The Inspiration behind our New Victoria Falls Airport Garden

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In February this year we unveiled our new airport lounge at Victoria Falls Airport in Zimbabwe. Guests travelling with Wilderness Safaris can now enjoy a place of comfort while waiting for a connecting flight to our camps, or before their onward travel or flight home.


We recently spoke to Tore Balance, the landscape architect for the garden outside our lounge, to find out about the inspiration for this lovely new space. Tore has a rich and fascinating background informed by his deep love of wild places. His passion for preserving wilderness areas, combined with his natural artistic ability, have enabled him to create diverse habitats that look completely natural.


Tore has been involved in indigenous landscaping for 40 years, among many other roles, creating a variety of habitats for game lodges, parks and urban environments.


"Tore’s landscapes have a calming and restorative effect. One feels as though one is back in a beautiful, unspoilt and natural place "

Tore says, “Just as the heart is the very core of our existence, so the natural phenomenon, Mosi-oa-Tunya (The Smoke that Thunders), is the vibrating turbine which creates the energy and buzz of the Victoria Falls. The inspiration for this nuclear space in today’s airport comes from grasping the reality that the Falls themselves have stimulated energy, imagination, development and adventure. As the Falls is the pumping heart of Zimbabwe, so this little landscape is the symbolic heart of the physical airport, with people coming in and out like the arteries that bring life.



David Livingstone wrote, “The Victoria Falls have been formed by a crack right across the river, in the hard, black, basaltic rock.” However, more correctly, during the solidification process of the molten basalt rock, large cracks developed. These were subsequently filled with windblown sand (Kalahari sand) which, with heat and pressure, solidified into types of sandstone. The power of water eroded away the sandstone and exposed the cracked basalt and, with time and the power of water, the gorge system and today’s Falls were sculpted.

Today we have the dark, hard, angular basalt and in the cracks, remnant variations of sandstone. Downstream there is exposed piped sandstone on the surface and this has an intriguingly colourful structure. Perhaps the softer areas and holes are remnant signs of crustacean activity and other forms of ancient life that have been eroded.


It was these two geological formations that stimulated the idea of marrying up the dark, hard, angular basalt (male) with the intriguing, delicate, softer, colourful piped sandstone (female). The idea is that the basalt is the physical structure, whilst the piped sandstone becomes symbolic of the spiritual life-force that filled up the cracks. Thus the water flowing out of the piped sandstone feature represents the continuous birthing of new life. These ideas helped to inspire the design, and brought together the various patterns of the different aspects of the space.


When you look at this landscape, you may notice the effort made to place the basalt in a way that creates a sense of its structure, whereas the piped sandstone occurs in the cracks of the basalt and also on the surface. The basalt pond holds the water. The piped sandstone structure is the fountain of the water feature. The curious and fascinating ins and outs of the piped sandstone allow it to be easily moulded. Its intricate, beautiful structure creates a tinkling, trickling, bubbling, gliding, splashing, fluttering tone of water flow, which is more symbolic of the female notes. Thus the dark, structured basalt, and the intricate up, down, in, out, colourful sandstone work together to encourage the thought that in contradictions and diversity there is also a real natural beauty.


"The sense of space can increase with a decrease in the empty space "

The design had to be practical, and had to relate to the character of the space: a glass cone with a metal structure ascending three storeys to a central opening in the roof. Consideration had to be given to seasonal variations in light, and to the importance of reflected light. In addition, natural extremes of temperature are less of a factor as the interior of the airport is cooled during the summer and holds warmth in winter, thus making an environment which is possibly more conducive to plant growth. These factors contributed to the placement of the water feature, and to the selection of plants, all of which are indigenous to Victoria Falls. Also relevant was that the size of the doors limited the size of the rocks that could be brought in. Most importantly, however, was the influence of the geological structures of the Victoria Falls area, and this is what pulled together the natural landscape and the unnatural airport structures.


Time will be the test of the durability and practicality of this simple design. Ingrained into it are some fundamental concepts:


  • Diversity is a consideration, but there must be sensitivity to the correct connectivity of the various parts of that diversity.
  • It is in the blurring of the edges that the connections become softer and more pleasing.
  • In an artificial setting for a natural landscape, correct natural patterns of association give greater credibility to the landscape, as we tend to respond more to positive natural patterns, rather than to mistakes.
"This central space in the airport will hopefully represent a sense of the soul of the Victoria Falls, as well as this important new airport "

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