Malan Seco


RESIDENTIAL – in collaboration with Chris Malan

Gabriela and Chris designed their house on a challenging site of only 408 m 2 . They approached the challenge from the premise that ‘small is beautiful’ and set out to make optimal use of the long, narrow and tight stand by designing a compact, affordable and sustainable home for their basic needs: relaxed living in a ‘lock-up and go’ pad in the city.

The 125 metre home was planned with two parallel, longitudinal tracts separated by a long, deep spine wall, as a structuring device, which houses the library, pantry, fireplace and lounge wall unit. Along this spine the house offers a route through interior spaces, drawing the outside in through ‘picture windows’ as part of a seamless integration of interior and exterior spaces. A fountain court carved from the southern tract floods the kitchen and the library with natural light, and becomes an extended living area, a room without a roof. Elsewhere garden walls structure the garden into spaces fully incorporated into the architecture, with ever-changing indigenous landscaping providing new focal elements during each season of the year.

In addition to the borrowed spaces from the outside, the stepped levels drop down along the passage through the house, generating increasing height towards the main open-plan living spaces.

This adds a sense of spatial generosity, despite the small footprint. A set of clerestory windows add to the generous daylighting quality.

Considerations of passive thermal control underpin much of the visual façade treatment: slide-away window walls form completely flexible façade systems, with large sliding doors and shutters allowing for superb control of solar heat gain and natural light, while the concrete overhang above them is tailored to seasonal changes in sun angles between summer and winter. The narrow vertical windows control cooling cross-breezes through the house.

In detailing of the house, a restrained modernistic treatment is evident, where every element within the aesthetic composition is fully expressive of its purpose. The overall result affords the couple an uncomplicated yet enriching compact urban living experience.

View SA Garden & Home article featuring this design here.