Not at war

An example of a good marriage between old and modern architecture.

The Barbados National Trust and the island’s architects are not enemies.

That was the assertion of President Dr. Karl Watson, who told a group of architects from across the region this morning there were many examples of the two collaborating and coexisting.

“What I want to touch on this morning is the perception of there being some disharmony, disconnect or perhaps even antagonism between the National Trust and architects… It is what I call the Prince Charles Syndrome,” he said referring to what he said was the attack on Prince Charles by the architects group of Britain because he opposed the demolition of a set of 18th century houses.

There was a perception in Barbados, he said, that those interested in the work of the Trust or in the preservation of the architectural history of the island were “old, mostly white people, who are all elitists” and who are “steeped in memories of a distant colonial past” with mostly “Eurocentric” outlooks.

“There is a view that the Barbados National Trusts is prepared to stifle any innovative change. Well that is a stereotype and it is as far from the truth as one could possibly get…

“We recognise that evolution has sparked the process of change and we work with and not against architects; we support adaptive redoubts; we welcome brilliant innovation which will set benchmarks for future preservationists… but we also respect the past and we agitate to save valuable landmarks of past times because of their beauty, their architectural significance, their socio-economic and cultural role and especially for tourism…,” said Watson. He was addressing the Federation of Caribbean Architects Association Conference at the Hilton Barbados.

Barbados, the BNT head declared, had an embarrassing heritage of architecture that it was losing because it failed to preserve it. He noted at one point in time there were more than 900 plantations on the island and each plantation had its own great house, only a few of which remained or were preserved to resembled what they once did.

Sugar, he said, had left a large legacy in Barbados, one of the only islands still producing for commercial means, but said despite this the history of sugar in the island through its impact on architecture was similarly lost.

He pointed to buildings like the former District “A” Magistrates’ Courts in the City, which he said were now becoming derelict due to lack of use, expressing the hope that Government would see it fit to preserve them.

Watson stressed that there were examples across Barbados, ranging from the old Harrison College property, to George Washington House, Warrens Great House, where the Trust and architects were able to work together to preserve the heritage of the buildings while creating a modern structure in keeping with today’s designees.

“We can only advance and we can only work together effectively if we work hand in hand; if the left hand knows what the right hand is doing and there is absolutely nothing oppositional or in any way negative between the view and agenda and goals of the Barbados National Trust and the goals of the architects of Barbados. We can only coexist if we work together hand in hand; if we are oppositional, we will get nowhere,” he stated. (LB)

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