too.)

a link is allowed in comments as long as they add value in the form of information, images, humor, etc. (links to the front page of your personal blog or website are not okay). unwelcome links (to commercial products or services of others, offensive material etc. ) will be redacted. and, ... yes, spam gets banned. no, we do not post fake comments.

Dar HI eco hotel (2 articles)

product library