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Publication Date: 2015-01-27

Seeing

I was on a recent trip to a small island in the West Indies to investigate a site for a new project along with an interior designer and another architect, both good friends...

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I was on a recent trip to a small island in the West Indies to investigate a site for a new project along with an interior designer and another architect, both good friends. On the final day when all other work was done, we set out to see the whole of the dramatic mountainous island. This wasn’t an afterthought, or simply a sightseeing trip. We all saw it as a critical part of understanding the idea of the place in which we were to build.

Queenie’s Well. Photo by Tom Stringer

But with every mile this rich history spoke to us. Tiny hamlets nestled around a small stone church, or the old stone kilns used for boiling down sugar breaching the jungle canopy offered a look into the rich heritage of this isolated place. “Stop! Stop!” was the call every time someone’s eye caught something of note. Often, we were halted simply by a textured and patinated wall, a shutter detail, or a shadow pattern strewn across a plaster wall by a rusted and pitted tin roof.

Old Plaster Wall

But it was the scenes of a dignified simple life expressed in a six-foot by ten-foot shack with an intricately patterned rail, or complex fretwork eave that gave us wonder. Shanties of perfect proportion with colorful shutters belying any other want but beauty, stood with noble pride within a community.

Our journey of course lasted hours. We weren’t just looking, but attempting to really see; to seek the uncelebrated, the overlooked, the meaningful; for as designers, as architects, as those who build for our future, we hope to touch upon the richness of life. We seek that which gives us pride, that which gives us reflection, that which gives us longing- and that which is shared among a people and a future to be.

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