Posts Tagged ‘architects’

Hayes Court, vernelle noel, thinking insomniac, architecture, port of spain, trinidad

Hayes Court, Trinidad

9” x 12” Strathmore sketchbook, ink pens, & Sharpies

This is a sketch of Hayes Court in Port of Spain, Trinidad. This is the second of four sketches I have done thus far of the ‘Magnificent Seven (a series of mansions by the Queen’s Park Savannah). Hayes Court is after the Queen’s Royal College. This building was completed in 1910 by the firm of Taylor Gilles at a cost of £15, 700. It was named “Hayes Court” after Bishop Thomas Hayes, who was the second Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Trinidad & Tobago.

Hayes Court, Trinidad, vernelle noel, thinking insomniac

Hayes Court, Trinidad - Photo by Vernelle Noel

Architecturally it reflects a combination of the quiet graciousness of the French and English country house design, with its high ceilings, mahogany staircase, wrought-iron fretwork, and wood paneling. Iron fretwork and a beautiful porte cochere or coach doorway are features of this classic mansion.

Today, July 27th, is the 21st Anniversary of the attempted coup on the Government of Trinidad and Tobago in 1990. Led by Abu Bakr, the Jamaat al Muslimeen invaded The Red House (seat of the country’s parliament), and took the Prime Minister hostage, along with members of his cabinet, government and opposition MPs, and others – some seventeen in all. About 24 people died during the coup attempt, with millions in property losses. More here >>

Our Republic forever changed on that day. Our Capital City of Port of Spain, had to be rebuilt as buildings were burned, and looted. Very often I feel that as a nation, our appreciation of our history leaves much to be desired. I see it in the way we treat our historic buildings, our national heroes, and our award-winners, to name a few. This day of July 27th should never be “just another day.” We must never forget what occurred on this day, and I would like to see a stronger expression of our commemoration of this day.

I believe July 27th should embrace six major principles (adapted from the United Nations Statement of Commitment adopted for Holocaust Memorial Day):

  1. The July 27th, 1990 attempted coup shook the foundations of Trinbagonian democracy and civilization. Its horror should always hold meaning.
  2. The July 27th, 1990 attempted coup must have a permanent place in Trinbagonians’ collective memory.
  3. Future generations must understand the causes of the July 27th attempted coup and reflect upon its consequences.
  4. The sacrifices of those who lost and risked their lives to protect or rescue victims are a touchstone of the Trinbagonian capacity for good.
  5. Education and research about the July 27th attempted coup must be promoted.
  6. An annual July 27th Memorial Day should take place to commemorate this human tragedy and condemn violence, lawlessness, and indiscipline.

Reference: As Time Goes on It’s Vital We Never Forget One of the Darkest Times in World History by Dan Cohn-Sherbok

“Memorials are important because they act as historical touchstones. They link the past to the present and enable people to remember and respect the sacrifice of those who died, fought, participated or were affected by conflict(s).”

Abstract Architecture for the day:

abstract architecture, thinking insomniac, vernelle noel3.5″ x 5″ Strathmore Sketchbook, ink pens and Sharpies

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Queens Royal College, Trinidad, thinking insomniac, vernelle noel, sketch, architecture, urban sketchers, caribbean

Queens Royal College, Trinidad

9” x 12” Strathmore sketchbook, ink pens, & Sharpies

This is a sketch of “The Main Block” of Queen’s Royal College (QRC) in Trinidad. This is one of four sketches I did on Tuesday. QRC is a bastion of secondary education for boys in Trinidad. The Main Block is so called because it was the first structure on the site, complete with a double row of broad galleries, clock-tower and chiming clock. It is one of the architectural “jewels in the crown” of Port of Spain; one of the ‘Magnificent Seven,’ which is a series of mansions by the Queen’s Park Savannah. These were built to flaunt the wealth of the early 20th-century cocoa barons and other notables, all dating from 1904.

QRC, vernelle noel, thnking insomniac


QRC, thinking insomniac, vernelle noel


In my sketch, if you look carefully you will notice that the left and right facades at the ends are different. See photos above. I do not know how they ended up being different, but I find the quirk quite attractive, and very interesting. I would love to know about this. Previous Post on the QRC Clock Tower >>

Abstract Architecture for the day:abstract architecture, thinking insomniac, vernelle noel, architect

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restaurant, caribbean architecture, thinking insomniac, vernelle noel, port of spain, trinidad

Building around QPS, Port of Spain, Trinidad

5” x 8.25” ink pens, in Moleskine sketchbook

This is a sketch of a building on the corner of Queens’ Park Savannah and Dundonald St. in Port of Spain, Trinidad. It is currently a restaurant, not sure what it was before. Its characteristics are very Caribbean with roof, fretwork, and windows to name a few. I like the building. On the lower floor however, they have placed glass in the arches so that patrons get the sense of openness and views in a controlled environment. I wonder if this could have been dealt with differently, better… probably leaving the gallery open or treating the fenestration differently.

Yesterday I read ARCHITECTS’ DRAWINGS – A Selection of Sketches by World Famous Architects Through History by Kendra Schank Smith and found the following excerpt defining sketches very fitting. It says: “Historically, the act of sketching or drawing on paper involves line. At its most basic level, the production of line constitutes making marks with a pointed tool, initiated by movement and force. In reverse, eyes follow a line and with that action the ‘line’s potential to suggest motion is basic’ (Lauer, 1979). A line, or mark, made with the bodily action of the hands, demonstrates its ability to cause reflective action, as it attracts the human eye to follow it. This cognition spurs associative thoughts, as the line suggests new forms (Lauer, 1979). Much of the ‘motion’ of a sketch comes from the physical action of the hand; in this way, the tool becomes an extension of the body and reflects the human body.

Architects contain within themselves the experiences and faculties necessary to interact with this visual stimulus, because the act of sketching is in some ways dependent upon memory. Thoughts, images, and experiences – all part of the architect’s whole being – determine what the sketch will be. Body memory, interpretation, and even specific items that are retained in memory over other experiences, influence what the architect sketches… Both as a method for retaining information and thoughts, and as a medium for inspiration and transformation, sketches constitute a personal dialogue for each architect.”

I have always found sketching to be very personal… sharing  myself with others. Kendra is correct about physical action being associated with a sketch…it can be very freeing, long strokes reaching forever, and therapeutic. It enables my eyes to “see” more, to see critically, remember details, know details, and think…incessantly. My hand is a brain, and the more I use it, and challenge it with exercises, the sharper they both become. Sketchcrawl is coming up again on July 23rd, I look forward to it, and I hope you join me too.

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courtyard marriott, thinking insomniac, vernelle noel, trinidad, architecture, caribbean architecture, sketchblog

Courtyard Marriott in Port of Spain, Trinidad

This is a negative of my sketch of the Courtyard Marriott in Trinidad.

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Queens Royal College, trinidad, sketchblog, thinkinginsomniac, vernelle noel, architecture, caribbean

Queen's Royal College Clock Tower in Port of Spain, Trinidad

5” x 8.25” ink pens, in Moleskine sketchbook

This is a sketch of the Clock Tower of Queen’s Royal College (Q.R.C.) in Trinidad & Tobago (see photo below). The clock tower stands at 93 feet tall. QRC is located at the corner of St. Clair Avenue and Maraval Road in Port of Spain (around the Queen’s Park Savannah). The foundation stone for the building was laid on November 11, 1902 by Sir Courtenay Knollys. The design was done by Daniel Meinerts Hahn who was at the time the Chief Draftsman of the Public Works Department. The main block of the masterpiece is in a German Renaissance-style architecture which is evident by its solidness and ornateness. It was constructed at a cost of 15,000 pounds. The broad galleries and corridors were designed to allow the freest possible passage of air for physical comfort. The stonework was heavily employed in the construction to absorb the heat.

Reference – A Magnificent Nine by the Office of the Prime Minister of Trinidad & Tobago

Queen's Royal College in Port of Spain, Trinidad, thinking insomniac, vernelle noel, sketchblog, architecture

Queen's Royal College in Port of Spain, Trinidad

Some notable graduates of QRC include:

  • Eric Eustace Williams – Historian, first Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago.
  • Sir Vidia Naipaul– Nobel-prize winning author. QRC is memorialised in his masterpiece, A House for Mr. Biswas.
  • Rudranath Capildeo – Mathematician, politician.
  • C.L.R. James – Pre-eminent Caribbean philosopher, historian, novelist, essayist, political theorist and cricket writer.
  • Derek Walcott – Nobel Prize winner, Poet, playwright, writer and visual artist.
  • Lloyd Best – Economist, essayist, politician, scholar. Founder of the ‘Plantation school’ of Economics.
  • Peter Minshall – Artist, Trinidad carnival mas man, designer of opening ceremony for the Olympic Games of Atlanta 1996, Emmy Award Winner.
  • Wendell Mottley – 1964 Olympic silver medalist and politician. Former Minister of Finance.
  • Deryck Murray – West Indian wicket-keeper in cricket.
  • Karl Hudson-Phillips – Jurist, politician. Former judge of the International Criminal Court and former Attorney General of Trinidad and Tobago.
  • Richard Thompson – Athlete and 2008 Olympic medalist – 100m; 4x100m relay
  • Marc Burns – Athlete and 2008 Olympic medalist – 4x100m relay
  • George Maxwell Richards – Engineer, academician, current President of Trinidad and Tobago.
  • Eric A. Williams – Geologist, former politician and Minister of Energy.

The building recently underwent a restoration. During the restoration process, paint was carefully stripped to uncover the original colors, revealing in the classrooms, hand-painted dado panels in different designs, framed by stenciled and hand-painted border friezes. These original panels will be restored to their original splendor in selected areas. External colors have also been restored to the original colors.

Reference – Strabon – Caraibes

Features of Renaissance Buildings:

  • Symmetrical arrangement of windows and doors
  • Extensive use of Classical columns and pilasters
  • Triangular pediments
  • Square lintels
  • Arches
  • Domes
  • Niches with sculptures

The Renaissance was a period of intense intellectual probing, of the reexamination of Classical literature, art, and architecture. The Renaissance artist-architect shared in this curiosity. Beginning with Brunelleschi, architects made the pilgrimage to ancient Rome, then a sleepy medieval town greatly shrunken from its imperial grandeur, to study and measure Roman ruins. They proposed to equal or surpass the artistic achievement of antiquity, but not to make literal copies of ancient architecture.

Understanding Architecture: Its Elements, History, and Meaning by Leland M. Roth

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ronald reagan, architecture, washington, dc, thinking insomniac, vernelle noel

Ronald Reagan Building in Washington, DC

I did this drawing of the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington, DC in Summer 2003. This building was designed by Pei Cobb Freed & Partners in association with Ellerbe Becket Architects & Engineers and completed in 1998.

The Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center was designed to complete and augment the 70-acre wedge of government offices known as Federal Triangle. It occupies the last open site on Pennsylvania Avenue (a former parking lot two blocks from the White House) where construction was halted by the Depression. The building was designed to complement its historic context in materials and scale yet its architectural strategy is modern. It articulates structure and creates significant public spaces while fulfilling an extraordinarily rich mixed-use program of government offices, private businesses and public amenities.  At 3.7 million s/f, the RRB/ITC is second only to the Pentagon as the largest federal building ever undertaken.

The design’s pronounced diagonal geometry is a direct response to Pennsylvania Avenue, which here bends east toward the Capitol. The building meets the Avenue at 90° and hinges back from a corner Rotunda to symbolically turn the street into the site. People are invited to enter a large outdoor plaza and to continue inside where a skylit conical space and public concourse offer retail, dining and vital connections to mass transit and neighboring buildings. In the seemingly impenetrable wall of government buildings that separates downtown from ceremonial Washington, the Reagan Building emphasizes access and permeability. It is both a destination and a public link to the nation’s Mall, its monuments and museums.

Pei Cobb Freed & Partners

The building has a granite base with an exterior built with 42,000 slabs of limestone from the same Indiana quarry as other Federal Triangle buildings and is covered with five acres of terra-cotta roof tiles. The airy atrium is 125 feet high and contains 1,240 pieces of glass. Tunnels connect the building to the Federal Triangle Metro stop, as well as to the neighboring Department of Commerce.

At the Center of Washington’s Business, Social Worlds: Reagan Building Looming Large in City by Natalia A. Feduschak

“Life’s challenges are not supposed to paralyze you, they’re supposed to help you discover who you are.” – Bernice Johnson Reagon

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thinking insomniac, vernelle noel, caribbean architecture, trinidad

Building on New St. in Port of Spain, Trinidad

5” x 8.25” ink pens, in Moleskine sketchbook

This is a sketch of a building on New Street in Port of Spain, Trinidad. It is obliquely opposite this one >>>. This building is characteristic of the Caribbean tradition of using good ventilation methods like sash windows with louvres at each side. It expresses a careful regard for the hot, wet, humid climate. Large eaves and overhangs protect walls from the harsh Caribbean sun, and walls of jalousies (louvres), and high level openings allow penetrating breezes to cool interiors. In the sketch above the wall is composed of windows, jalousies, and fretwork (ornamental open woodwork)…all aiding in ventilation; and creating a dynamic play of solid and void, light and shade, rectilinear and decorative. Notice dormer window, and the overhang of the upper story to protect the walls of the lower floor and passersby from the sun and rains (like I spoke of in this post >>).

“The basic function of a tropical building was to offer simple protection from rain and sun. This awareness eliminated many of the superficial elements of nostalgic colonial building. More appreciation for the out-of-doors allowed the garden to become an important part of the living environment, which led to connecting architectural elements between the out-of-doors and the building enclosure: galleries, verandas, porches, balconies, larger windows, louvered shutters, walls composed almost entirely of doors, and so on. Even the extensive use of fretwork, although undeniably decorative, had climatic advantages, for it offered a degree of privacy while still filtering the bright sunlight, allowing air to flow into the building and maintaining a visual connection with the outdoors.”

Historic Architecture in the Caribbean Islands by Edward E. Crain

People of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them, they went out and happened to things – Leonardo Da Vinci

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architects, vernelle noel, thinking insomniac

The various hats an architect wears

Yesterday my colleague and I were discussing some coordination issues and engineering on a project and began talking about the many hats architects must wear, and persons we have to be to do our jobs well. I laughed as we spoke and began jotting down these roles we sometimes fill…which then inspired this cartoon. We (architects) do all these things, and are paid for but one. Here’s how we perform in the capacities of these other professions…

  • Psychiatrists (and psychologists) because we often have to counsel persons, listen very intently, draw information out of them, and sometimes ask them to draw (literally) what they feel…to explain what they want… then determine what they need.
  • Doctors because we have the opportunity to promote, restore and maintain human health through our architecture.
  • Divorce Lawyers because husbands want A, and wives want B. Who gets what? Who wins? Many times we try to please both parties. If all else fails, go with the one who signs your check!
  • Engineers so that our buildings stand up. (My engineer friends would…oops, architects don’t have engineer friends… lol…just kidding)
  • Fortune tellers because sometimes we have to make predictions…seeing the possibilities and opportunities for a project.
  • Accountants because we have to manage, invest, and allocate monies and other resources.
  • Artists because we create works of art and use elements of light, dark, materials, and so much more as our palette.
  • Prostitutes because sometimes we undervalue our services, then feel used.
  • Negotiators because without it, we don’t make good and fair deals.
  • Interior Designers because sometimes we must.
  • Scientists because we perform research toward comprehensive understanding of nature, space, materials, climate, light, temperature, social realms, and so much more.
  • Teachers because we teach (or should) our clients when we meet with them, and hopefully we pass on our knowledge and mentor young ones who may look up to us. We are also students, because we learn from our clients and mentees.
  • Social Workers because we strive to improve the quality of life and the development potential of individuals, groups, and communities… especially when we volunteer.
  • Advocates because sometimes we must speak on the behalf of those who may not be able to for themselves; and
  • Financial Analysts because we care about our clients finances and want to advise them appropriately on investment decisions.

So remember, when you hire an architect, you’re getting a pretty darn good deal…with all these professions wrapped up in ONE. Never forget the value of an architect.

A special hello to my fellow architects out there. Which hat are you wearing today?

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gonzales, trinidad, thinking insomniac, vernelle noel

Houses in Gonzales - Port of Spain, Trinidad

6” x 8.5” Pen, ink,  and Sharpie in Ryman sketchbook

This is a sketch of houses in the residential district of Gonzales, Port of Spain, Trinidad. I went there for the first time recently and was blown away. These houses are quaint, beautiful, and I think worthy of historic designation. The streets are narrow, the lots smaller than the usual, the architecture a lesson in typologies. There are a few houses here that have been renovated, and look nothing like it did in the past. It is unfortunate that someday, these gems may be gone forever due to our continued lack of appreciation for our history, and landmarks. They are an important part of our architectural, social, and cultural patrimony, as are many other buildings in Trinidad & Tobago. Looking down this street, the rhythm of uniformly rusted galvanize sheets, of the same pitch, a gentle slope from one house to the next, almost sings a song…it’s like I hear a steelpan beating a tune. Ventilation blocks, shaded porches, wooden louvres, very humble living.

Settlements like this reminds me of the importance of professionals, in this case architects and planners. Size does not matter. Though small these houses are snapshots of our history. Architects do not just draw plans (see here), well the good ones don’t just draw plans. I think the quality of architecture in Trinidad is nowhere near what it was and could be. It is in a terrible state, especially residential buildings. Seek the advice of an architect people, and if he/ she tells you they cannot because the job is too small, look for another because that professional advice can and more than likely WILL save you money, headaches, and add value to your work through design and much more. Read a bit of the history of Gonzales below:

Gonzales forms part of eastern Port of Spain, Trinidad, south of Belmont and north of the east Dry River. It has historical roots in post-slavery times. After emancipation in 1834, many freed slaves refused to accept apprenticeship or the proposed six years of continued labor on the sugar plantations and vowed to never return. Instead the freed and run-away slaves refused to continue in the system of dehumanization and degradation associated with slavery and so many settled on the outskirts of Port of Spain in communities such as Gonzales. The dependence on the informal job trade was developed as many people established themselves as skilled artisans and craftsmen. They became the driving social force that led the process of diversifying the economic base away from the predominant sugar-based economy. Gonzales demonstrated typical characteristics of communities that were established prior to any formal planning processes in Trinidad & Tobago.”

Reference – The Strategic Planning Framework for Metropolitan Port of Spain

Have a productive Monday!!!!

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thinking insomniac vernelle noel architecture sketch

Building on the corner of Pembroke & New St. Port of Spain, Trinidad

The sketch above is of two buildings at the corner of Pembroke & New St. Port of Spain. The dialogue between the new on the left and the slightly old on the right made them both grab my attention. The juxtaposition of the old and new, made them both stand out.

Last night my close friend Kris (architect and planner) and I were talking…catching up… and the discussion went into the local architecture and construction scene. Here is a snippet of our conversation:

Kris: Everybody’s going moldings and Greek columns… to hell with ventilation blocks! When did we lose our way with the ventilation blocks, V? I guess when a/c became a common thing.

TI: Yep…. and ideas of privacy, thieves, people saying that the draft causing arthritis… and clients wanting it. However, is not just here. They want American looking architecture from the magazines…whether it works or not. It’s a culture that permeates, worldwide…

Kris: yup! Forget louvers, forget ventilation blocks, and welcome Greek columns (whether or not they are supporting anything!)

TI: See why architects are important..? or I should say…good architects…When people think all we do is draw plans…this is what happens.

As I was deciding which sketch to post today, the conversation kept beating me. While examining the sketch above, the windows, the character, the scale, the roofs, and all the elements that reminded me of this Tropical/ Caribbean region, stood out. My question was, where are they now?

Some persons do think that all we architects do are draw expensive plans. I was a drafts-person for 5 years before leaving for school. In school I realized how much of architecture was about everything else but drawing plans. It included lengthy and arduous studies on energy, public issues, the environment, history, design, research, physics, and so much more. “Plans” are but a fragment of what we do. Architecture is a profession because the judgments of architects benefit – or if incompetently exercised, endanger – the public good (The Architect’s Handbook of Professional Practice).

The truth is architects and planners are generally disrespected in the Caribbean, resulting in costly problems in our built environment. Constant public information and education on the roles and responsibilities of these professions are important. As architects and planners we aim to educate citizens, politicians and others who affect change, on the significance of our roles.

Who is an architect?
The UIA Accord defines an architect as one who “is professionally and academically qualified and generally registered/licensed/certified to practice architecture in the jurisdiction in which he or she practices and is responsible for advocating the fair and sustainable development, welfare, and the cultural expression of society’s habitat in terms of space, forms, and historical context.”

You will notice it says nothing about drawings in the definition.

What services do architects provide?
“Architects see the big picture when it comes to your project. They help you explore what appeals to you aesthetically and what you require functionally. They coordinate teams of design, engineering and construction professionals; they sort through the maze of building codes and zoning requirements; they ensure your project is built the way it was intended.” (The American institute of Architects).

What Do Planners Do?
Professional planners help create a broad vision for the community. They also research, design, and develop programs; lead public processes; effect social change; perform technical analyses; manage; and educate. Planners develop a plan through analysis of data and identification of goals for the community or the project. They help the community and its various groups identify their goals and form a particular vision.

It is important to recognize that a plan can take a variety of forms including: policy recommendations, community action plans, comprehensive plans, neighborhood plans, regulatory and incentive strategies, or historic preservation plans. Other examples of plans include: redevelopment plans, smart growth strategies, economic development strategic plans, site plans, and disaster preparedness plans. (The American Planning Association).

Globalization is here to stay, but it affords regions the wonderful opportunity to promote their unique, distinct geographical area…one guided by locality and climate. The “faux fancy” work as Kris called it is symptomatic of the lack of information, and misinformation about what we as architects and planners do. The client architect/ planner relationship should be one where both parties learn from each other. Architecture & Planning should be informed by our region, climate, culture, and techniques.

Here are three great articles on Caribbean Architecture:

Modern Architecture in Trinidad & Tobago – Informed by local architectural traditions, or not? >>

House of Spices: The Myriad Origins of the Trinidadian Gingerbread House >>

Plantation Architecture >>

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