I did this sketch of the Crowne Plaza Hotel while sitting at the new Port of Spain Waterfront, Trinidad.
The city of Port of Spain is a beautiful city with its rich history, large green parks, historic architecture, hustle and bustle. However, in my personal opinion, over the past few years some of the architecture in the city it has made it less so. Aluminum Composite Panels are killing the city! Walking west along the Brian Lara Promenade, I can’t help but feel cheated. The built environment is running the risk of becoming faceless and “common” with a creeping lack of character and uniqueness.
One of my personal tests for the architectural richness of a project and place, is my hands. If my hands find interest while sketching a piece of architecture, to me that indicates some sort of value. In other words, the sketch value is proportional to the architectural value. The Government Campus (see image below) with its bronze panels and uncharacteristic fenestrations…forgive me here… is ABSOLUTELY UGLY! Didn’t architecture exist without AC Panels? Where is the design? Where are the principles upon which architecture and design are based?
The Eric Williams Financial Complex, the Treasury Building, and the National Library were done sans ACP (see images below). These projects can be judged on the use of materials, composition, construction, history, space, culture, and so much more. They are not one-note. TSTT House did a renovation some years ago and installed ACP on the facade, but it works because the facade is broken up so that it doesn’t read as an ACP building. It seems that ACP is being used like lipstick on a pig, covering up architectural inefficiencies and failures.
This happens in other regions as I have observed the same in New Delhi, and Ahmedabad, India. They have had additional issues to deal with however, such as poor detailing, construction techniques, poor quality, and lack of maintenance, making some projects stand out as eye sores. Buildings that are relatively new (one year old) look 10 years old.
As architects and designers around the world, we cannot afford to lean on cosmetic crutches to try to make ugly things beautiful. To those in charge of making decisions that impact our built environment (planners, architects, politicians, & citizens), these decisions set in concrete, stone and steel remain for generations. We cannot afford to be lazy, but instead we must exercise rigor in drawing (no pun intended) the best out of ourselves, and each other. We cannot afford to be lethargic in carrying out our duties, our responsibilities, ideas, and innovations. The public, our heritage, culture, patrimony, craft, and education (whether we know it or not) depends on us being wide awake!
This work by Vernelle Noel is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.