The future of farm living
A concept home on the outskirts of Joburg, where the beauty of farm living is played out at the urban edge.
Modern-day farm living
A sleek, long and low-slung structure with floor-to-ceiling glass walls that glint beneath the overhangs of a wide monopitched roof, Stand 47 is the eagerly awaited show house on Monaghan Farm, a low-density residential estate just north of Lanseria Airport that offers country-covetous city dwellers a generous dose of bucolic calm. Anchored by a sculptural row of tall trees and nestling comfortably in the rolling grassland of the farm estate, the simple modern aesthetic of the house belies its pioneering status as the green home of tomorrow and the mind-bending journey it offers into exploring the ways in which we live, design and build – in essence, getting to the very root of our notion of home.
From gallery owner to designer
Spearheaded by gallery owner Gavin Rooke, the Monaghan Farm show house was inspired by the 36 Case Study Houses built in Los Angeles in the middle of last century to showcase modernist residential architecture to the American public, who, at the time, knew very little about the movement, or even what a modernist home might look like. The effect was electrifying, and set domestic architecture on a new path forever.
At its inception, Gavin’s ambitions for Stand 47 were no less audacious. A modernist at heart, the self-styled ‘serial design innovator’ began with the movement’s inherently efficient aims and ideas. ‘Modernism is about using less and producing more,’ he explains, adding that all too often ‘green’ becomes a matter of technology tacked on to the conventional idea of a house. The best way to be efficient, Gavin reasons, it to ensure that, even when building is complete, a house remains infinitely flexible. ‘After all,’ he says, ‘even the most cutting-edge green house will be obsolete tomorrow if it can’t adapt today.’
Gavin had been working with hi-tech building materials company Saint-Gobain and was interested in exploring the potential of its sophisticated, multilayered dry-walling products when building a home. While Saint-Gobain walls are no more expensive than traditional brick and mortar (and very difficult to distinguish from them once plastered and painted), their materials offer a number of substantial advantages. Firstly (and most important for Gavin’s ideals of flexibility), they are easy to assemble and dismantle, which means that, if you design cleverly, interior spaces can be reconfigured without upsetting the structure of the home’s remaining built environment. They also offer incredible thermal and acoustic insulation and better fire resistance than traditional bricks and mortar, and they even improve air quality, converting volatile atmospheric chemicals into inert compounds before absorbing them.
Ideas into practice
With his setting, approach and cutting-edge materials decided, Gavin partnered with architect Karlien Thomashoff to design the house of the future. The pair began with upending the conventional approach to design. ‘People usually start by asking what their house will look like,’ says Gavin, ‘then they try to force their practical requirements onto their chosen style. Stand 47 was designed the other way around, beginning with the accommodation.’
The number of bedrooms (three) and bathrooms (two), together with an outdoor flatlet, were settled on and the house was effectively configured around these requirements. It was decided that the house be divided into two ‘zones’: a fixed service area and a flexible living space. Kitchen and bathrooms would be permanent; the rest should be adaptable to change.
Form inspired by function
‘The aesthetics were born of the concept that form follows function,’ explains Gavin. A steel frame provided the structure for Saint-Gobain’s sophisticated, multilayered walls and also proved the best way to support continuous floor and ceiling spans that could accommodate future reconfigurations without interfering with the existing structure. A monopitched roof supported the harvesting of rainwater, its pitch and orientation chosen to suit the requirements of solar-heating panels. Legislation concerning the efficient use of glass dictated not just the size of the roof overhangs but the whole orientation of the house and the choice of floor-to-ceiling windows, which were based on the best admittance of light and the maximum exploitation of the views.
After some backwardsing and forthwardsing on the selection of design and materials, a house of perfect flow with well-configured spaces, beautiful views and a fantastic inside-outside relationship rose from the ground. Warm parquet floors run throughout and a wall of local stone adds texture and gravity to the otherwise light and airy interiors, providing a tactile element while demonstrating the seamless integration of traditional and new building materials. The parquet was chosen for the same reason and, like the ceilings, is intended to remain aesthetically unaffected by any future reconfigurations.
Gavin was insistent that, despite being a novel concept for a home, Stand 47 should feel homely. ‘How you touch and feel – that’s where good departs from great,’ he says. The interiors, which were decorated by Dewald Prinsloo and Leonard de Villiers of Ebony Interiors, pick up on the way that the house resolves its ‘embedded’ hi-tech elements with familiar comforts and local influences. Prinsloo and De Villiers sourced top-drawer locally designed and produced furniture – their area of expertise – including a number of bespoke items that embody an elegant, modern South African sensibility. The result is sleek but still comfortable, luxury with local resonance – appropriate, in other words, to an experiment in residential living that sets us on the path to tomorrow and proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that efficiency and luxury can happily coexist.
Stand 47 will serve as Monaghan Farm’s show house until October 2014, after which it will be available to purchase for R8,5 million.
- Monaghan Farm: Karin Rooke on 072 658 0762; stand47.co.za; monaghanfarm.co.za
- Saint-Gobain: saint-gobain.co.za
- Karlien Thomashoff: thomashoffstudio.co.za
- Guildine MNF: guidelinemnf.co.za
- Ebony Interiors: franschhoek.co.za/ebony
- David Krynauw: davidkrynauw.com
- Vogel Design: vogeldesign.co.za
- Woltemade: woltemade.co.za
Text: Graham Wood
Photographs: David Ross