Lawrence Robin Morgan Fee
15/10/1937 - 13/3/2020
Robin (Rob) Fee passed away at the age of 82 after a short illness on Friday 13th March 2020. Robin was a partner in RFB Architects and in Fee Challis Architects prior to his retirement in 2012.
Born in 1937 in Pietersburg (Polokwane) Robin attended Primary school in Pietersburg before going to Michaelhouse. After matriculating in 1954, he completed a post matric at Michaelhouse and enrolled at the University of the Witwatersrand in 1956. At Wits, Fee was in the same class at John Roy and Michael Challis who would later become partners in RFB, as well as Mira Fassler (Kamstra).
As a young man, Rob was a keen sportsman and later completed the Comrades on four occasions.
After graduating with a B.Arch in 1962, Fee left for London as did many graduates of his generation, where he worked for 2 years, completing the requirements for registration with the RIBA. In London he met an Australian, Lauretta (Lol) who was nursing in London. They married in Sydney in 1965.
In 1964 Fee left London to work for Skidmore Owens and Merrill (SOM) in New York. This was a decisive moment in his career. Fee was working on large projects in SOM's New York Office when they were commissioned by Anglo American for the Carlton Centre. The project was to be done with local Johannesburg based Rhodes-Harrison Hoffe & Partners. Fee left SOM in New York in 1967 and returned to South Africa to join Rhodes-Harrison Hoffe & Partners on the Carlton Centre project till its completion in 1971. Clive Chipkin in Johannesburg Transition remarks that SOM's design for the Carlton represented "a major transfer of technology and culture from New York to Johannesburg".
This was the beginning of a long illustrious career in commercial practice in Johannesburg. Fee maintained a fascination for tall buildings throughout his career.
In 1972, Fee became a founding partner of Rhodes-Harrison Fee & Bold. Later the Practice became RFB together with partners John Roy, Mike Challis and Peter Bold.
RFB completed an extensive list of buildings during its 30+ years in existence. Notable projects include 55 Marshall Street for Anglo, the Ernst & Young and JCI headquarters in the Johannesburg CBD, the new terminal of OR Tambo Airport and Bank City as a part of a consortium with Revel Fox & Partners, GAPP and Meyer Pienaar & Partners.
The Practice received several ISAA Award of Merit
Robin was a creative and strategic thinker in Practice. This is illustrated by the example of the extension to the Johannesburg International (OR Tambo) Airport Terminal, where a creative breakthrough was made when it was realized that the building could be extended on to the apron by using the triangular space between the wings of parked planes. In collaboration with Arup, the solution was to build the pods offsite and tow them into position using the aeroplane tug vehicles. However, ideas were owned collaboratively not singularly as part of team solutions to complex problem solving.
Fee served the profession in various capacities. He served on the Transvaal Institute of Architects both on the Committee and as President from 1984/5. At a national level he was Vice President in Chief of the Institute of South African Architects in 1986/7 and the President in 1988/9.
Fee was the Southern Africa Regional representative for the International Council for Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat for many years.
He maintained a long association with his alma mater, the University of the Witwatersrand, in various capacities, from serving on the Faculty Board and Advisory Board to the Head of Department to acting as a long term external examiner in the B.Arch Thesis examinations.
On retirement, Fee continued with consulting work in Arbitration and Heritage.
Robin was an Architect ferociously committed to Johannesburg. He was an optimist who loved a good chuckle. Associates as well as architects trained at RFB have gone on to find their own successful practices in Johannesburg and overseas.
He will be missed by his former colleagues, friends and family.