Inspired by case study houses

Stand 47 is inspired by a tradition of Modern Movement case study houses, that have demonstrated how new or alternative ideas for housing can be feasibly made to work. As with case study projects preceding it, Stand 47 tests ideas that are either original, alternative, unconventional or evolved with the aim of delivering a product that works better than before. It doesn’t start from scratch; rather it builds upon some Modern Movement principles, but looks at them with the benefit of retrospect.

Case studies have formed a strong basis in the architectural evolution of the house. During the Modern Movement, the principles for a more efficient and innovative solution for housing, especially en masse, were being explored in various scenarios from as far back as the early 1900’s. With the Industrial Revolution and two World Wars as the back drop, an urgent quest to fulfil a need for better, faster housing was at the forefront of much of the architectural debate, and a way of demonstrating these innovations was through Case Study Houses.

Within this explorative context, emerged a number of key Modern Movement ideas that have shaped and altered the architectural profession and our built environments for the greater part of the last century; but in so doing, generated criticism regarding their manifestation as a-contextual, anti-traditional, anti-urban with a highly formalist aesthetic. 

Despite valid criticism regarding the execution of many Modern Movement projects, there are principles that merit being revisited if they emphasise a more regional or contextual approach. Reimagining these principles has inspired innovation in the design of Stand 47, so that a contemporary application of some of its normative ideas may possibly lead to a useful case study for the South African construction industry and architectural profession.

Some of the normative Modern Movement principles being explored in this Case Study House are:

  • Innovative use of alternative materials and technologies for housing (using Saint-Gobain products)
  • Open plan (free up the interior spaces for maximum use of every square meter)
  • An ordering grid as the base (using a 900mm grid to organise subdivisions and placement of openings)
  • Zoning (creating a clear differentiation between service spaces [South] and living spaces [North] ) 
  • Planes (creating a continuous floor and ceiling plane that captures an adaptable interior)
  • Light, air and space (using glazing and screens to enhance the qualities of natural light in the house)
  • Repetition and Rhythm (exploring the detailing of the screens and elevations)

Introducing our approach

Simply – how can we do more with less?

The approach behind resolving the Stand 47 Case Study challenge we have set, is one of doing more with less. However, this does not imply that the project will be stripped of rich detail in favour of a quick solution and reduced effort. A fundamental reality is that more of one thing often leads to less of another. True efficiency is a factor of balance between important factors such as cost, comfort, aesthetics and a home’s resale value. Therefore, member of the team will carefully explore the ethos of doing more with less, through the lens of innovation, efficiency and learning from the past, while considering contemporary needs and restrictions. 

The Stand 47 professionals have each been investigating their are of speciality using the ethos of efficiency, and have been bringing their findings together in order to generate an innovating design solution. Their buy-in for the project has allowed for a rich contribution in the following ways: 

The primary leap toward technical innovation in this project comes from the collaboration with Saint-Gobain, led by Evan Lockhart-Barker (General Manager – Saint-Gobain South Africa). Their visionary input in the project includes the relevant incorporation of Saint-Gobain products for various aspects of the project including dry-wall partitioning, roof, ceiling and floor construction as well as more contemporary and experimental materials that may become available over the course of the project. 

The use of Saint-Gobain products hopes to illustrate a few things. Firstly, to demonstrate to the South African market that ‘alternative’ materials are as or more efficient than traditional brick-and-mortar construction and form a viable alternative in residential uses; it offers as much appeal to the high-end market as the emerging-market. Secondly, Saint-Gobain products can be used in a variety of integrated and innovative ways – from partitioning, to ceilings, to screens – thereby allowing industry practitioners to learn more about their beneficial application in green buildings. Lastly, that Saint-Gobain’s quality products offer tried-and-tested solutions for energy efficiency, health, comfort, and environmental protection.

Stand 47 will be a synthesis of these ideas into an architectural solution that meets constraints and practical concerns for efficiency and innovation with the aesthetic of a truly remarkable architecture that incorporates its environment today, while also acknowledging the need for adaptability going forward.

The objectives are:
1. to develop a world-class case study of efficiency
2. to create a physical experience for customer experience of Monaghan Farm
3. position and raise the profile of integrated Saint-Gobain products

The setting

A key aspect of the project lies within its setting at Monaghan Farm. The site is the most important generator of this design. It is within this rich environment that is filled with conditions for life, in all its forms, that Stand 47 begins its exploration of the home, and the conditions for life that it has to contain. Its intent is to add value (not necessarily monetary but qualitative) to the land with whatever form the final built product takes on. 

Located within Monaghan Farm just north of Lanseria Airport between Johannesburg, Tshwane and Mogale, it is a proponent of farm living on the edge of arguably the most vibey city in Southern Africa, and aspires to reconnect its residents to a deeper understanding of natural systems and spacious energies of the earth. It does so by preserving farm living through active organic gardening; indigenous natural systems by preserving the open space system and endemic plant-life; and the social synergies that naturally would develop in a community that relies on partial self-sustainability. It is 1 260 acres or 509 hectares in size with strict policies that protect the landscape from subdivisions and further developments. The Jukskei River meanders through it for more than 3km, providing common river frontage with gentle slopes.  It has ten acres dedicated to the growing of organic produce, herbs, cut flowers and botanical gardens and enjoys a secure environment guided by an ethos of self-sustainability and giving back to the environment.
Stand 47 is a North facing 3766sqm plot of veld grasses atop a gentle, three meter sloping site that falls toward the East with extensive views toward the Magaliesberg and it’s the valleys. Framed on the South by a line of mature trees, the architectural design of the site is further determined by strict architectural guidelines set up by the estate of which an aesthetics committee approve plans before construction. While not pushing any specific style, there are a few principles to apply in the architecture. With a maximum coverage of 1298sqm on Stand 47, the architecture may not exceed one storey and 1000sqm in size, with earthy external walls and roofs that do not increase visual bulk. All houses must have systems for water collection and passive solar design. Architecture should preserve the natural environment and blend into the landscape.

www.monaghanfarm.co.za

The challenge

Our challenge is to explore the process of designing and constructing a house that adheres to the concept of efficiency within each iterative step of the design and construction process. Our intended contribution is purposefully broad as it includes a review of the very process of how homes are conceived and built. 

A fundamental aspect of this approach is the requirement that the home adapts to new needs and functions over decades – thereby maximising it’s value over time. Not an easy task. How do you predict changes in technology, who will be using the house in fifty years, or how it will be maintained over-time? You can’t. However, what you can do, is design an ‘open-ended’ home – one that has the capacity to change, should change be required. This website tracks this exploration and extracts from it relevant findings, that may be used to improve housing solutions for South Africa.

Our lives are constantly changing, and because of that, we’re investigating how much our homes need to change to adapt during our lifestyle. By engaging with the idea of a changeable and “enduring” home, we’ve begun to explore ways to build homes with the capacity to adapt to new needs and functions, so that one home can remain within one family for decades or be flexible enough to belong to various, very different families, over time. It also looks at the rapidly changing face of technology, and attempts to build in redundancies into the design, so that technology can be altered in the home without damaging the architecture. 

Documenting this process is in itself a challenge since the process of building is one of constant flux. This website hopes to record this process as it happens and investigates whether these discoveries are not better alternatives for housing delivery in South Africa. By “better” we refer to housing that is efficient, architecturally innovative, replicable or recyclable and internally flexible to adapt to new needs and lifestyles. For the South African context, this results in a quest for innovation which hopes to challenge the norms of housing, by using new materials to perform new functions in ways that meet our expectations, or exceed them.

The Stand 47 vision

The vision for this project is to design a house that will stand the test of time; to build a house that meets contemporary needs and yet remains flexible enough to adapt to future ones. It aims to explore the topic of efficiency from a more holistic and resilient viewpoint and to look at innovation as a creative force.

In addition to designing a house that responsibly marries efficiency and innovation to architectural aesthetic, this project also acts as a case study, demonstrating that housing in South Africa can be successfully executed using predominantly energy efficient materials and yet retain the qualities of permanence and longevity associated with brick-and-mortar homes. To achieve this vision; synergy and collaboration between various professionals and stakeholders is essential, and therefore the client and landowner, Monaghan Estate, Saint-Gobain and their affiliates, and the architect, have embarked on this journey together. This website presents their discoveries.

For the client, this building (and by default, this website) aims to document an iterative process, comprising of the design and construction of a case study house that adapts to changing needs while maintaining its inherent value. For Monaghan Farm, this house serves as an example of the types of housing and architecture that embody the ethos of the Estate. For Saint-Gobain, it is an opportunity to demonstrate the integration, versatility and quality of their products, and their efficiency and aesthetic quality compared to traditional housing technologies. It affords an occasion to raise public awareness of their products from the high-end residential market, to all the others. 

All the collaborators hope that Stand 47 will act as a show house for the values and products that result in a flexible and enduring house for the South African landscape. It explores the extent to which this process, design and construction, can develop into a replicable model that can be built elsewhere. For this purpose, this website will track components of the design which can be generic and therefore are easily replicable, and others which have to be site specific and may require a different investigation. We don’t know beforehand, what Stand 47 will become…

Magnificent site…

Stand 47 is a 3766 square meter site located within the poetic landscape of Monaghan Farm in the edges of the Magaliesberg. Pristine, vast and magnificent, it offers endless opportunities for architectural exploration.