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 –; 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).