Sense of Place

A Modern Home on Monaghan Farm in Lanseria finds its sense of Place through Pared-down Contours and Connection to the Landscape.

Photos: Elske Kritzinger | Words: Graham Wood

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 uncom-promised. 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 lay.ered on the details, she’s indeed created a sense of belonging – the other archetype of home.

Lots of glass lends transparency to the two wings of the house, making the most of the views to the south and allowing in sunlight from the north. By contrast, the separate guest cottage with its solid form brings to mind a farm shed. The Monaghan Farm architectural guidelines encourage a break-up of the bulk of the house into separate structures interlinked by courtyard gardens.

A slatted wooden deck connects the kitchen/ dining area and the pool pavilion. Architect Gillian Holl designed the steel awning, which throws geometric shadows on the floor.

Sleek wooden cupboards in the master bedroom form a warm contrast to the off-shutter concrete walls and screed floors.

A small courtyard between the kitchen/dining area and the living room serves to link the two wings and connect the interior to the landscape.

The minimalism of the white kitchen focuses attention on the panoramic view from the dining area. The subtle Unfold pendant lamps above the kitchen island and pendants above the dining table by Danish brand Muuto do not detract from the vista.

From this angle one can see the grassed courtyard between the two wings, which allows sunlight to flood into both sections of the house.

The walls of the main living room are painted dark to form a contrast with the adjoining rooms. The vistas from here are the most spectacular; windows to the west afford framed views of the valley and the Magaliesberg in the distance. The sofa is by GOET Furniture and Design.


The spacious master bathroom also has large windows, which look out on an enclosed courtyard. The basin is cleverly placed in a free.standing unit right in front of the window to foster the indoor-outdoor connection.

From the driveway, a randomly scattered arrangement of protruding box-like windows makes a feature of the street-facing wall, especially at night, when they’re lit from the inside. It’s another example of the layer of detail that gives this house its sense of character.

The master bedroom features a large off-shutter concrete wall – part of architect Gillian Holl’s exploration of materials and textures that add richness to the sleek simplicity of the design.

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