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Forest Town, Johannesburg, Gauteng

studioMAS: Architect

Type:Terrace housing
Street:Darnaway Street

Terraced Houses (4 units).

The brief entailed the creation of compact residential units, combining density with spaciousness, and the feeling of safety with openness.

In 2005, studioMAS began exploring these ideas in their Courtyards on Oxford project. studioMAS have evolved this concept further, using traditional terraced housing as a departure point. A traditional terrace(d) house is a style of medium-density housing that originated in late 17th century Europe. While this typology was used extensively throughout the world, few contemporary examples exist in Johannesburg; this despite the growth in medium density development. In the JoziRows project terraced housing is adapted to a contemporary design, offering a smaller scale variation of high-end courtyard houses.

The JoziRows project demonstrates a conscious response to many urban and social issues prevalent in the city, of Johannesburg. This development in Forest Town, Johannesburg, consists of 4 “lock-up-and-go” units, each with their own private courtyard and garden cottage. In the JoziRows project the development rights given to conventional cluster developments if followed, but offers a different solution. Instead of being hidden behind a high perimeter fence and losing more than 40% of a stand to internal roads and building lines, the JoziRows project doubles up on side walls thereby completely excluding internal access roads, having this function at the street. This means that units feel more spacious and private, with more land used for gardens and useful building space.

Each unit has three levels. The lower level, directly off the street, is the most public and comprises the main entrance and the garage. There is also an additional room with en suite bathroom on this level, which could be used as a guest bedroom, visitors lounge, study or office. As one ascends the main staircase up to the living level, this space is experienced as flexible and habitable as it connects directly to the deck and into the courtyard. The upper and most private level is that of the bedroom. While the spaces are contained within glass sliding ‘walls’, with expansive views toward the street and the garden behind. The bedroom area is designed as an open space which can be used as one large or two smaller bedrooms. Enclosing the courtyard is a garden cottage framed by a planted pergola.

The houses are economical in their use of space, private in their relationship with each other, and accessible in their interaction with the street. The JoziRows project delves into aspects of residential living and builds on the local tradition of seamless indoor-outdoor living, creating comfortable internal courtyards that maximize the experience of the temperate Johannesburg climate. While the interiors make provision for the private functions of family life, the facade engages the streetscape directly. StudioMAS express the hope that this project will encourage its users to engage the urban realm and on a broader level, to further the debate about housing in the city of Johannesburg.

[studioMAS, August 2010]

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.