Among the artworks in architect Shaun Gaylard’s flat in Killarney, Johannesburg, are a number of drawings of buildings and cityscapes. Their styles vary from an impressionistic scribble, some building ‘portraits’ and skylines, through to an alphabet of small, intricate elevations of iconic buildings in pen and ink.
This last one, which hangs on the wall as you head from the entrance hall into the living area, is by Shaun himself, a birthday gift for his partner. They both love travel and, as Shaun explains, ‘a lot of our holidays are planned around architecture’. (Most recently, they made a pilgrimage to a Le Corbusier building in Bogota in Colombia.) ‘I wanted to do a drawing because it’s personal and we both love art,’ he adds.
Architectural drawing has long been a creative outlet for Shaun. As a university student missing his art studies, he did all his drawings by hand. Now, that artistic impulse has come full circle: art led to architecture, which has in turn led back to art.
When visiting friends demanded drawings for themselves, Shaun began a series of Architectural City Guides, now available as limited prints. He started with Johannesburg and Cape Town, with plans to add London and New York, and from there to make his way around the world.
When you take in the views from Shaun’s flat, being high up and boasting a 180-degree outlook over the north of Johannesburg, it’s hard not to assume that’s where he found his inspiration. He readily admits that some mornings he’s so mesmerised by this vista he doesn’t want to get out of bed. (Although not a fan of Johannesburg hotel The Michelangelo’s architecture – from his bedroom it looks ‘like a giant engagement ring on top of Sandton City’ – it has, perhaps through the sheer force of its presence here, made its way onto his ‘JHB, An Architectural City Guide’.)
The rest of his home might betray some of the precision and neatness of his drawings, but it has an eclecticism, softness and sophistication that goes beyond his one-time ideal of ‘a white box with off-shutter concrete walls’. Mentioning Ralph Lauren with admiration, Shaun says he loves the stylistic contrasts between old and new.
His furnishings have a clear mid-century flavour: lots of beautiful wooden curves and elegant floating forms. An immaculately restored Floating Curve sofa by Vladimir Kagan sits pride of place in the lounge, and the mid-century dining table and chairs, which owe more than a little to Kagan’s influence, hold their own in the dining area. An Eames lounge chair and ottoman in a reading corner (and an aluminium Eames office chair in the study/TV room), along with an Ercol table and chairs in a breakfast nook, add to the elegance. The mid-century pieces are offset with later design classics such as a Muuto shelf and Kenneth Grange’s beautiful update of the Anglepoise lamp. The work of South African designers such as Dokter and Misses, and Tonic add contemporary zest.
Shaun’s tendency to lean towards neatness and minimalism is evident in his taste in art, too. But, while he loves the simplicity and restraint of Rodan Kane Hart’s artworks – there’s a maquette of one of his sculptures on the coffee table, ‘almost utilitarian in its form,’ Shaun notes – the exuberance of a Walter Battiss and a number of signed Trechikoff prints sneak through. Other greats such as Joni Brenner make appearances, and he continues to explore his interest in the art of architecture.
Like that collection, there’s a seriousness about art and design that pervades the restrained, masculine elegance of Shaun’s flat. But it’s refreshingly overwhelmed by moments of humour and warmth: like the Michelangelo included among the buildings he loves, and the very impulse behind the first of his drawings, the neatness and restraint belie something much more than mere style.
Originally published in HL April 2014