The Light House

The light house is a project used to showcase the principles of human-hearted design and how design, as a practise, can become a dialogue between equals.  The concept has proved to be a viable, and sustainable, alternative to the existing low-cost housing in South Africa that is both unnatractive, and is considered by most occupants to be uninhabitable.

I was fortunate enough to work alongside Stephen Lamb and Andrew Lord, who together form Touching the Earth Lightly. I participated in the co-design process and generated all the 3D models, renderings and animations that were used throughout the project.   The structure was designed in modular sections that were pre-assembled using over-the-counter materials.  The modular sections were then transported to the selected site and the structure was erected within 3 days of breaking ground.  

All photos courtesy of Stephen Lamb and Giles Ridley.

Press Coverage: MagazineSouth African International Renewable Energy Conference 2015

Technology Stack

Solidworks, Keyshot

The Problem

Xoma Ayob is a resident of the Hangberg community in Hout Bay, which is situated in Cape Town, South Africa.  Local government wanted to move him out of his existing home, an informal dwelling erected on municipal land. The government wanted to move him into an existing TRA (Temporary Relocation Area) housing but he outright refused.  These structures are poorly built, badly insulated and let in very little natural light.

Together, Steven Lamb (right) and Andrew Lord (left) of Touching the Earth Lightly, were asked to construct a vertical food garden on the sun-facing wall of one of these TRA structures, in an attempt to convince Xoma to move.  Instead, they persuaded local government to allocate them the equivalent budget that would allow them to build Xoma a new home.  By including Xoma in the co-design process, the project quickly became a showcase for how design can become a dialogue between equals.

Xoma Ayob

TRA housing

TRA housing

Steven Lamb and Andrew Lord

Steven Lamb and Andrew Lord


Stephen and Andrew convinced the local municipality to give them the equivalent budget for building one of the TRA (temporary relocation area) houses ( around $3,000 ), but only on the condition that Xoma agreed to move to a nearby site. They called this solution The Light House, with the name alluding to the amount of natural light that’s able to enter the structure due to its design.



We followed an iterative design approach, including Xoma throughout the process.  Stephen and Andrew came up with the original design for a double-volume structure based on their discussions with Xoma about his needs.  The Lighthouse is a name that was chosen based on the desire to have as much natural light entering the structure as possible.  Early designs were based on over-the-counter building materials such as corrugated Zinc sheeting and standard building lumber.  The raised floor was a decision to combat flooding that is common in the Western Cape area.  For the same reasons, a gutter system and rain water collection tank were sustainable design inclusions.

Xoma was consulted and included in every phase of the design process.  As we progressed, and with the help of visual aids such as the renderings, he was able to help us refine the design and hone in on a final concept.




The Light House was designed to be built using affordable readily available over-the-counter building materials.  The structure was designed in modular sections, allowing workers to build it offsite and transport the modules to the final site.  The entire structure was erected within three days of breaking ground at the site (this excludes prefabrication of the modular sections).



A low tech, upgradable, beneficiary driven design & building project. This project, facilitated by architects & students is based on community endorsed decisions. THIS IS THE LIGHTHOUSE. DBRS was established in 2011 by Hermie Delport-Voulgarelis and Rudolf Perold as part of their ongoing research into live project education. A film by Epitome. Music: A new beginning by BENSOUND


Directed by Alexandra Leroux D.O.P Damien de Medeiros 2nd D.O.P Alon Gelnik & Alexandra Leroux Edited by Flavie Doubesky Music composed by Damien de Medeiros Art direction Damien de Medeiros Research Pauline Tiprez & Alexandra Leroux Research Intern : Josephine Guillaume Fixer : Roscoe Kleinloog