A tribute to Gawie Fagan

In memory of this revolutionary South African architect, it’s our privilege to release this never-before-published shoot of his home.

Gawie Fagan

Arguably one of this country’s greatest architects, Gabriel (Gawie) Fagan was a true original thinker whose contribution to the South African built environment has left an indelible mark. His Camps Bay home, Die Es, shared with his wife and business partner Gwen, is a landmark of modern architecture and distils his chief principles of relation to context. With its characteristic chimney and undulating roofline, the property fronts onto a nature reserve and is backed by the mountains.

This shoot of Gawie and Gwen’s home, shot by Kristian Holm and styled by Retha Erichsen captures them in their most natural state of being, giving a sense of their daily rituals and the spirit of their iconic home. At almost 60 years old, the Fagan’s home is still the focus of both academic and media attention to this day, and a look at these images reveals why.

We chatted to some of the creatives who had the honour of experiencing Gawie and Gwen’s home themselves and this is what they had to say.

Charl Edwards, creative director

“I was very fortunate to have spent time with Gawie and Gwen at their Cape Town home Die Es, as well as their holiday home Paradys in Langebaan. I was adamant to feature my favourite couple for my first issue as editor of House and Leisure, and thus began the first of many visits. In what can only be described as a once-in-a-lifetime experience, Gawie suggested we spend an entire weekend away with them to shoot and capture their iconic Langebaan home. What was originally planned as only a few portrait shots of them in their design, turned into a weekend of witnessing, capturing and absorbing their brilliance and warmth. Their bond and love for each other was unlike anything I have seen, visible in even the smallest of gestures – like the way Gawie looked at Gwen and always reached out for her wherever she moved about the house. Gawie truly lived a remarkable life, not just evident through his work, but also through his love for his family. X.”

Inge Prins, photographer

“In 2013 I received the call from Monocle Magazine to shoot a feature on the Fagan’s home, Die Es. At that stage I knew very little about them and their house. The moment I walked in; I was blown away…here was a house with real soul. Gwen and Gawie – then deep into their 80s- warmly greeted us, left us the house keys and headed to work.

Later that evening we sat around their dinner table and they told us stories of how the house was designed and built by the family. The conversation at that table changed my life. I couldn’t believe what these wonderful people had accomplished. I was in the presence of pure genius.

I was honoured six years later to shoot their Langebaan home for Charl Edwards at House and Leisure. The highlight for me that weekend was their video interview, they spoke with so much humility. When you design a building, “ you think about how it will impact on its surroundings, how it will bring joy to the people who live in it and how you can do this as simply and economically as possible,” they said. Gawie Fagan truly lived his life to its fullest potential.”

Kristian Holm, photographer

“If everyone lived like Gwen and Gawie, we would have a very different planet. They are truly original thinkers, employing everything that’s relevant today: sustainable philosophies, re-using, passing their skills down to their children, savouring life, living between two simple homes and following their dreams. Gawie Fagan- lover, father, creative, pilot, captain, rider, reader and idol of mine! I’m happy to have knocked on their door and been invited into their home, summerhouse and studio, always with such warmth. RIP Gawie and much love to Gwen and the family.”

Retha Erichsen, stylist

An ode to architect Gabriël (Gawie) Fagan, a man who:

– had the vision to build his own homes with his own hands and not without his family’s help and support

– had a love for the land on which he built

– had a sensitivity to the landscape that surrounds his creations

– had a way of building simply yet purposefully

– had an eye for aesthetics

– had an intense respect for heritage

– allowed me into his private residences, Die Es and Paradys, on more than one occasion

– was married to the love of his life Gwen, also his creative partner for over 70 years. Respect.

Gawie, I thank you for sharing your words, your world and your wisdom with me. RIP.


Additional Words: Mila Crewe-Brown
Images: Kristian Holm and Retha Erichsen

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