Inside The World's First 3D-Printed Retreat

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The future of responsible travel won’t be determined by paper straws or bamboo-fiber towels. Of course, rethinking what goes in the house is a good, even commendable start—but maybe we need to revisit how we build the house, too.

Enter Kisawa Sanctuary: Flung off the eastern coast of Mozambique, on the white sand beaches of Benguerra Island, the hotel will be the first such project from globe-trotting entrepreneur Nina Flohr when it opens next summer—and, as the purported world’s first 3D-printed retreat, an industry blueprint for maximally local, minimally invasive projects.

“We’ve used design as a tool, not as a style,” she says, “to ensure Kisawa is integrated, culturally and environmentally, to Mozambique.”

Flohr, whose father, Thomas Flohr, masterminded private-aviation company VistaJet in 2004, first visited Africa at the age of 15; the experience lingered, forging a desire to innovate in the name of conservation.

That’s just what 3D printing promises. It’s a surprisingly straightforward process: A computer-generated design is sent to a 3D printer, where it’s divvied up into layers. The printer’s nozzle then draws in the desired material—in the case of Kisawa, a sand-and-seawater mortar—and pipes it out to create the structure from the bottom up.

The inspiration for the hotel’s buildings, parts of which are printed, draws on the island’s thatched-roof houses. Flohr also plans to implement the technology at Bazaruto Center for Scientific Studies, Kisawa’s nonprofit arm, where it will help propagate the local ecosystem by printing supports for coral reefs and marine habitats.

Beachside, the decor of the 14 guest rooms and spa incorporates the craftwork of local artisans, tapping techniques like weaving and carpentry. It’s a sea change from the days when it seemed sensible to haul incongruous slabs of Italian marble across continents, shedding emissions as you went.

Of course, the right mix of privacy and attention remain defining factors, even for those with the strongest escapist tendencies: Each thatched-roof stead claims its own full acre, plus a private swimming pool and stretch of beachfront. But for all that, Kisawa marks the first step into a new, greater narrative—the luxury of thoughtful choices, rather than luxury for its own sake.

Related video: The 12 Best Islands in the World

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