'Die Es' - Studio Degens AW23 Editorial

'Die Es'
Renowned South African architect, the late Gawie Fagan, drew his house on the back of a cigarette box during a flight to Pretoria in 1964, shortly after purchasing the land. Nestled in Cape Town’s Camps Bay hills, Die Es is a distillation of Cape Dutch and modernist architecture, considered by many to be the most beautiful residence in the area. It’s also the location for Studio Degens’ Autumn Winter 23/24 Eat Dust and Girls of Dust editorial.
Perhaps even more impressive than the house’s mid-century appeal is the fact that Gawie built it with the help of his wife, Gwen, and their four children. “Die Es—Owner built,” reads the chapter heading in the architect’s self-published book, Twenty Cape Houses. “Each child was given a job,” Gwen writes in her account of the build in Gwendoline’s Gawie. “Toetie had to throw the stones into the mixer, Jessie the sand and Lida the water, and I would tip the mix into the wheelbarrows for Gawie and Hennie to push and cast the concrete into the foundation trenches.” One photo shows Toetie doing her clarinet homework while her sister works on the roof nearby. Another sees Gwen and Hennie moulding a roof light. In a disconcerting low angle shot, Gawie plasters the chimney on rickety handmade scaffolding. “One can be sure that the roof over your head takes on a new meaning when built by yourself,” the architect wrote.
Gwen, who turned 99 this year, is unguarded and disarmingly generous. Eager to educate, she gives Studio Degens the tour that doubles as a location scout. The house’s wavy rooftop, constructed from laminated 6m x 100mm pine strips, is an abstraction of the Atlantic Ocean in front of it and the Twelve Apostles mountain range behind it. Gawie Fagan’s work is an elaboration on its surroundings—never an intervention.
The living room’s ocean facing floor-to-ceiling window panes slide all the way open, overlooking Gwen’s proudly indigenous garden that rolls into the bordering nature reserve. The Le Corbusier chairs in the living room (Gawie was a fervent fan) are perhaps the most foreign objects in the house. Everything else is a product of the Fagan family and their community, from the artwork in the entrance hall Gawie commissioned from his friend Erik Laubscher, to a library stocked only with books written by friends.
During the build, the Fagans used their basement as a workshop to produce their home’s fittings: from the stainless steel coat hooks that fit perfectly between tiles in the entrance hall, to the custom-designed door and cupboard handles. “[They] feel more responsive to the hand and heart than anything I could buy,” wrote Gawie. “We sat around the fireplace every evening,” Gwen tells Studio Degens. “We had our supper here and our kids did their homework here.” It’s the reason the house is christened Die Es, or The Hearth. Strength in community and collaboration is the common thread that connects this house near Africa’s southern tip to Eat Dust. As far as Studio Degens is concerned, there’s no better location.
Eat Dust AW23/24 brand editorial
Photographer: Ian Engelbrecht @image.ian
Videographer: Roice Nel @roicenel
Creative direction and styling: Studio Degens @studio_degens
Antoinette Degens @antoinette_degens Daniël Geldenhuys @ewithdots
Nomvelo Mabaso @nomvelomabaso_ at Twenty @twentymodelmanagement
Deylin Malachi @deylinuniverse at Kult @kultsouthafrica
Avuyile Mantshingilane @iam_avuyile at Fanjam @fanjam_management
Alex Swanepoel @alex.swanepoel at Boss @bossmodelsa
Hair and make-up Alice Coloriti @alicecoloriti
Photographed at Die Es by Gabriël Fagan, Camps Bay, Cape Town.
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