The design of the Ngcobo Family House aims to create a functional, sustainable, and above all nurturing home with a central living space that serves as a buffer between private and public spaces. Our primary focus is creating a nurturing home for the family and the community -- a home that enables social connections, skill-building, and stability through sustainability.
In traditional Zulu architecture, homesteads were organized around a central space, usually a kraal, that served as the center of everyday life. Translating this same concept, we've designed the site around a family gathering space at the center of the family garden and graveyard, daycare, and Ngcobo Family home. Overall, the house unifies the community's families, the neighborhood kids, and the Ngcobo family.
The site’s landscape design defines these central areas by creating thresholds between the public spaces towards the street and the private spaces to the rear of the site. A wattle pole fence surrounds the front, creating a barrier without completely limiting sight. Beyond the fence, the site is divided into core spaces of the daycare play area, the family gathering space, the graveyard, the main vegetable garden and a private alcove. The more private spaces to the north of the site are bounded by fruit-sprouting shrubs native to the region. This landscape design requires minimal upkeep while embracing the outdoor life of the family.
In the two vegetable gardens on the site, staples like tomatoes, spinach and corn are grown to not only provide food for the family but create opportunities for the children to learn to garden and provide a revenue source for the family as they sell to the surrounding community.
Looking closer into the dynamics of traditional Zulu architecture, the idea of feminine and masculine spaces led us to place the bedrooms and washrooms (the more private spaces) to the right and the living room and kitchen, the more public and central spaces to the left of the entrance. This layout also facilitates easier access between the most active spaces: the living room, kitchen and the daycare. Within many of these rooms, elements such as operable screen doors and a serving hatch between the kitchen and the living room have been added for the space to be multifunctional and flexible.
The daycare has been repurposed from the two existing structures, and its new elevated roof lets in natural light and ventilation. Its design is also multifunctional as it can be used as a community meeting space if needed.
The shed roof directs rainwater towards the two Jojo tanks to promote sustainability, allowing the family to save on water. We've also installed composting bins by the kitchen and the daycare to educate the kids about gardening and composting while also providing rich nutrients for the soil in the vegetable gardens.
Keeping in mind that the family may grow in the future, we considered possible expansions by leaving the right side of the site empty for anticipated growth.
The home incorporates local and familiar materials while also expanding local skillsets through new construction methods. The house is mainly constructed using Kwik Brix, an interlocking brick system, which allows the community to participate and gain skill in this type of construction. Mudbrick construction is also used in accent walls of the house to indicate the welcoming areas and link the new home back to the existing structures.
The wood windows and doors would be locally sourced from artisans. The sliding doors would also use hand-crafted wood, and the incorporated polycarbonate screens would introduce a new material to the craftsmen's skillset.
To continue the idea of multifunctionality, the space between the daycare and the house has been designed to accommodate daily activities with varying privacy conditions. An attached pergola provides a cover for when parents are dropping off their children and also features a
table that can be lifted or lowered, providing a place where kids can have lunch. The family can later use this same area if they want to have an outdoor family dinner.
At the center of the site, the living area and outdoor family gathering space allow the Ngcobo family to enjoy their beautiful view of the surrounding area in comfort. The shed roof creates an overhang that shades these living spaces during the hot summer months while allowing in natural daylight during the winter. The sliding doors in the living room can also be opened on both walls to create a stronger connection between the indoors and outdoors when desired and closed to create a more intimate family space.
Ultimately this design is a foundation for the family to build on, where the house strengthens existing relationships and activities while creating opportunities for more stability.