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Prof Arthur Barker on Gawie Fagan & Pius Pahl – 4th Modern Movement

Prof Arthur Barker on Gawie Fagan & Pius Pahl – 4th Modern Movement

Arthur Barker works at the University of Pretoria’s Department of Architecture where he co-ordinates the Professional Masters programme and the Heritage and Cultural Landscapes Research field. His main research interest is the architecture of South Africa, and in particular, the Fourth Modern Movement. For the Università Degli Studi di Napoli Federico II’s Dipartimento di Architettura, Arthur has just finished a chapter on Pius Pahl for an Italian publisher, Clean Edizioni.

See Culture Connect’s YouTube Channel to watch Prof Barker’s lecture on Thurs 22 Oct on Gabriël (Gawie) Fagan (1925 – 2020). His residential work, the subject of Prof Barker’s doctorate, is widely admired for its synthesis of the local Cape vernacular and aspects of the Modern Movement. He died in the home on 13 Sept he built with his family in the mid 1960s, Die Es (“The Hearth”). It is hugely admired by architects and design writers, locally and internationally. Gawie started out as an architect for Volkskas Bank (now ABSA) and designed 50 banks for the next 10 years. In 1964 he founded his own practice in Cape Town, “specialising in designing contemporary buildings and landscapes in sensitive contexts” to quote the website. He is most proud of his restoration work at Tulbagh, after the 1969 earthquake. (His many projects include Castle of Good Hope, Boschendal, Cape Point Entrance Gate and Chauvonnes Battery).

On Thurs 29 Oct, Prof Barker, also exclusively for Culture Connect, gave a talk on Pius Pahl (1909 – 2003). Pahl was at the Bauhaus when it closed in 1933 and Mies van der Rohe was the architectural director. After World War 2 Pius started his own practice in Ludwigshafen and Mainz. He married a South African and in 1952 they moved to the Western Cape where he ran his own practice (and taught at UCT). To quote the FT Pius was “one of the longest-surviving students of the original Bauhaus [and designed St Martini in the late 1950s], one of the largest apartment complexes in central Cape Town…regarded as one of the finest works of the Louis Karol architectural practice, for whom Pahl worked on the design.” Architect and Senior Lecturer at Cape Peninsula University of Technology, Dr Rudolf Perold talked briefly about living at St Martini Gardens. At the end the Van der Horsts spoke affectionately about living in Pahl designed homes – first St Martini, then houses they commissioned one in Newlands (Cape Town), and the other by the coast at Betty’s Bay.

These two talks follow an intro to Modernism on 15 Oct, 2020, by Culture Connect’s Kate Crane Briggs in conversation with Catherine Croft, Director 20th Century Society (UK), Catherine spoke during Culture Connect’s Zoom series on Brutalism in July, with Martin Kruger, architect and urbanist based in Cape Town. Dr Gabriele Neri (Switzerland) spoke about Nervi’s Good Hope Centre. While architect and academic, Albert van Jaarsveld did a Culture Connect Zoom about Brutalism and Apartheid. All viewable on Culture Connect’s YouTube Channel.

Images: Gawie Fagan’s own house, Camps Bay (image from Pinterest – visi.co.za); Pius Pahl’s drawing for a block of flats in Clifton, Cape Town; students dormitory of the Bauhaus school by Walter Gropius 1926 Pinterest and Arthur Barker (University of Pretoria’s website).

Monuments & Memories: Race & Art in USA & SA, recording on YouTube

Monuments & Memories: Race & Art in USA & SA, recording on YouTube

Police brutality, protests and vandalising statues continue both in the United States and South Africa. Exclusively for Culture Connect SA Dr LaNitra Berger, Senior Director of Fellowships at George Mason University in Virginia, was in conversation on Zoom with Melanie Burke, societal change practitioner, based in St James, Cape Town on Thursday, 6 Aug 2020.

Monuments were the target of international protests against racial inequality after George Floyd’s death in police custody in Minneapolis on 25 May. As recently as 14 July, Rhodes head was sawn off at Rhodes Memorial, Cape Town, and found nearby in the bushes. #rhodesmustfall and #feesmustfall, 2015 – 2016, were the largest student protests in South Africa since the end of apartheid in 1994.

What is happening now in both countries, how do they differ, what are the parallels and how can we address positive change with a broader perspective and #BlackLivesMatter?

Click here to watch on Culture Connect SA’s YouTube Channel. Free but please donate to StreetSmart South Africa, helping streets kids in and around Cape Town (Melanie Chairs this charity).

Recently LaNitra has been involved many similar online conversations. She is an art historian and her book is just about to be published by Bloomsbury Academic, called Irma Stern and the Racial Paradox of South African Modern Art: Audacities of Color. She is the author of Exploring Education Abroad: A Guide for Racial and Ethnic Minority Participants, by AFSA Association of International Educators who is also publishing her forthcoming book, Social Justice and International Education: Research, Practice, Perspectives. In 2018 LaNitra led a tour to South Africa for George Mason students as part of their Monuments course (Culture Connect facilitated a public art tour for this). She works in the faculty for African and African American Studies.

Melanie is hugely respected for her cross-sectoral work. Kate Crane Briggs of Culture Connect, first met Melanie in 2011 when Melanie was a director of MoDILA – Museum of Design, Innovation, Leadership and the Arts. Subsequently Kate did the Common Purpose leadership course led by Melanie who leads social entrepreneurship and innovation programmes in Cape Town for students at Maryland University, less than a hour’s drive from George Mason University, the other side of Washington DC.

The conversation was convened and  chaired by Kate Crane Briggs and moderated by Sanet Tattersall.


Brutalist Architecture: Near & Far, July 2020 on YouTube

Brutalist Architecture: Near & Far, July 2020 on YouTube

Loved or loathed, Brutalism is back in fashion, well for some!

This series of four one hour Zoom sessions can be watched on Culture Connect’s YouTube channel.The first, Brutalism 101 including in South Africa is by Culture Connect’s Kate Crane Briggs. This was on 9 July, 1-2pm, (South African time). Then on the following two Thursdays, 16 and 23 July, architect, urbanist and artist, Martin Kruger, who is based in Cape Town was joined by Catherine Croft, director of London based 20th Century Society and author of Concrete ArchitectureUsing UK comparators, they focused on buildings in Cape Town – UCT’s Sports Centre, the Werdmuller Centre, Good Hope Centre and Artscape (formerly known as the Nico Malan Skouburg). Martin was taught by Roelof Uytenbogaardt, the architect of Werdmuller and UCT Sports Centres. Roelof studied at Pennsylvania University under Louis Kahn (“one of the most influential architects of the twentieth century” Wiki). For the third one, Catherine and Martin were joined by Prof Gabriel Nevi who is co-authoring a book on the Italian engineer/architect Luigi Nervi who with his studio designed the Good Hope Centre. Annie Wingate spoke about living in the iconic, thriving Barbican, UK.

For the fourth in the series, the architect and academic, Albert van Jaarsveld, showed how the Apartheid government embraced modernity to show its sophistication, internationalism and de-colonisation. Buildings include Konservatorium/music dept, Stellenbosch Univerisity, Baxter Theatre and once again Artscape and Good Hope Centre.

Click here to watch: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCrG9gGXkx237woKQpTehjRw

Architects registered in South Africa can get their CPD points by watching these and answering questions afterwards. This is being led by InDetail.

Thanks to Sanet Tattersall, for her research and moderating for this series.

Architectural tours in Cape Town, Pretoria and Stellenbosch will be organised by Culture Connect in due course.


Irma Stern Museum’s Future Plans 2021 talk online now

Irma Stern Museum’s Future Plans 2021 talk online now

Exclusively for Culture Connect, Nadja Daehnke, Irma Stern Museum‘s new director shared her plans for the museum, many people’s favourite in Cape Town. Last year Nadja took over from Christopher Peter who retired, having worked there for decades – all his working life. Christopher commented “Nadja has been working for nearly two years on the transformation portfolio of the university’s artwork collection. Transformation touched [the Museum] very positively because we got Nadja on board to help us with the art collection on campus. She is particularly gifted in this direction” (from: UCT News. Nadja ran the Michaelis Galleries and was Curator for Contemporary Painting and Sculpture at Iziko South African National Gallery. She has been an independent curator and artist, working both in South Africa and UK.

At the start of our Zoom, Nadja briefly recapped on who’s who at the Museum, the Trust, Stern’s will and the role of the University of Cape Town (UCT). She then covered what changes are afoot. These range from small but important details, such as the languages for the signage and captions, to new exhibitions, re-curating the African collection and increasing both the number and variety of visitors.

We are delighted that Nadja was joined by Ayesha Price, educator and visual arts practitioner. She joined the Museum at the beginning of lockdown and heads up education. She previously worked at Iziko South African National Gallery (Senior Museum Educator), The Children’s Art Centre, Zonnebloem (Principal) and has been lecturing at UCT. She will share what she has been focusing on already – some still in the planning stages, such as a new website, others well underway, notably working closely with Matric art students at South Peninsula School in Diep River.

The Museum, in Rosebank (like Culture Connect), Cape Town. 

Free to view but please to the Museum’s education activities via Culture Connect – usual bank details (do ask) or to donate now by card (any currency) click here.



Images: interior shot of the Museum by Sean Wilson; Nadja taken by Vanessa Cowling in the Museum; Ayesha Price and a portrait by Irma Stern from the Museum.

“Troubling Images: Visual Culture and the Politics of Afrikaner Nationalism” online now

“Troubling Images: Visual Culture and the Politics of Afrikaner Nationalism” online now

Exclusively for Culture Connect the three editors talk about this timely, thoughtful new book they co-edited, Troubling Images: Visual Culture and the Politics of Afrikaner Nationalism:

Federico Freschi is Head of the College of Art, Design and Architecture at Otago Polytechnic, Dunedin, New Zealand.

Brenda Schmahmann is a Professor and SARCHI Chair in South African Art and Visual Culture at the University of Johannesburg.

 Lize van Robbroeck is Professor in Visual Studies at the University of Stellenbosch

Nine other distinguished academics contributed to the book – mainly professors, based in South Africa. After the introduction and historical overview, there are four sections:

  1. “Assent and Dissent through fine art and architecture”
  2. University monuments
  3. Photography (Voortrekker Monument’s inauguration and a reframing of David Goldblatt’s Some Afrikaners)
  4. Popular culture

Click here to watch now the edited Zoom conversation on 13 Aug, 9:30-10:30am.

Stanford University’s Associate Professor, Grant Parker, says this collection of essays “eloquently answer the question that pervades our own times: Why are visual symbols so politically explosive? The volume is a history of the past century but also, implicitly, a map of future possibilities.”

Retail price R495 ($50), published by Wits University Press. Order from your local bookstore; in Cape Town Book Lounge, Clarkes and Exclusive Books who deliver for free locally and you can order from their websites. It is also available for Kindle reading eg Amazon, Barnes & NobleLoot and Takealot.

Image: Preparation of the C.R. Swart sculpture by Cigdem Aydemir for Plastic Histories, 2014. The work has been covered with plastic and is in the process of being sprayed pink. Photograph by Paul Mills. (It is the cover image of Troubling Images.)