CREATIVE SPACE is a series spotlighting local (Antiguan and Barbudan/Caribbean) art and culture. As a brand, it dates back to 2009, published exclusively in LIAT’s inflight magazine. It was revamped in 2018 and syndicated as of 2019 on Antiguanice.com. Its publishing partner, as of 2020, is the Daily Observer newspaper. It has its first print run in the paper every other Wednesday, with the online extended edition running here on the blog. It continues to expand across other media platforms (e.g. AntiguanWriter on YouTube). CREATIVE SPACE is created, owned, and written by Joanne C. Hillhouse – Antiguan-Barbudan/Caribbean author, journalist, producer, and freelance writer, editor, and trainer.
Here’s a link to the issue as it appeared on Wednesday 13th October 2021 in the Daily Observer newspaper:
Ask an Architect (correction: there is a mis-credit re one of the images in this print edition. It happens; human error. Apologies to the designers. The images are properly credited below and hopefully any textual errors are corrected as well. Additionally, all images used in this article/post were sourced via the internet. All are used within fair use guidelines and no infringement of copyright is intended.)
Below is the extended online edition (not a duplicate of the edition with publishing partner Observer Media) with EXTRAS.
CREATIVE SPACE #22 OF 2021 – ASK AN ARCHITECT
Building design and construction is art but it’s also culture. So, let’s talk Caribbean building aesthetics. What are some of its characteristics? In fact, let’s ask an architect.
Colin John Jenkins is a sustainable development consultant and one of three principals in CJC + Associates Inc. which offers design and project management services for both residential and commercial properties.
Our focus today is residential properties. And in discussing building characteristics emblematic of Caribbean residencies, Jenkins identified use of bold colours, structural geometry that’s more compact, the pitches of our roofs, and the use of material – e.g. wood, though less so more and more.
I asked Jenkins to share his favourite Caribbean homes and in sharing them with you, we’ll explore the characteristics he identified.
(Design by Atelier Vidal)
A residential design from Atelier Vidal, an award winning Jamaica-based design firm, consisting of steep roofs, clean lines, a mix of wood, stone, concrete, and glass, with dark and light tones, and a terraced effect against the sloping land. “It’s very simple, incredibly minimalist,” said Jenkins, commending in particular, “how the structures fit at the apex of the site.” While he himself favours colour, he said the palette reflects the minimalist approach; and he pointed out that the high pitched roofs are vintage Caribbean, the house striking a balance between the traditional and contemporaneous aesthetic.
A Jumby Bay residence by Antigua-based architect Andrew Goodenough. Circular structures connected by winding stone-finished pathways to each other and the main three-rotunda building. It conceptually resembles an African village, said Jenkins, who noted that when it comes to architecture the idea generates the design. Visible to my untrained eye is the contrast of the stained wood, including the high pitched roofs, with the white concrete walls. Though perhaps the thing that best connects this clearly luxury home and its several guest houses with the previous design is the harmony it achieves with the environment. Jenkins actually worked on this project, per his social media, his first, as part of the site team during his last year of architecture school. He described it in that post as “a perfect fusion of an African Village vernacular with modern construction materials, grounded in symmetrical precision. As a young and eager designer at the time, my world was never the same again.” The house was built by Antigua and Barbuda’s Roberts Construction and Engineering.
(Design by Studio MORSA)
A Nevis property called Gingerland, designed by New York’s Studio Morsa. “The colours are bold…and they are in your face,” Jenkins noted. This is what is known in fashion as colour blocking, the colours including the green of the grass, the blues of the sky and sea together achieving maximum impact. Shape and form also stand out here as well – fairly minimalistic, wood, concrete, clean, not a lot of embellishments, emphasizing form and function. Its pureness of form, something Jenkins favours, is singled out. It seems appropriate that Jenkins found this house in a book called, Tropical Modern, because that’s just what it is. And while this is a book he bought soon after finishing architecture school, “This has always remained in my mind because of the colours, the use of bold colours. It’s almost as if the culture was turned in to an application on the building; calypso, vibrancy, mas – Caribbean.”
(Design by Melon Architecture Design)
A unique residence by award winning St. Lucian design firm Melon Architecture. No pitched roof, grey-silver palette, a bit impersonal, but Jenkins points out that there is both boldness and function to the design. He reminds that a home is a social space influenced by client needs. The owner of this house, for instance, needed somewhere to do martial arts – hence, the flat roof. The lower level meanwhile opens up in to the landscape, suggestive of the influence of biophillia, humans’ instinct to connect with nature – and once you take note of nature, you can’t help but notice how the colour accents, minimal though they are, reflect nature’s natural colours. Notably the bold red of the flamboyant. Jenkins points as well to the stilt-like aesthetic which is also an old school Caribbean staple – think of the familiar sight of houses on blocks off the ground – “the air gets under the house and helps cool the house”. He notes as well the lack of division – “our climate was never suited for homes that had so many divisions.” And this family he suspects is very close due to the lack of physical barriers between them.
(Design by ACLA Architecture)
The Bush House by Trinidad’s ACLA Architecture. “I like this because of the form and the subtle use of the colours,” Jenkins said. The yellow-breast-yellow is used as a subtle accent in the infinity window planters that open to the mountains. The house is constructed of the familiar Caribbean materials, has the familiar high pitched roof – which Jenkins noted beyond being a style choice is about function; flow (whatever falls on the roof – ash, water – won’t sit there), protection (hurricanes less likely to lift houses with a higher pitch), ventilation (space for air flow) – functionality made in to style.
(Design by Debbie Antonio)
This Antiguan home was described by Jenkins as both traditional and playful. It has a lot of detail, including decorative wood details, he said, without being overly busy. “It’s not removed from our context,” he noted. The qualities we’ve come to recognize are there: the pitched roof, the wood and wall, the use of colour – a softer hue this time but no less tropical – pretty even. A gingerbread aesthetic. “You can feel the woman’s touch,” Jenkins said.
About Jenkins: He is from Hatton, Antigua; and attended Greenbay Primary and Ottos Comprehensive – at which he was deputy head boy. He served in the military before going to Cuba to study architecture, graduating with a first degree, with first class honours. He also has a second degree with distinction, from University of Liverpool, in project management in construction and infrastructure management – thesis: sustainable construction practices for the island of Antigua and Barbuda, as it relates to complying with Green Rating Standards. He has served in executive positions with the Antigua and Barbuda Institute of Architects, the Architect Registration Boards, and the environmental management technical committee of the Bureau of Standards. Beyond the Caribbean, he has been accredited by the International Well Building Institute and the US Green Building Council, and has been accepted as an executive board member of the Caribbean Center for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficient and institution of CARICOM. He is also active in numerous community activities and social causes, while also being a father and husband.
Jenkins on how he got in to architecture: “I was always fascinated with science – growing up I was curious about making things – you wanted something that you saw on television you had to get whatever you could get your hands on and make it – (we used to) go down to Cooks Dump and look (for) parts – when I got to school and started studying science subjects, I thought I was going to become a scientist – but I wasn’t bad on my hands – I got introduced to technical drawing in 3rd form – and realized I was very good at it – buildings spoke to me – so when I got a distinction for technical drawing, that was the goal post, technical drawing and building tech – not medicine, not science.”
Jenkins on what makes him a good architect: “Because I challenge myself – I always feel you can be more efficient, you can do more, put the ego aside and absorb – Malcolm (referencing architect Malcolm Payne, designer of the ACB commercial center on High Street, Antigua) – I saw a building that he did and I said I need to talk to this man – I spent time with him – I don’t just come up with an idea it has to have a meaning – I need to be clearer about my language and my designs have to be cleaner – I will never stop (learning, growing).”
Some of his favourite homes that he has done.
His home –
“This was my fourth attempt” and he’s still happy with it, though he perhaps would have more thought and more money, considering “the age and level of maturity I was when I did it.” He calls it Twin Peaks.
Two that have become conversation pieces –
“The robustness of the shape; you don’t see the edges (no vulnerabilities for hurricanes or burglaries to take advantage of).
The butterfly roof is one of the dynamics here – “(there is) glass and frames that waterproofs that area between so when you go in you look up you have this really interesting effect.” For …reasons, Jenkins explained, “(a) pitch roof wouldn’t work” but this has drawn many an eye that the traditional pitched Caribbean roof wouldn’t have.
Another CJJ design of interest –
This caught my eye so I asked him about it. It’s a design for a memorial of the 1736 King Court led rebellion. I missed this but apparently there was a contest a few years ago and Jenkins’ design placed second – I’d like to see the winning design if this is second place because this is pretty dope – especially when you get the concept, the breaking of the wheel, the broken wheel design, considering that Court was broken on the wheel. Also what was the outcome of the contest – where’s the memorial?
A brief history of housing in Antigua and Barbuda – taken from an article I wrote for A Little Bit of Paradise a while back:
Residential Antigua took a major leap forward after the double whammy of hurricanes Baker and Dog (one of the most intense hurricanes on record) which in 1950, blowing in within 10 days of each other, left 12,000 homeless. This led to the government, prompted by the Antigua Trades and Labour Union, investing in better housing – communities like Otto’s New Town in which the government built low income housing of cement blocks and galvanized roofs, an upgrade from the destroyed houses, many of them wattle and daub, grew out of this. Other housing developments followed and with them the inflow of people who were by then leaving the estates in large numbers. The 1950 hurricanes are the most notorious disasters in Antigua and Barbuda’s modern history, rivalled only by the Earthquake of 1974 (6.5 on the Richter scale) and, the most costly and destructive disaster in the country’s history, category 4 hurricane Luis which passed ever so slowly over Antigua and Barbuda between September 3rd and 5th 1995. While Luis may have forced scrutiny of building codes and insurance contracts, Dog and Baker are perhaps most notable for the ways they catalyzed the transformation of the housing sector. Today, as Antigua continues to modernize, the houses, reflecting different income levels, are a far cry from the trash houses of yesteryear. And it’s not just houses – the St. John’s skyline has shifted dramatically from the wooden colonial style buildings some feel give a unique character to the city to high rises, state of the art having become a catchphrase in Antigua and Barbuda where architects and engineers continue to transform the landscape. But modern or classic, one characteristic feature is the love of colour.
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