The Sofitel Park is a 16-hectare subtropical park where the new prestigious Sofitel Hotel and Leisure Center is built, and where the CIC, Centre International de Conférences, is renovated. It is located in harbour city Cotonou. The five-star hotel often accommodates visitors to the conference centre. The buildings are surrounded by a large park, where specific areas have been designed around each building.
The outdoor area consists of several parts: entrance areas, the congress garden, the art park, the hotel garden and the sports field.
Entrance and back axis of the hotel garden
The entrance to the hotel is formed by a beautiful water axis. The water in this long basin is set in motion by fountains, steps and cascades. Finally, the water comes to a stop at the hotel. There is also the drop-off area for guests. Here, the water acts as a mirror for the building. In the hotel garden at the back, the axis continues and ends in an ‘infinity’ waterfall.
The existing planting has been incorporated into the park design as much as possible. New types of plants and trees are added to the existing ones in order to increase diversity in the area. A number of special gardens will be laid out in the park. The designs are inspired by the traditional wax designs from the textile industry. This results in meandering paths and organically shaped plant areas. Red flowering trees are a recurring element. By planting low bushes and plants between the trees, closed and open spaces are created. The trees also provide shade along the paths. Unambiguous materials and colours have been chosen. A sand-coloured natural stone has been used frequently. Lighting and high-quality finishing for the paving contribute to the park’s chic appearance.
Sunken meeting place and walkway covered by canopies
The Grass Garden, the Palm Garden, the Paradise Garden and the Cactus Garden, patterns inspired by the traditional wax patterns
To the east of the entrance area lies the conference garden. Here, a walkway covered by canopies runs from the hotel to the CIC. There are four special gardens in the conference garden, each with its own theme. There is the Cactus Garden with undulating rows of cacti. The Grass Garden is filled with grasses that can also be found on the savannah of Benin. In the Paradise Garden, flowering Strelitzias alternate with Heliconias. The Palm Garden is a green oasis with various types of palm trees. Between the gardens are informal sunken meeting places. It is an old African custom to gather in the shade of the large ‘Umbrella Tree’. Each meeting place in the conference garden is marked by such a prominent tree with sitting edges and seating furniture.
The conference garden
Western park zone, the art park
The art park
To the west of the entrance lies the artpark. By playing with height differences, a new atmosphere has been created here. This is possible because there were just a few trees in this area. The undulating landscape will have the same winding paths as the congress garden. Some hills are finished off vertically so that works of art get a tight background. The art collection can be changed.
Hotel garden with spa, swimming pools with terraces, water basins and four gardens
Between the Sofitel Hotel and the golf course lies the Hotel Garden. Besides a spa, there are swimming pools with terraces, water basins and four gardens, all orthogonally designed to match the hotel. In this way, the structure of the hotel garden deviates from the organic structure of the rest of the park. The four gardens lie on a slope and are laid out flat at various heights. With their tall plants, the small oases provide shade for the guests.
Roof gardens of the hotel
The hotel has several roof gardens. The rooms adjacent to these will have their own patio surrounded by climbing plants. The plants that grow here are perfectly suited to Cotonou’s subtropical climate. Under the substrate layer of the roof plants, there is a retention layer to catch the rainwater. Benin has a subtropical climate with two rainy seasons. These rainy seasons can compensate for the water shortage in dry periods. This way, the roof garden can be sustainably watered. The park also has infiltration facilities to catch rainwater from paved surfaces. This allows the water to sink into the soil with a delay. If sufficient rainwater infiltrates, this will prevent rising seawater in the soil. Eventually, this will prevent salinisation of the soil.
Photos of the realization, 2021
location: Cotonou, Benin
year of design: 2019
client: Government of Benin
architect: MOKE Architects
surface area: 16 ha