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Nestled within the lush, eco-conscious enclave of Monaghan Farm in Lanseria, Gauteng, stands a courtyard residence that epitomizes the symbiosis between architecture and nature. Renowned for its commitment to sustainability and the preservation of the natural environment, Monaghan Farm provided an idyllic canvas for this holistic architectural venture.


Courtyard Design

C76 drew from the rich history of courtyard houses, a typology that has thrived across various cultures and climates for thousands of years. From classical architectural history throughout to modernist interpretations, internal courtyards have consistently provided solutions for living harmoniously with nature. This home in Monaghan Farm re-imagines this timeless typology, capitalizing on its stunning location at the estate's edge, overlooking the open veld and offering expansive views of the adjacent game farm and to the distant Magaliesberg mountains.


The clients' vision was straightforward yet profound: a retreat from the hustle and bustle of Johannesburg - a sanctuary of privacy and solitude amidst nature. C76 achieved this delicate balance by modelling a large, planted courtyard that invites nature into the heart of the home. Even when the perimeter doors and windows are closed, internal windows and doors can be opened to let in views of the sky, fresh air, light, and birdlife - all while maintaining both security and seclusion.


Immersive Integration

The courtyard is expansive enough to accommodate trees, which will eventually grow above the roofline, and open enough to welcome birds that build nests and animate the interior with life and the sounds of nature. Here you can be in your own little world - yet open to the sky, with cooling breezes in hot weather even when the house is ostensibly closed. Every room in the house has an outward view, ensuring constant awareness of the surroundings from every vantage point.


C76’s design philosophy was to minimize the visual impact of this building, tucking it away and letting the building blend into the landscape. The roof follows the site's slope, creating a structure that appears long and low-slung from the street, belying the lofty spaces within. From the driveway entrance, one descends through a tunnel that dramatically opens to the courtyard below. Despite its almost double-storey height, the house maintains a discreet profile, hugging the ground and harmonizing with its environment.

Symmetry and Flow

Internally, the house's layout is almost symmetrical, with staircases on either side leading down from the garages and back rooms, mirroring each other to create a programmatic path that bisects the courtyard. The design flow ensures that the journey through the house is always connected to nature. "The idea is that you walk through this courtyard and, immediately in front of you, you’re greeted by the beautiful view of the mountains."


Entering the home is not like stepping onto a traditional viewing platform; it's more like descending into the landscape itself. The surrounding veld reaches right up to the building's edges, and smaller courtyards around the perimeter blur the lines between indoors and outdoors. Bathroom thresholds open onto planted courtyards, upstairs guest rooms overlook these green spaces, and the main en suite bathroom features retractable windows and screens, allowing for an immersive bathing experience where one feels floating above the veld.


Considered Approach

The house's design addresses the drastic seasonal weather variations typical of the landscape through passive design principles. In the sweltering summer months, the open courtyards facilitate natural ventilation, cooling the house without compromising security. During the colder winters, the house can be compartmentalized to heat individual spaces efficiently. Sustainability is further achieved through gas geysers, solar panels, rainwater harvesting, and a natural pool maintained with harvested water, ensuring the house operates entirely off the grid.


Living Architecture

The house is designed to grow and evolve over time, becoming more integrated with its surroundings as the years pass. Trees will mature, the courtyards will flourish, and the building will blend more seamlessly into the landscape. "It's not a finished object, It’s the kind of house that will grow with you and get better with time." The architecture, a humble and respectful homage to nature, invites a deep connection with the cyclical seasons and the natural world.


In essence, the courtyard house on Monaghan Farm is more than just a dwelling; it is a living, breathing architectural extension of its environment. It stands quietly as a proud proponent of naturally incorporated sustainability; demonstrating how architecture can seamlessly integrate with nature, fostering a deep sense of place and belonging. As the seasons change and the landscape continues to envelop the structure, the house will evolve, becoming an enduring testament to the beauty and resilience of eco-conscious living.

Project team: Principal architect: Carl Jacobsz - Collaborators: Warren Wilson & Dan de Kretser

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