If we had to make a list of the most recognisable homes in the Cape, ‘Die Es’ would surely be one of them. With its distinct wave-like roof, the house is a meeting of two worlds: highly conceptual design and practical everyday use. Architect Gawie Fagan and his wife Gwen built it in Camps Bay back in 1965 and, after more than 50 years, it remains one of the area’s most beautiful residences. We met up with the couple to talk about building that captivates the minds of everyone who sees it.
We built the house with our children,’ Gwen tells us. ‘And each one of us had a job to do while building it.’ Starting with the blueprints and rough sketches of the building, it’s clear that the couple poured their hearts into the project. Every conceivable detail was taken into consideration while designing and erecting it: the movement of the sun during the day, the often forceful wind in the Cape and, most importantly, that this was a family home.
Paging through the beautiful book that she and Gawie put together about the project, she pauses every now and then to explain how laborious the task was. ‘We did everything by hand, not like today where everything is done with machines,’ she says. ‘Gawie has always been good with his hands. He grew up in a house where he was taught to make things by hand.’ As a result of their painstaking dedication, the house has stood the test of time and today, it remains in the same condition as when it was built.
We asked the Fagans why their house has garnered as much attention as it has over the years. Gawie shrugs his shoulders, but Gwen talks about designing a timeless home. ‘These days people design houses to be in style. Clients always want to fashionable,’ she quips. ‘But we weren’t focusing on style. We were responding to our environment, and to the basic needs of our family.’
Believe it or not, the house is not done just yet. Gawie and Gwen laugh as they talk about the details yet to be completed, and show us pictures of what still needs to be built. Gawie says it’s an ongoing process. They don’t seem to be in a rush – and why should they? They have the rest of their lives to continue fine-tuning this extraordinary abode: a living, breathing extension of who they are.