In Dialogue with Design Minds 



When two founding architects with a combined experience of over four decades get together for an interview, you know there are bound to be some fascinating projects to uncover. In this case, SCAPE had the pleasure of getting to know Lauren Bolus and Dennis Fabian better, both of whom have impressive backgrounds in the detailed design and project management of high-end residential projects. Join us as we pick their brains and discover what they’re currently working on… 

Give us a brief rundown of Fabian + MAKE Architects. How did you become the firm you are today and how would you describe your distinct design aesthetic and approach?  

Fabian Architects has been around for over forty years and was founded by Dennis Fabian. In 2015 Lauren Bolus’ Make Architects merged with Fabian to form a full-service practice covering commercial and large-scale projects with private residential, hospitality, retail, and interior design. 

Fabian and Make Architects’ design aesthetic is timeless, not fashionable, ensuring our designs have longevity. We create spaces that are elegant, contemporary, and honest in their materiality and attention to detail. 

Our approach is very much rooted in our collaborative relationships with our clients. Trust and collaboration are vital… Magic happens when these form the foundation of the relationship.    

In your opinion, what are the fundamentals for designing comfortable, healthy, and liveable spaces?  

Orientation and site sensitivity are key contributors to a comfortable and inviting space. Natural light, connection to outside spaces, and open-plan living are always the fundamentals that inform our designs. We value the experiential factor in our houses: there needs to be a special experience curated by the design. We believe in focussing on specific features instead of trying to make everything a feature.  


How do you encourage experimenting with a mix of textural and visually striking combinations of finishes that seem to be a key feature within your residential portfolio and product design catalogue? 

The mixing of materials has become an integral part of our practice. We bring together different architectural elements in pursuit of artistic expression and the result is architecture that is more thought provoking and memorable. 

Contrast is an important part of our design ethos, with layers of contrast elevating a design from flat and boring to powerful and provocative.  

Exotic marbles are a signature in our designs. We often allow the stone selection to set the tone for the space. It’s important for us to combine texture and tone both internally and externally. There are, of course, also practical benefits to using different materials together. 

Can you tell us more about a project that pushed the boundaries of your design capabilities or required you to think outside the box? Are there any notable or particularly challenging collaborations or partnerships your firm has had on a residential project? 

We’ve recently been experimenting with curves — all kinds of delightful curves, including concrete curves, interior wall curves, ceiling curves, etc. The collaboration between contractor and architect can often be a challenge, specifically getting the contractor on board for out-the-box ideas. Projects always come with different challenges and these obstacles normally result in an improved design. It is also often challenging to get clients to recognise the added value of an architect.  

How does your firm approach the integration of sustainable and energy-efficient design principles in your residential projects? Can you think of any notable or particularly innovative uses of technology or materials? 

We love renovating. The most sustainable principle is to maintain the existing structure. It sets parameters for the design and allows us to transform an existing building into something to celebrate. Our Aurum project in Bantry Bay is a great example of this. 

Can you speak to the ways in which your firm involves and considers the needs and preferences of the end-users in the design process? How does your firm approach the balancing of aesthetic appeal and functionality?   

A building should function like a well-oiled machine. Practicality is key as the functionality needs to be faced every day. The occupants need to feel the experiential factor in the design. Aesthetics are always well considered to enhance experience and add life and spirit into the space. 

What or who is your muse?  

Our muse is different for each project… Sometimes it’s the site and sometimes it’s materiality and often combinations thereof. 

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Give us a taste of what’s to come! Which of your residential projects on the verge of completion excites you the most and why? 

We’re responsible for the interior architecture of Africa’s first biophilic multi-residential project called The Fynbos. Demolition of the existing site in Cape Town has begun, and we’re excited to watch the building come to life. It’s a thrill for us to see the blending of purist sustainability principles with iconic architecture and on-trend detailing. 

The Fynbos

Our other multi-residential project that we’re thrilled about is The Rose on 117 on Cape Town’s Rose Street. We’ve seized the opportunity to replace a derelict and featureless light industrial building with an edifice that injects an exuberant energy into the local streetscape. The architecture seeks to encourage hope and optimism through a colourful aluminium façade grid, presented in shades of pink that are a nod to the site’s location and the colourful houses of the surrounding De Waterkant and Bo-Kaap neighbourhoods. 

We also have several single-residential projects in both Cape Town and Joburg that we’re excited to see come to life. 

What are the unique challenges South African architects face when creating a home or multi-dwelling apartment building? What do you anticipate being the resulting trends for 2023 and beyond within the realm of residential architecture in SA? 

Loadshedding is a huge challenge in South Africa and we now have to look at accommodating alternative energy sources — such as generators and solar panelling — in our projects. Other challenges include sustainability and space: we’re constantly having to look at how buildings can be built more efficiently to be more sustainable and give more square footage to the user. We’re seeing the introduction of more sustainable solutions in architecture as a trend. Materiality also remains a key contributor to future trends and we’re seeing a lot more use of materials like hemp and cork.  

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