Maseru Royal Palace

Maseru, Lesotho

 

Square One presented a winning design bid for the reinvention of Maseru’s Royal Palace grounds, an important cultural status symbol for the people of Lesotho. Our design proposal centres around symbolism expressed in historic textile design.

The Basotho blanket holds great symbolic significance in the cultural history of Lesotho and are also held up as visual tapestries that reference the international influences in the development of Lesotho as a nation. The intent for the landscape is to function as a unifying element across the site, an outer skin that wraps the site and holds all the components together – much like a Basotho blanket or leopard-skin Karros.  Our design concept, the ‘blanket parti’ is conceptualised as having three distinct layers that when overlaid; create a rich and valuable landscape: the Ceremonial Ribbon, the Cultural Thread and the Natural Seam.

The Ceremonial Ribbon weaves through the site, giving definition to the formal and ceremonial components of the campus.  The ribbon is a decorative element that gives the appropriate status and grandeur to the Royal estate. Formal avenues, manicured lawns, hedge rows and the incorporation of the historic sandstone will characterize this ribbon, providing a hierarchical legibility.

The Cultural Thread speaks to the relationship that the people of Lesotho have with their land. The thread is a unifying element that weaves the cultural practices of the Basotho into the mountains and valleys of Lesotho. While the threads may come together to create either geometric or free-form patterns throughout the landscape, they are characterized by a regularity and order. This order significantly represents the cultural practices of the various communities of Lesotho and how they respond to the rhythms of the sun and the seasons. It is evident in the sowing and ploughing of the fields, in the rows of the orchards and in the rigor of handling medicinal plants.

The Natural Seam symbolizes the connectivity of nature and ecology. It is evident in the continuity of water courses – rivers, streams and ponds – as well as the need to connect ecological corridors. These areas support all life on the land and should stitch together the various other components in the landscape. These natural corridors encourage interaction with the landscape, providing routes for exploration and vital places for rest and contemplation. Meadow grass areas will provide spatial definition to the more active spaces as indicated in the Landscape Framework, while ecological drainage swales will capture and direct water from the slopes and into the detention ponds. The intention is for the Royal Estate to act as a showpiece for locals and visitors – presenting an example of cultural and sustainable landscape intervention.

As with the distinctive pin-stripes of the Basotho blankets, the Grid of Follies gives structure to the landscape layers. The follies – like the stripes – are read as vertical elements that speak of future growth and production – both here in the landscape and for Lesotho as a whole. It is at these junctures that the life of the garden is played out. As per the Landscape Framework, these elements will bring order to the relationship between the new Palace and the complex topography of the site.