School architects consider culture

The group of architects designing the facilities for Cayman’s three new high-schools says Caymanian culture and influences will be a major consideration in its plans.

During their most recent visit to the Cayman Islands, hosted by the Ministry of Education Alden McLaughlin, Training, Employment, Youth, Sports and Culture, Mr. Trung Le and Mr. Richard Dewar, principal architects of Chicago-based firm OWP/P, joined with local partners Danny Owens of OAD&D, to consult with Caymanian cultural experts and to review sites of architectural significance.

‘Both the Minister and the Ministry Chief Officer (Mrs. L. Angela Martins) have stressed to us the importance of making the schools inspiring to Caymanians and reflective of the Caymanian ethos. Our designs are going to do that. Even influences from the various districts will be brought into play as we draw on local architectural and cultural impressions,’ said Mr. Le. ‘The structures will draw on local traditions but will also be contemporary and contemplate the future.’

OWP/P is working with a newly formed cultural advisory group, titled the Committee for the Reflection of Caymanian Ethos in Public Buildings.

In recognition of several major Government capital works projects under way, the committee is charged by the Ministry of Culture with offering advice on how Caymanian history and culture can best be reflected in the design and functionality of new buildings.

Members of the committee include Dave Martins, Gina Hew, Horacio Esteban, Henry Muttoo, Tristan Hydes and Denise Bodden.

‘In view of current capital works plans, we recognized a need to ensure that the landscape of these islands continues to reflects their unique history and culture long into the future. I am enormously grateful to the committee for its good work to date and I am looking forward to seeing the fruits of its efforts,’ said Mr. McLaughlin. ‘Reinforcement and preservation of identity are crucial components of children’s development in building their confidence and self-esteem. We have been cognizant from the outset that the design of the new schools would play a significant role in achieving this, not just in the experience of those who use the facilities, but also in the harmonious integration of each facility into its respective environment, in a way which captures the spirit of the entire local community.’

Mr. Le commented, ‘We were particularly taken with the architecture of Pedro Castle and by some of the buildings in town; Elmslie Church and the Library – with that unique roof design.’ He referred to the floating look of the roof, with the unusual handling of main beam and deck span, showing the influence of early Caymanian boat builders in the design style of Ryal Bodden. ‘It comes from this place and it’s those kinds of things we want to draw on in our designs.’

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