House S consists of four bedrooms, a gym, a sukkah and a 25m lap pool. It is a renovation of an existing 1960s house in an area that has emerged as the main Orthodox Jewish area in Johannesburg. In line with Orthodox Jewish traditions, the house attempts to forge a strong relationship with the street, assisting with the non-use of cars on Saturdays. The house also has a sukkah – a hut constructed for use during the week-long Jewish festival of Sukkot. This house is also significant because the elements that would make up a traditional Jewish home are interpreted in a modern and minimal way.
Thomas Chapman had designed and built offices for the client in 2008 and the house follows a similar architecture. The design completely obliterates the existing building, apart from some internal walls and a floor slab. It takes the form of two parallel double-storey barns, one being a garage and gym and the other being the main house. Local Studio worked very hard to create a roof structure with no visible guttering to emphasise the minimal transition from wall to roof. The project also makes use of large expanses of butt-jointed glazing, framing the rituals of the residents like a vertical stage set.
Many challenges arose from the site conditions, meaning that certain construction details had to be compromised. In hindsight, the architects believe that they could have demolished the existing building completely and not have been limited by the existing geometries, for the same budget.