41a Aandblom Street

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A City House Grounded in Sustainable Process Design

  • Designed with Vaughan Russel
  • Location: Cape Town, South Africa
  • Status: Complete


This project demonstrates how life cycle design and intermediate manual technology has minimized environmental impact and maximized social responsiveness and building craft.

Design includes supplementing & reduction of bulk services as well as solar, indigenous gardens and rainwater harvesting. Passive design includes aspect, thermal mass, shading, insulation and natural lighting.

Excavated materials were separated and the stones, rocks and sand used to build the structure. A nearby demolition site provided a significant portion of bricks. End of day rubble was recycled into the concrete; this was a zero waste project.

The multifunctional external walls operated as boundary walls, retaining walls, first floor supporting walls and neighbours’ common walls. Material reduction through efficient horizontal and vertical design reduces the environmental footprint; tight and efficient design maximizes the space to structural surface ratio.

Large cavities house accessible services. A fired clay brick finish avoids plaster and thus paint & maintenance. A durable well detailed building extends the structural life; a lightweight inner timber structure allows easy deconstruction. The roof can be unscrewed, another pre-designed floor added and the roof structure reused. Extended roof overhangs protect the structure from sun, rain and wind.

All timber was recycled.

This labour intense project was run as a school for unskilled labour and university students; the design appropriate for manual assembly and disassembly.

Team: Collis/Russell



“This project was my first exposure to physical building and I have since developed a love of making things like furniture. It also taught me to think beyond a design on a page and think about how the physical construction process works and that architects can and should work closely with their builders in order for a project to be successful. It also taught me to think carefully about materials and design. I am very interested in sustainable architecture and this was one of the first projects I was exposed to with these principles in mind.”

Juliet Eidelman
Worked on site when a 2nd and 3rd year architectural student


“Working on the site gave me an understanding of how buildings where put together far beyond anything we learned in a varsity lecture room. The practical experience took my structural and detail-design thinking to a level that I doubt that I would have been able to achieve without it. For me it was an amazing opportunity to have this experience at the undergraduate level. It was as if I had an opportunity to learn about the medium of architecture first and then, in post-grad, use that and push my designs beyond where I might have been otherwise.”

Tim Curtis
Worked on site when a 2nd and 3rd year architectural student


The recycled materials informed the building process. Instead of applying a post-modern formal approach, the building (its form/facades/volumes) were also informed by the available materials. The assembly and structural limitations of the materials themselves were taken into consideration during design and detailing of the building.  

Clive Hildering
Worked on site when a 5th and 6th year architectural student