When it comes to conceptualization, context is the foundation of architecture; a building must respond to the site elements of a specific area or location. For a design to be a success, it must strive to meet client needs and at the same time constitute an understanding of the genius loci. When we consider house and contextualism, we are often reminded of our modern forefathers. Closer home, architects like Jonathan Woolf strive to interrogate site, meaning and the natural environment.
From the Architect:
“In 2010 we were invited by a young British Kenyan family to design a double house just north of Nairobi city centre, for their family and one set of grandparents all sharing a single plot. The site previously had a house on it dating back to the 1950’s. The land is part of a sloping ridge looking across Gigiri forest valley. The new building will include a working ceramic making studio / gallery and accommodation for staff.
The building is one of a series on the theme of multi - generational dwellings (Brick Leaf House and Painted House in London and Three Buildings in a Nairobi Garden), where extended family members share parts of the building and it’s exterior space. The projects' examine how these ‘enclaves’ have within them an urban quality, dealing with aspects of proximity and communality. We began with the idea of a building sitting low to the sloping ground in a series of single level rooms. Three idealized rectangles containing these rooms are spliced together and adjusted in height to follow the sloping ridge, the lower and middle house containing sleeping/living rooms respectively and the upper one for grandparents.
Cars enter at the top of the plot and progress down round the perimeter of the stone garden wall toward the midpoint of the plot, leaving vehicles parked and completing the sequence by foot through a richly planted walled courtyard garden. The main entrance is through the centre of the building. This leads to the living room, set out in the spirit of a covered ‘verandah’ from where a majestic view across a forested valley, first glimpsed from the main gate, comes into focus. A kitchen and family gathering room opens to the back garden which is shared with the grandparents’ wing, itself a simply organized single storey bungalow. A second storey beneath the lowest wing houses a sequence of guest rooms accessed from both homes via a long staircase and this part of the building remains invisible to the day to day occupants of the rest of the house. The locally quarried sandstone is shaped, laid and then tool finished entirely by hand. The walls have the appearance of an ancient ruin on top of which a newly created concrete slab has been impressed to define the areas for dwelling. The roof itself is like a floor at the level of forest tree canopy and has the scale of urban civic space.”
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When Lesley Lokko isn't travelling between cities and continents, she likes to say she thinks about architecture. I have had a chance to sit down with her and in a social conversation over wine (way too much wine) in a quaint suburb in Hyde Park Johannesburg and speak to her on her thoughts ab...