Image Alt


Maun International Airport, Botswana

Location Botswana
Architects MMA Design Studio
Client The Civil Aviation Authority of Botswana (CAAB)

The Okavango Delta is a World Heritage site in the Northern Kalahari of Botswana.

According to Botswana Tourism, it is “one of the most sought after wilderness destinations in the world, giving entrance to the spectacle of wild Africa such as dreams are made of – the heart-stopping excitement of big game viewing, the supreme tranquility and serenity of an untouched delta, and evocative scenes of extraordinary natural beauty.”

The delta is the result of the Kavango river flowing into the very flat and dry Kalahari desert, “A great river that flows not into the sea but into the middle of the southern African continental landmass.”

“A journey to the Okavango Delta – deep into Africa’s untouched interior – is like no other. Moving from wetland to dryland – traversing the meandering palm and papyrus fringed waterways, passing palm-fringed islands, and thick woodland, resplendent with lush vegetation, and rich in wildlife – reveals the many facets of this unique ecosystem, the largest intact inland delta in the world.

Maun is the central city in Ngamiland and the airport is seen as an important international gateway into the Delta.

The Competition

The Civil Aviation Authority of Botswana (CAAB) has launched an international architectural design competition to generate visionary proposals for a new passenger terminal building at Maun airport that “are sympathetic to the ecology of the Okavango delta and allied to its natural beauty.”

Design concept:

In addition to the above we see the design challenge for the terminal building as being how to create a gateway experience for visitors entering and leaving this unique environment.

A predominantly hot and dry climate requires shading from the sun, hence the first move is to create a large parasol roof cupped to catch water as the lily fronds …….and vegetation that provides evaporative cooling.

The vegetated roof creates insulation for the building below and provides a unique roof-scape from the sky, a metaphorical recreation of the delta plain.

The roof is held up by “reeds” in various sizes designed to imitate the reed beds found in the delta through long slender irregularly placed columns. These will recreate the experience of moving through the delta by layering and filtering of light and serve to make the building light and ephemeral.

The building’s public areas are open to the natural environment and protected for security and from adverse conditions of the aviation environment….

This will create a unique airport experience, unlike most airports which are hermetically sealed environments. Timber screens made from local woods and designed to resemble the traditional architecture of the area will provide additional shade and dappled light as the shade under acacia trees. These are continued in the shaded walkways between the building and non-scheduled flight areas.

The delta and surrounding areas are extremely flat and the seasonal flood plains create a very straight and flat horizon line which the buildings silhouette and eaves line re-create.

The seasonal floodplains in the delta which interchange between shallow lakes of water and grass and open grassland and provide rich feeding grounds for water-dependent denizens and land grazers alike will be referenced in the landscaping design.

This design will use local flora of mophane, acacia,

and scrub bush in a way intended to blur inside and outside and to make one feel like one is arriving in a natural environment but protected from the elements.