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Halcyon days Cluster housing in Harare by Pantic Architects

Cluster housing developments can be so boring and repetitive; just the same house again and again! Pantic Architects from Zimbabwe put a whole new twist to the concept and rotated the flats around a central natural feature creating a rich, unique complex that is anything but monotonous.

Photo by Blake Wheeler on Unsplash

Existing natural features

The architectural designers were tasked with designing a thirtyseven unit housing development with strict budgetary constraints on a plot on the outskirts of Harare. The plot had a stunning rock formation in its centre, with trees and vegetation. The original ideas were to blast all the rocks, clear the plot and create a typical cluster house development. The architects decided to approach the master planning differently and make the boulder formation the focus of the development, and enhance it instead of destroying it. 

Concept design

The architectural design evolved rapidly, creating a central green area with a rock formation in the middle. All houses were to have a view of it, so they were rotated around it. The internal design of the units was optimized as well to provide the living areas with a direct view of the central area. This stunning view would daily enrich the lives of the occupants. Each house would also have a little private yard that would link to the large communal green area. The common central area would be a flatter area that children could use for sports, and a curving path around the hill and complex would provide a jogging/ walking path. Older people could rest and interact with the youngsters in the central park.

Master planning

A secondary idea was to exclude the passage of cars from the cluster houses. This was implemented by creating two parking zones by the entrances to the complex. From there pedestrian walkways spiralled around the external side of the houses, leading to the individual front doors. Refuse collection for recycling purposes and utility areas were provided in the proximity of the entrances to the complex. Both gates had secure guard houses and controlled access provisions.

Privacy

Since the neighbours were close, individual privacy was addressed by sliding the townhouses backwards and forwards in respect to each other. In that manner, there were no direct views into the neighbours’ flats. In addition, parting screens were created that sheltered the verandas. These verandas were covered by overhangs of the first floor bedrooms, protecting from rain, sun and neighbours’ views.

House layouts

The day areas comprising of kitchen, dining and living room were all located downstairs in an open plan arrangement. These were linked to the covered veranda that gave to the garden and central common area. The open plan and continuation towards the central area made the whole area seem much larger and luxurious. Upstairs were all the bedrooms and en-suite bathrooms, separating the day and night areas cleanly. This allowed multiple events to happen within the house at the same time.

The corner units were treated differently and had larger verandas opening on the sides of the living areas widening the footprint of the house.

Flora and fauna

Priority was given to maintain as many existing trees as a shelter for local birds. Only indigenous plants would be planted once construction was completed. These would be supplemented with rich bushes and undergrowth to provide a complete habitat for the local fauna.

Cluster design

The organic spiral design of the complex around the stunning natural rock and tree formation created an impressive architectural statement. The emphasis on social interactions in the central area will hopefully provide a meaningful benefit to future occupants. Time will tell.

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