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We recognized a need to ensure that the landscape of these islands continues to reflects their unique history and culture long into the future

Hon. Alden McLaughlin, JP

Published 7th March 2007, 2:49pm

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, Training, Employment, Youth, Sports & 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. Mr. Le, born in Vietnam and raised in America, explained, "Both the Minister (Hon. Alden McLaughlin) and the Ministry Chief Officer (Mrs. L. Angela Martins MBE, JP) 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." He added, "The structures will draw on local traditions but will also be contemporary and contemplate the future." To this end, OWP/P is working with a newly formed Cultural advisory group, entitled the 'Committee for the Reflection of Caymanian Ethos in Public Buildings'. In recognition of several major Government capital works projects currently underway, 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. According to the committee's terms of reference, it will give consideration to Caymanian symbols, traditions and achievements, in the belief that, 'these such buildings now and in the future will not only shape the physical landscape of these islands but will also have an impact on the cultural face of the Cayman Islands'. Members of the committee include David Martins, Gina Hew, Horacio Esteban, Henry Muttoo, Tristan Hydes and Denise Bodden. Explaining the rationale behind his Ministry's initiative to create the cultural committee, Hon. Alden McLaughlin, JP, Minister of Education, Training, Employment, Youth, Sports & Culture, explained, "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." Referring to the design of the new schools, the Education Minister remarked, "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." During visits to local sites, 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," said Mr. Le, "and it's those kinds of things we want to draw on in our designs." Both Mr. Le and Mr. Dewar had high praise for the restored Pedro Castle, as an old structure which, despite its long and rich history, remains effective in its design today. Mr. Dewar, who worked in the Cayman Islands Government's Public Works Department (PWD) 22 years ago, remarked, "It's an amazing building." The architects' reactions placed emphasis on the overall symmetry of the building, a consequence of its simple design, and the effective use of columns and verandahs. Mr. Le said, "Ideally, you want buildings that allow air flow, heat exchange, shade, and are still comfortable and pleasing to the eye. Pedro Castle is all those things. The roof design is simply beautiful."