Local Studio is an architecture and urban design firm based in Brixton, Johannesburg. The firm was founded by Thomas Chapman in 2012 with early commissions emerging directly from his Masters degrees in architecture (2008) and urban design (2013) at the University of the Witwatersrand. Both theses explored the reintroduction of ‘publicness’ into the post apartheid city, with the former Western Areas of Johannesburg as a case study.
Today, Local Studio employs 15 full-time staff and has a diverse portfolio of built work comprising public buildings, urban design schemes and private houses. The firm works mainly in the affordable housing, social infrastructure and public space sectors and is responsible for several projects that have played a part in the regeneration of downtown Johannesburg. Local Studio’s work is almost always produced under extreme time and budget constraints, resulting in spatial and tectonic solutions that borrow heavily from the industrial and mining legacy of Johannesburg.
Four themes underpin our approach to architecture:
Our cities are in crisis, and we see the delivery of quality housing, social infrastructure and public space as an emergency. We were one of the first firms in South Africa to adopt rapid light steel framing systems for social infrastructure projects and now use a range of solutions that allow much faster construction times compared to traditional bricks and mortar construction.
We see all architecture as having two clients: the users of the building and the surrounding city. We believe that what a building, is in terms of internal use, is as important as what a building does for its context. Regardless of program, we have therefore come to see buildings with dead public edges as failures.
Apart from shorter construction times resulting in substantial cost savings, we look at innovative planning/ programmatic arrangements, material usage and local labour procurement to further increase project efficiencies.
Considering the considerable cost and time constraints that face the majority of our projects, we constantly strive to create architecture that is memorable, and which contributes to the identity of a neighbourhood without overpowering its context.