When talking about design, architecture and the simple modern Caribbean aesthetic, pinning down a definite product can seem a tad nebulous. However, as an architect I definitely have my own ideas about the kind of design I'd like to propagate. Below I've compiled a few of the architectural design influences that help define my design point of view.
1.FRANK LLOYD WRIGHT
I consider Frank Lloyd Wright to be one of my main architectural influences for several reasons. He emerged at the time of the Modernists, but he developed a style that was much more accessible than the boxy, stark structures of his contemporaries. Mainly, Wright's forms were sculptural and he allowed them to spread generously in the horizontal plane, adapting to undulations in the landscape. Perhaps my favourite skill of his, was his ability to showcase natural materials in a way that allowed the building to fit more harmoniously within its environment, while maintaining it's visual presence.
I also discovered, much to my delight, that Frank Lloyd Wright was influenced a lot by the Transcendentalist Ideas that were pushing against the grain in his day. I write about my interest in some Transcendentalist principles in this post.
Like most transcendentalists, Wright had great respect for the environment and wanted to celebrate man's connection to the environment through preserving generous views to the outside within his homes. He was also known for incorporating many natural materials like timber and stone on the interior of his residences.
At co-rd Limited, where I've worked for the past few years, I had the privilege of applying some Wrightian design principles to a residence that I worked on within a team. For more info about this residence, check out co-rd's website here.
2. Kunle Adeyemi
Kunle Adeyemi is the genius behind the Makoko Floating School in Nigeria. He has had some pretty huge embarrassments linked to that project (the school later collapsed due to lack of maintenance leading to structural failures), but he continues to be one of my favourites due to his tireless exploration of building in depressed areas using readily available resources and unskilled labour.
Images copyrighted :NLE Architects
NLE Architects have faced the real challenge of working within the not-so-first-world context, where building conditions are not always optimal. It's a real challenge that architects face , even in the local Caribbean context. How do we introduce high-level design to the local context, while working alongside oftentimes self-taught contractors with unskilled teams? It's a situation that architects navigate on a daily basis, and NLE has had many successful projects outside of the Makoko School, which I do not view as a disaster, but rather as a cautionary tale, alerting us to the necessity of budgeting not only for design, but also for the maintenance of the built environment.
When gaining inspiration for simple, but effective modern design suited to the Caribbean, I often study the architecture of regions similar to us (both socio-economically, and climatically): eg. India, Vietnam, and Brazil.
The architecture of India and Vietnam has much to teach us with respect to designing to co-operate with the environment without much need for artificial ventilation and heat management techniques. They also boast a similar history with respect to issues of colonization by European nations, so we have much in common. Both countries have managed to propagate a style of architecture that has adapted well to the pared down approach of modernism, while maintaining a uniqueness that comes largely from the materials that they have readily accessible within their own context (eg. bamboo, and red brick). I am eager to explore what that would look like within the Trinbagonian context.
Tropical Suburban House (Vietnam) by MM++ Architects, Photographs by Hiroyuki Oki
One thing I find interesting about Vietnamese and Indian modern architecture, is the respect and harmony for the environment. Trinbagonian architecture tended to be much more like this between the 1950's and 70's, but advancements in technology and globalism have left us tending toward imposing architectural styles upon ourselves that leave us with hefty airconditioning bills, and limited views to our beautiful landscapes. It's almost as though we have developed a sense of self-loathing that leads us to edit our authenticity out of the picture.
Jungalow House / Neogenesis+Studi0261, Location: Surat India, Photos:The Fishy Project, Ishita Sitwala
Another aspect of the design of these regions that I think should really be explored locally is the return to artisanal living and craftsmanship. It isn't unusual to still find screens that have been handmade by ambitious locals to add a sense of customization to each home. I think that there is a great deal of exploration that can be done in this arena using the ubiquitous red brick that is so easy to produce here (possibly using custom moulds etc.).
to be continued...