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House Munnik
Newlands, Cape Town, Western Cape

Michael Henry Reid MUNNIK: Architect

Date:c1964
Type:Homestead
Status:Extant

A transcribed description of the house – presumably shortly after completion - is provided below:

House Around a Courtyard

THE problem was that of housing an expanding family as sympathetically and economically as possible. The family consists of an architect, his wife and three sons aged four, two-and-a-half and one, plus a maid. Provision had to be made for the running of the house without a maid.

The site, a quarter acre (0.1012Ha) under the mountain in Newlands, has a number of fine oaks and rocks but no distant view. As it was likely that the area would be developed to follow the standard suburban pattern, it was decided to turn the house inward i.e. to consider the boundaries of the site as the outside walls of the house, either of foliage or brick and to enter the house off the Pavement.

As a result, the centre of interest is the internal courtyard, onto which all the main rooms open.

It is hoped as the garden develops the conception of a series of "rooms" in the site, some under roof, others partly under roof and some without roof, will be more directly expressed. Each area in the house has a planned short-distance vista which creates an illusion of spaciousness.

The plan is zoned into adults' and children's areas, with the kitchen between and access to a concentrated bathroom core.

Children's bedrooms are planned as minimum size to allow for a large play area. As the children grow older so the character of this room will change from playroom to a sitting room.

Counter access from kitchen to playroom allows supervised yet separate meals for children. The counter from kitchen to dining room can be adapted for the maid's night off or the possibility of no maid at all.

Used functionally for outdoor meals, the internal courtyard also served to give the impression of space.

Structure is partly solid load-bearing and partly framed. The plan is arranged on a 3 ft. 1 ½ in. (950cm) module which is the size of a standard CI type steel window turned on its side. The window fits between the vertical members of the window walls which were made in situ. Rafters ranging from 9 in. (229mm) by 1 ½ in. (38mm) to 6 in. (152mm) by 3 in. (76mm) (allowing a three-inch fall both ways across the roof) are bolted to the tops of the vertical members. For economy all ventilation is limited to the steel opening clerestorey sections, the lower glass being fixed with planted beads.

Ceilings are formed by 6 in. (152mm) by 3/8 in. (9mm) ceiling boards under the rafters, while 7/8 in. (22mm) tongued and grooved boards nailed to the top of the rafters form the roof deck.

The application of the module, apart from giving visual unity and scale to the house, permitted the complete standardisation of the various elements and greatly facilitated building, which was done by the owner with hired labour.

Ref: Wale, Laurie (editor) c. 1964 New Home Building Ideas – Architects' Plans for Southern Africa. Purnell & Sons, Johannesburg: pgs 125-130

[Submitted by William MARTINSON]

All truncated references not fully cited below are those of Joanna Walker's original text and cited in full in the 'Bibliography' entry of the Lexicon.