Thomas Chapman says he is not of the generation of architects "who set out to create monuments; to have their buildings outlast them or leave a legacy". The founder of Johannesburg-based architecture firm Local Studio is conducting an interview on his car phone at rush hour on a Friday, negotiating the rapids and eddies of the urban commute. His book, Hustles documents his practice’s first five years. Downtown Johannesburg is Chapman’s locus and where most of Local Studio’s first 12 projects are located. They serve very different functions but share a strong social ethos and exceptionally tight budgets. There’s the restaurant pavilion built on the foundations of a razed lunatic asylum at the Old Fort in Hillbrow. A futuristic school on dusty ground in Tsakane in Ekurhuleni, and a clever steel pedestrian bridge and park in Westbury.

Local Studio designed affordable housing, including Braamfontein Gate on Smit Street. Once the headquarters of Total Oil, the high-rise tower now h...

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