I did this sketch on Friday while waiting for my friend. I was sitting between two old men. One with a walkman (yes a walkman), and the other was looking at my sketches. The building on the left with its public galleries that shade the sidewalk was a feature of the architecture of old in Port of Spain, Frederick Street, etc. The other night a friend of mine commented on how much she “missed the public galleries that people watched over the city from, and the overhangs that protected pedestrians below from the hot Caribbean sun and rain.” That beauty of walking under the colonnades in the shade.
No more are our city streets that accommodating and giving. “Get your own shade” they now seem to shout, with the overhangs and details disappearing. I can’t help but look at architecture, public places, and spaces, and see how they have changed as human interaction and sociability has changed. What I mean is, I believe we are more selfish than we used to be; we look out for each other as a community less than we did 10-20 years ago. I notice our architecture reflecting that as it also becomes more selfish, and less “looking out for each other and our community.” Buildings no longer protect pedestrians below from the elements; they protect themselves (look at the building on the right in the sketch). Where are the buildings that listen, and pay attention to who we are as a people in this region? Who are we in this region, this Caribbean region?
Maybe when we become clearer on who we are, and what we stand for, our buildings would reflect such. When we become lovers of our history, our people, and think of our legacy, then maybe we would be more aware of the memories we build in concrete, glass, and steel. When we become more informed, our buildings will be more informed. I don’t think I would hear anytime in the near future, “I really miss that street with the selfish buildings on it.”
This work by Vernelle Noel is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.