Original Design Concept of Cluster Housing
In the core of Arlington estate, near the Harare International Airport, is a large residential plot meant for the construction of 40 double story units. Pantic Architects from Zimbabwe decided to bring out a new twist to it. The architects were engaged to redesign the original cluster housing master plan. It had proposed houses with a meagre two-meter back garden that faced the boundary walls and a living room that faced the parked cars. The architectural design ignored the stunning vegetation present at the core of the residential plot and the original idea was to remove the vegetation and clear the plot.
Studio Name: Pantic Architects
Design Team: Pantic Architects
Location: Harare, Zimbabwe
Consultants: Kunaka Engineers, Sue Malloch-Brown landscaping
Photography Credits: Pantic Architects
However, Pantic Architects decided to change the priorities and approach it in a different way. They came up with the idea of making the trees and massive boulders the main focus of the residential design. It would ensure that all the houses got a view of the amazing vegetation. The core aim of the residential design was to provide all the bedrooms and living rooms with a stunning view of the central areas that had a lot of natural features. The green area would be made into a flat field to create space where the children can play. Moreover, it would also provide the adults with a place to socialize and interact with other people.
Another significant issue with the original idea was to park the cars in front of the houses, thereby blocking the breathtaking views and minimizing the greenery present around. But the architects chose to get rid of all the roads and make the residents park their cars in two parking areas by the entrance gates. It would result in highlighting the green areas. In addition, the central hill area would become a true paradise for the residents to enjoy.
Modern Spiralling Cluster Design
The cluster housing design aims at bringing all the pieces together to form a modern interpretation. A spiralling form that was influenced by the central rocky feature and the plot’s shape was the outcome. In order to perfectly fit into the architectural concept, the individual cluster units had a trapezoidal shape. The units were narrower internally and wider externally. Even though all the units had an identical shape, the look was no more monotonous. Instead, it looked quite interesting. Pedestrian walkways present on the internal and external sides led to the individual houses. It allowed the easy connection between the houses. The curved layout of the cluster housing is something rare and unique. It provides a modern look to the repetitive cluster designs lined-up units along the straight roads. The repetitive design would have provided the residents with a direct view of their neighbour’s bedroom in front of them, thereby compromising their privacy.
Views and Privacy of the Individual Units
In order to provide all the residences with a clear view of the central area, the Pantic Architects decided to rotate the housing units around the central vegetation in a spiral form. The architects leveraged a more ergonomic form for better adaptation of the rotation. It would also result in the minimization of the building costs.
The homes were made to adopt the trapezoidal form that was wider towards the back and narrower at the property’s centre. In order to increase the privacy of the residents, the houses were moved backwards and forward. The rooms present on the first floor were bolstered above the verandas for additional protection against sun and rain. It provided a sitting area for the residents, thereby expanding the living space and making the residents feel close to nature.
Open Plan Living Areas
The living area of all the individual units in the residential plot faces the central area and the private yards, while the bedrooms are located upstairs. This separates the night and day areas, thereby facilitating the hosting of different events at the same time without any overlapping. The architect’s open-plan made the houses look more spacious and luxurious. The access to the different units is on the kitchen side ensuring optimum privacy of the residents from the passing people.
Cost Considerations of the Design
Similar to most developments, the main objective of the project was to make profits for the project developers. In order to lower the total construction cost, cost-effective designs were explored. Design concepts such as shared foundations, walls, plumbing, etc., were studied in detail and implemented. The techniques employed for the building of the houses were kept very simple and budget-friendly. However, the look of the units was compromised in no way. The main aim of the designers was to leverage the local fittings and materials and only if they weren’t available, would they rely on the SADC region.
The final housing complex is a cohesive form that revolves around a magnificent natural form. The resulting design has a modern organic form. The central area of the complex will have large lawns facilitating different kinds of social interactions between the residents. It will perfectly complement the functional and aesthetic values of cluster development.