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Volkskas Bank - now ABSA
Montagu, Western Cape

Gabriƫl Theron (Gawie) FAGAN: Design Architect
VOLKSKAS ARCHITECTS: Architect
Date:1959
Client:Volkskas (now ABSA)
Type:Bank
Status:Unknown

An interesting example of Fagan's incorporation of aspects of the Cape Dutch Revival style without simplistically applying its dictates. It has a double-volume banking hall wrapped to both sides with subsidiary spaces. The volumes are rectilinear, defined by the crisp lines of the glazed envelope. These contrast with the gentle curve of the plan, directing movement into the entrance, and contrasting with the tapering and monumental brick piers that articulate the front facade. Rendered in plaster and whitewash, the masonry echoes what Fagan identifies as 'probably the most beautiful and certainly the most unifying characteristic of our Cape Dutch architecture ... the plastic quality of the softly lime washed wall'. The Montagu branch is not a copy of the Cape Dutch, nor an appropriation of its particular 'visual charm', but the abstraction of essential stylistic elements in order to create an architecture that speaks poetically of both here and now

Fagan here, as he employed in Brandford, Bonnievale, Leeudoringstad, Steynsrus, Warden, Warmbaths and Warrenton came up with the most ingenious solution to the problem [of the Apartheid requirement for separate entrances] by using a single large door, hinged on a central pivot. The door could be swung open two create two unequally sized entrances, each barricaded from the other by the massive expanse of the door itself, while the same bank clerks moved back and forth between the two sides. With appropriate modernist tools, even the problems of 'petty apartheid' could be solved in new and inventive ways.

(Silverman, 1998: 139-140).

All truncated references not fully cited below are those of Joanna Walker's original text and cited in full in the 'Bibliography' entry of the Lexicon.


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