Trevor Huddleston Memorial Building

CLIENT: Trevor Huddleston Memorial Centre

PROGRAM: Community centre 


LOCATION: Sophiatown, Johannesburg, Gauteng

BUDGET: R3.5 million

Architect | Local Studio
Engineer | The Structural Workshop
Main contractor | E4 Construction
Environmental Consultant | Solid Green Consulting



The Trevor Huddleston Memorial Building is the first new public building to have been built in Sophiatown since the forced removals in 1948. It is also one of the only non-commercial buildings in Sophiatown without a boundary wall and one of the first five-green-star buildings of this nature in Johannesburg. It is located along one of the key NMT routes on the Empire-Perth Corridor of Freedom, which was also completed by Local Studio. The building's facilities include including offices, a boardroom, a coffee shop, a training room, a co-working space and a performance space.

The client, Trevor Huddleston Memorial Centre, is an NGO that has been active in the area for the past 15 years. Thomas Chapman began working with the client through his masters in 2008, which focused on the urban history of Sophiatown. Local Studio was initially hired as the community participation consultant on this project.

The design combines three important urban typologies, which were prevalent in old Sophiatown – the stoep, the yard and the corner shop. The building is constructed entirely by light gauge steel, which also influenced the design process, allowing for large open volumes and cantilevers. The brief called for a flexible building – a coffee shop, coworking space and lecture hall by day and a performance venue by night. This was achieved by creating large sliding doors that can temporarily divide the massive double-volume space into three.

Key challenges of this work arose from the incredible programmatic flexibility required by the client, for example, the venue to convert swiftly from a brightly lit training room to a black-out cinema. Challenges have also arisen as a result of many of the surrounding community expressing resistance to the transformation. The building has, however, been well realized and the NGO are functioning well in the space, which is primarily used as a function venue for live jazz.

A noteworthy aspect of the building is the sunscreen built out of layers of rebar mesh, which supports a map of old Sophiatown. Forcibly removed residents have been recording the locations of their former homes on this map. The memorial rebar sunscreen was completed almost a year after the completion of the main building, with funding assistance by Design Indaba in association with Nedbank.