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House Fagan - Keurbos
Bishopscourt, Cape Town, Western Cape

Gabriël Theron (Gawie) FAGAN: Architect


House for G Fagan's parents while he was a final year architecture student. Mrs Fagan was a keen gardener and the indoor garden next to the dining room gave her much pleasure during the wet winter months when gardening on the steep slope outside was unpleasant. She created one of the first Cape gardens to be planted with indigenous plants but the interior garden was planted with exotics. The house overlooks the Kirstenbosch Botanic Gardens.
(Fagan 2005:8)

A transcribed description of the house - shortly after completion - is provided below:

Hillside House, Bishopscourt, Cape Town

DESIGNED by the architect for his parents, Judge and Mrs. H. A. Fagan, the white walls and simple treatment of this house set high on the hillside of Bishopscourt Estate with a view of Table Mountain and the Cape Flats, have a flavour of the Cape Dutch with the benefits of contemporary architecture.

The driveway and entrance are on the south side, leaving the view and privacy on the front.

A striking and unusual effect has been created by an indoor garden of ferns and exotic plants which flourish in a warm and bright atmosphere resulting from roof-lighting over the higher part of the living quarters. This gives natural light in which the plants thrive.

Use has been made of the sloping site to set rooms on different levels with the bedrooms, small study, kitchen and dining room on the upper level and the living room, library and guest room below.

A ramp has been designed, suiting the contours of the house to eliminate the strain of a staircase which the owners wanted to avoid after having owned a double-storeyed house.

From the entrance area there is a view of the mountain through the roof light and a closer view of Kirstenbosch down the ramp. This view opens up as one descends. The ramp turns back into the living room and reveals the full view of the mountains.

Thought has been given to the shelves and fittings which, in most cases, serve two rooms. For example, a timber folding door separates the dining room from the kitchen and drawers run through to both sides.

Flooring throughout is of quarry tiles which help to give the Cape Dutch feeling. Walls are all white-washed brickwork except where contrast is supplied by stonework.

Sliding doors open the lounge to a terrace on the same level and supply good ventilation in summertime when a through draught can be arranged.

Dark wood is Imbuia and light wood Japanese Birch and Beech. Ceilings are pine.

Ref: Wale, Laurie (editor) c. 1964 New Home Building Ideas – Architects' Plans for Southern Africa. Purnell & Sons, Johannesburg: pgs 49 -54

[Submitted by William MARTINSON]

This building was chosen as an exhibit at the Pretoria University School of Architecture 50 year Alumni exhibition held at the Pretoria Art Gallery.

Writings about this entry

Fagan, G. 2005. Twenty Cape Houses. Cape Town: Breestraat Publikasies. pg 8-17
Papanicolaou, Stella, Lahabe, Valerie & Rawoot, Maashitoh. 2021. Modern Architectures : Cape Town. Cape Town: MAGS. pg 15
Wale, Laurie (Editor). 1962. New home building ideas : Architects' plans for southern Africa. Cape Town: Purnell & Sons. pg 49-54