Two warm-hearted Wits architecture students are using a novel idea to bring a local community in from the cold.

 Yolandé Kluth and Tarry Michael will use recycled materials to build a temporary structure at the Living Trinity Church of God in the Johannesburg neighbourhood of Westbury.

The structure will serve as a church, soup kitchen and counselling centre.

“At the moment they operate out of a tent, which is difficult because water gets in. It gets very cold in winter and very hot in summer,” said Kluth.

“Our company, Experiment Environment , is focused on using alternative materials,” explained Michael. “We found a very cool solution, which is timber pallets. It’s alternative and it’s cheap, cheaper than bricks, and you find timber pallets lying around everywhere.”

Kluth and Michael got the idea of using pallets when they saw fellow Witsie, Thomas Chapman, using pallets to build a stage for an event in Westbury. They later discovered that pallets had been used successfully for buildings in the Netherlands, but the idea had never been tried in South Africa.

Michael said she and her partner will also use discarded tyres.

“So many tyres are thrown in the dumps…because South Africa doesn’t have the facilities or resources to break down the materials that a tyre consists of. We are going to use the tyres in an interesting way, as a foundation and as a wall system as well.”

She appealed to well-wishers to donate funds, as they need about R150 000 to build the church, weatherproof it and roof it properly. They also need to cover expenses such as printing and SMS costs and transport.

“We transported about 150 tyres to the site ourselves on two small Nissan bakkies,” Michael said.

“They [Kluth and Michael] really do put in a lot of effort, and you can see it really comes from their hearts…This project really means a lot to us and we are very excited,” said Elana Johannes, a member of the church board.

The two Witsies and their supporters in the student council of the School of Architecture and Planning will hold several fundraising events, including a ball for Wits students and staff on April 14.

Michael and Kluth laughed when Vuvuzela asked them if they had ever felt like giving up.

Michael replied: “We’d want to give up, but one of us would always encourage the other: ‘No, it’s gonna happen. It’s gonna get built. We can do this.’

“We’ve shed quite a few tears on this project,” Kluth said. “And fights. We’ve had a lot of fights” she added, smiling at her partner.


Go to the Experiment Environment blog to see renderings of the project.

Read about how Tarryn and Yolandé fell in love with architecture.




 Elana Johannes and her daughter Fallon Johannes in the tent currently used by Westbury’s Living Trinity Church of God. The tent will soon be replaced by a structure made of recycled timber and tyres. Photo: Hazel Meda