WORDS Graham Wood PHOTOS Elske Kritzinger
A modern home on Monaghan Farm in Lanseria finds its sense of place through pared-down contours and connection to the landscape.
In the evening, when the lights are on, if you glance up from the main road as you head towards Monaghan Farm there’s a house on the hill that looks like everyone first imagines a house should: an archetypal box with a pitched roof. This simple form belies the thoughtfulness with which Gillian Holl of Veld Architects designed the home. The clean-lined silhouette might represent simplicity, yet the design is anything but simple.
It shows a considered response to the setting, a modern farm estate with views of the Magaliesberg, and a layered approach to meeting the needs of a family of four and linking them with the land. “People find a sense of belonging when they connect with the landscape,” says Gillian, explaining one of the main aims in her design approach. On one level, the urge to belong informed the shape of the building, which has a precedent in the farm-style houses that befit this kind of setting. “And then we tried to think about it in a new way.” The idea was for it to look appropriate in the landscape but at the same time not to devolve into pastiche.
The design essentially became three buildings, each with a slightly different identity. The living area, dining room and kitchen occupy one wing; the bedrooms, bathrooms and a TV lounge another. And, set slightly apart, there is a guest cottage clad entirely in corrugated iron – a “celebration of the farm shed”, as Gillian puts it.
Achieving the pared-down purity of form of the roof required some out-of-the-box thinking. Monaghan Farm requires rainwater harvesting, but box gutters tend to ruin the perfect silhouette. So Gillian looked to Ancient Rome for a solution and designed a series of storm-water troughs that run like aqueducts at ground level and channel rainwater into underground tanks, leaving the clean roofline uncompromised.
The purity of the silhouette is mirrored inside in the pitched ceilings, which give the interior a streamlined minimalism. But, if there’s one thing Gillian is as passionate about as architecture that connects with the landscape it is detailing.
She’s layered a variety of materials and textures to create visual interest and character. The bedroom wing is bookended with off-shutter concrete, there’s painted brick, a face-brick feature wall in the living room and wood accents. Patterned steel awnings throw geometric shadows on the floor; and at the entrance small framed windows create focused views from inside and make beautiful light boxes at night from outside.
It might be “a simple modern farm house”, as Gillian calls it, but through the way she’s begun with simplicity, connected the building to the landscape and then layered on the details, she’s indeed created a sense of belonging – the other archetype of home.