In the mid to late 1950s, Yona Friedman, an Hungarian-born French Architect (artist, poet and so much more) made a name for himself when he introduced his Mobile Architecture Manifesto. Essentially, he proposed that humans should not need to conform to architectural constraints, but instead that architecture should be flexible and adaptable to the current and future needs of humans. Friedman’s structures and theoretical constructs therefore generally aim to facilitate freedom from the occupant’s point of view.
As we celebrate Freedom Month in SA this April and appreciate those who fought for freedom in this country, we are also inspired by freedom in architecture. The importance of this concept can be looked at from a literal perspective but also very abstractly too. Like, the freedom to be an all-woman architecture firm in Johannesburg, the freedom to express art through our designs, and the freedom to promote our sustainable and regenerative principles and beliefs, to highlight a few.
But before I delve into the literal side of this, I first need to address the elephant in the room: freedom in architecture is extremely ambiguous! Because, as all architects and those familiar with the design and building process will passionately confirm – architecture is all about the rules! It has to be this way because the standard of designing and building safe and healthy communities is very high. That’s why we appreciate and have the utmost respect for the rules.
In fact, to us there is freedom in being disciplined. Doing things the right way, day in and day out teaches us as architects to be more resourceful in our quest for freedom. And it is in searching for it, that we grow.
1. Freedom to connect with the outside
South Africa is absolutely breath-taking. The rest of the world agrees because that’s why we are one of the top tourist destinations in the world. To have our landscapes and our natural tree and plant life, grasslands and bushveld planes as canvas… come on – how lucky are we? South African architects have the freedom to design structures that not only look out onto this beauty but also connect with it on an intimate level. This is a freedom we at Veld Architects capitalise on with each of the projects we take on.
2. Freedom to design according to space and scale.
Freedom in architecture allows us as architects to steer away from “trends” by creating new ones instead. When an architect can design freely, space and scale can take on a life of its own. There is something about large, open-plan, breezy and free-flowing grand rooms that echo this “freedom”. Not just figuratively – for the architect’s design, but also literally – for a home’s occupants. Freedom in design can instill freedom of movement, which creates opportunity. And if a home can do all of this, what couldn’t it do?
3. Freedom of grid
When it comes to shape and form, architecture projects for residential and commercial buildings have over the decades generally favoured geometric floor plans.
At Veld Architects, we take inspiration from the surrounding landscapes of a particular stand. We consider what kind of floor plan and building orientation will offer the best views, the most natural light, the coolest summers, warmest winters and encourage free flowing of air throughout – and we let this inspire form.
This freedom of the grid leads to more organic flow of form, and in our opinion a far more pleasing result.
4. Freedom of textures and materials
How boring would the built environment be if all buildings were built using the same materials and textures? While our number one priority is to include eco-friendly textures and materials where possible, second to this is diversity. The innovative use of predominantly inside materials on the outside of structures and vice versa, adds to the “freedom” we have.
Yona Friedman’s Mobile Architecture and Spatial Agency theories unpack the ideologies of a city above a city; a flexible space where people are at peace, are prosperous and happy. These ideas of his were often criticised for being too unrealistic, a Utopia of sorts. But his principles are in fact not unrealistic at all.
At Veld Architects, we believe we share many of Friedman’s ways of thinking. We too believe architecture has more to offer humanity than merely a place to dwell. We believe architecture can bring peace, prosperity, happiness and HEALTH to those who live within its walls. And we believe architecture should be adaptable.
In being able to design freely in a country as beautiful as this one, we believe we are more than able to design your version of Utopia here in sunny South Africa.
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