Posts Tagged ‘colin laird’

the lion house, trinidad, chaguanas, thinking insomniac, vernelle noel, colin laird, architecture

The Lion House - Drawn by Colin Laird

This is the second day of my dedication to Trinidadian architect Colin Laird, for his contribution to the art of architecture, the profession of architecture, and to the Caribbean’s built environment. Above is a drawing of The Lion House in Chaguanas, Trinidad done by him. In April 1991 Surendranath Capildeo retained the services of Colin Laird Associates to advise on and supervise the restoration of the Lion House. The Lion House stands today because of the dedicated work of Architect Colin Laird and Restorer Glen Espinet.

This internationally famous house, one of the most important heritage buildings in Trinidad, reflects North Indian architecture as remembered and self-built, down to the clay bricks, by Baba. It has since been immortalized as the Hanuman House in Vidya Naipaul’s “House for Mr. Biswas.” The house on Main Street, Chaguanas, the ancestral home of the Capildeo family, was restored by Suren Capildeo, Naipaul’s cousin. The house is also preserved in paint by artist, Adrian Camps-Campin.  “Among the tumbledown timber-and-corrugated iron buildings in the High Street at Arwacas, Hanuman House looked like an alien white fortress,” Naipaul wrote. The house was built by Naipaul’s maternal grandfather, Pundit Capildeo, who arrived in Trinidad, aged 21, as an indentured labourer on board the Hereford in 1894.  He came from Gorakhpur in Uttar Pradesh, India and his destination was Woodford Lodge estate, Chaguanas.

Within months of his arrival, it was arranged that he should marry the Trinidad-born Soogee Gobin, whose family was well established in the area.  The Gobins, who owned a shop, paid off Capildeo’s bond and as a wedding gift they gave the young couple the land on which the Lion House stands.  Soogee ran a store there while her husband carried out his priestly duties, and in 1923 they began to build the Lion House.  Built in the north Indian style, the trapezoid-shaped house is unique in local architecture.  It has walls almost a foot thick, and Pundit Capildeo is said to have made with his own hands all the bricks used in its construction.  The house contains lot of decorative plasterwork, with figures and patterns embossed on or etched into the walls, and several rooms feature mirror work.

The store occupied the ground floor of the four-storey building, and the family lived above it.  The third floor is taken up by a prayer room, and from the flat roof there is a panoramic view of the canefields of the Caroni plains and the hills of he Central Range.  The lions that gave the house its name stand at each end of the wall around the first-floor gallery.  Vidya Naipaul was born here in 1932 to Pundit Capildeo’s daughter Droapatie and her husband Seepersad Naipaul, but he never knew his grandfather.  Pundit Capildeo died in 1926 while on his fourth visit to India.  His widow, Soogee, became the head of the family.  A strong-minded woman, she had over-ruled her husband’s reluctance to send their children to school, which he regarded as a corrupting Christianising influence.  Thanks to Soogee, even the girls attended school and learned to speak, read and write English.

Soogee bought properties in Woodbrook and travelled to Port of Spain every week to take care of her son, Rudranath, who was to become a university lecturer and politician, while he attended Queen’s Royal College.  It was for the sake of access to better schools that in 1940 Soogee moved the whole family to Port of Spain.  After that, the Lion House was rented out or stood vacant, and fell into disrepair.  When eventually it was renovated, it was with no respect for its original style and structure.  In 1998, however Suren Capildeo, the son of Soogee and Pundit Capildeo’s son, Simbhoonath, has repainted it white and restored the grandeur of the Lion House, which stands as a monument to the indentured Indian labourers.


Abstract Architecture of the day:

Abstract Architecture, vernelle noel, thinking insomniac, milton glaser

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Audrey Jeffers House, Sweet Briar House, colin laird, thinking insomniac, vernelle noel, architecture, port of spain, trinidad st. clair

South Elevation of Audrey Jeffers House (Drawing by Colin Laird)

Above is a drawing of the Audrey Jeffers House a.k.a Sweet Briar House (a three-story, stuccoed, late Victorian house built by the first black resident in St. Clair) by my mentor Colin Laird. The house belonged to an honorable, giving woman and was drawn here by wonderful, giving man.

Firstly, who was Audrey Jeffers? Audrey Jeffers was a woman who worked very hard for the under-privileged people of Trinidad & Tobago. She gave of her time and efforts freely to help others have an easier life. Born into an upper middle class family on Baden-Powell Street, Woodbrook, on the 12th February, 1898, she did not let that deter her from her mission in life; to work for the upliftment of the under-privileged, to dedicate her efforts in their service. She could not accept that some people could live in such good circumstances whilst for the vast majority misery and depression were the order of the day. In 1921 along with young women who shared her vision, Audrey formed the ‘Coterie of Workers,’ a women’s organization for black and colored middle class women. In the opening address, Ms. Jeffers stated: “Our aim is not to copy man, no sensible woman ever wants to do that, but it is rather to see womanly and courageous women, honest-minded and good, making themselves an intelligent counterpart for men.”  During her student years in Britain, Jeffers had been one of the founders of the Union of Students of African Descent, later the League of Colored Peoples. During World War I she had served among the West African troops and started a West African Soldiers.

Who is Colin Laird? Colin Laird is in my opinion the best architect in Trinidad and Tobago, and one of the most generous persons I know. In early 1997, I met and started training with Colin Laird after using the Brian Lara Promenade as a case study for one of my classes.  Colin taught me about professionalism, ethics, good design, and writing.  His proposals read like poetry! I remember asking him what classes he took to learn to write like that… pure poetry I tell you. This poetry is visible in his writings, his love of music, his drawings, and his buildings. I will dedicate the next days posts to Colin, thanking him for his contribution to the art of architecture, the profession of architecture, and to the Caribbean’s built environment. He has given so much to so many people, and continues to today. Colin, you’re the best and a bookmark in my life!

Caribbean Women Writers: Essays from the First International Conference. Contributors: Selwyn Reginald Cudjoe

Trinidad Guardian >>>

Abstract Architecture of the day:

Abstract Architecture, ralph waldo emerson, thinking insomniac, vernelle noel

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university of the west indies, thinking insomniac, vernelle noel, uwi, trinidad, negative, sketch, architect

UWI Admin Building - St. Augustine, Trinidad

This is a negative of a sketch I did of the Administrative Building at the University of the West Indies in St. Augustine, Trinidad. Here is the original sketch >>>.

Abstract Architecture for the day:


abstract architecture, thinking insomniac, vernelle noel

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City Hall, San Fernando, thinking insomniac, vernelle noel, sketchcrawl

City Hall, San Fernando

Thanks again for a great event SketchCrawlers! It was my second time and I enjoy this sooo much!!! This SketchCrawl I went to the southern city of San Fernando in Trinidad & Tobago. Here are my sketches and I look forward to the other one!!

San Fernando, thinking insomniac, vernelle noel, sketchcrawl, Hospital

San Fernando Hospital, Trinidad

San Fernando, thinking insomniac, vernelle noel, sketchcrawl

Buildings in San Fernando

Go here to the SketchCrawl page >> or More on Flickr >>>

Abstract Architecture for the day:

thinking insomniac, vernelle noel, never too late
George Eliot
English novelist (1819 – 1880)

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one woodbrook place, thinking insomniac, vernelle noel, architect

One Woodbrook Place in Port of Spain, Trinidad

Above is a negative of my sketch of One Woodbrook Place in Port of Spain, Trinidad that I did for Sketchcrawl earlier this year. Hope you enjoy! More links to One Woodbrook Place >>>

The global economy has definitely slowed down and in some cases halted the construction industry, making it challenging for many, including architects (and engineers). Architects are sending out proposal after proposal and hoping… Others have been forced to close their offices, and yet others keep pounding the pavements looking for projects and/ or employment. This recession has also brought out the ugly side of some architects, sad to say. Architects and firms that offer unpaid positions to employees, or want consultant services for free… architects who eat their young. There is a blog by that name, whose mission is to expose firms’ exploitation of intern architects (Click here for blog >>>). I often wonder what thought process goes through a person’s mind to be that callous, that inhumane, that immoral, that unethical, that disrespectful to ask that another human being work for NOTHING.

Architects (in some regions) have failed in my opinion, to occupy a seat at the table with the public. They have instead taken seats in ivory towers and been very slow to being present, being on the ground, being visible; educating the public, educating students, clients, governments, and educating themselves. No wonder the public thinks architects “draw plans.” Instead of being professionals with values (like those in the past), some have sold themselves for the Almighty Dollar, looking for the cheap way out. Instead of helping each other, they become crabs in a bucket, pulling each other down while fighting to get to the top.

Being a professional means that you are more than likely bound by a Code of Ethics, and this practice of “no pay” is HIGHLY UNETHICAL. When you ask a professional to work for free, he/she is in fact paying you to do the work. Not even offering to cover their basic needs, respecting that they (and their families) have incurred costs and sacrificed for their education is just unthinkable. Anyone asking a professional to work for free is doing a disservice to their country and the public. A professional asking a fellow professional to work for no pay is even worse and tantamount to cannibalism…professional cannibalism.

The stability, power and longevity of a tribe is directly related to the way it is treated by its members. When many of them seek to take, to enrich themselves and to find a loophole or advantage, the group is weakened. Culture and management are not the same thing–when we strengthen our organization, when we encourage and respect our fellow employees, management follows. Group up, not top down – Seth Godin

When architects resort to eating their young, their fellow professionals, their mentees…offering them nothing for an honest days work…I hope they expect the same. Disrespect begets disrespect. The tribe we get is the tribe we build.

Links to this issue:

Thought for the day:

determination, thinking insomniac, vernelle noel, illustration, cartoon, architect

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Holy Trinity Cathedral, Port of Spain, Trinidad, thinking insomniac, vernelle noel

Holy Trinity Cathedral in Port of Spain, Trinidad

This is a sketch of the Holy Trinity Anglican Cathedral on Hart Street in Port of Spain, Trinidad. I did this drawing the same day as the Old Police Headquarters drawing. The Holy Trinity Anglican Cathedral was under construction in Woodford Square, Port of Spain, when it was discovered that it was being erected in the wrong location. Even though the walls had reached their full height, the building was demolished and a new design prepared by Philip Reinagle within the spirit of the Gothic Revival. The new building was completed in its new position, across the street, in 1823. Its crenellated square tower has corner diagonal buttresses and pinnacles above. Clocks are inserted into the octagonal spire, and along the sidewalls are engaged buttresses with pinnacles. Gothic-headed windows occur between the buttresses. The handsome hammerbeam trusses on the interior were carved in England and imported to Trinidad in sections.

One interesting aspect of the Cathedral is the unexpected round headed arches on the top brick tiers of the towers. They contradict the soaring vertical reach heavenwards, which is the point of Gothic. Gothic employed a skeleton of piers, buttresses, arches, and ribbed vaulting, all held in equilibrium by a “combination of oblique and vertical forces neutralizing each other.” The result – an architectural tour de force, the whole ides being to reach upwards towards God.

Click here for St. Mary’s Anglican Church in Tacarigua.


Historic Architecture in the Caribbean Islands by Edward E. Crain

Ajoupa by John Newel Lewis

National Library & Information Systems (Trinidad & Tobago)

A History of Architecture by Bannister Fletcher

Holy Trinity Cathedral, thinking insomniac, vernelle noel

Holy Trinity Cathedral - Photo by Vernelle A.A. Noel

According to architect Colin Laird, the main area of the church is typical of the Georgian period a part of the neoclassical style of architecture and interior design, popular in Great Britain during the reigns of the first four King Georges (approx. 1715 to 1820). The architecture is simple, “Not fussy,” Laird explained. The walls inside the Cathedral take you back to colonial days. Tablets placed “in the memory of” recall former members of the British elite, including Alfred Henry Martin M.D. – the superintendent of the local lunatic asylum, Frederick Moore Ward – an ensign in his Majesty’s Royal Regiment of Foot, and Sarah Lady Harris – the wife of George Francis Robert III Lord Harris and daughter of former Archdeacon George Cummins. The Cathedral is filled with interesting historical items such as the marble statue dedicated to former Governor and founder of the Church, Sir Ralph Woodford. It was made by Chantrey in 1828.

The Walker organ was the result of the fundraising efforts of Dean Edward John Holt – Dean of the Trinity for 31 years – who collected the £12,000 the instrument cost when it was installed in 1914. In 1897, the 26 x 6 foot chancel was built as a memorial to Bishop Rawle. It cost £6,000 and comprises the choir and sanctuary, a cloister, a Bishop’s vestry and chapel, a priest’s vestry, and a choir’s vestry. According to Laird, the chancel is reflective of the Victorian architecture popular at the time. Probably the most impressive feature of the chancel is the altar, which was constructed in 1927. Designed by R. Bassett-Smith and drafted by Thomas Rudge, the altar is built entirely of selected local mahogany and is backed by alabaster and marble mounted on a base of Portland stone.

The contrast between the work in the nave (main area) and in the chancel is clear. The columns in the arcs are detailed in the chancel whereas the Georgian approach to the arcs in the main area is modest. Noticeable too is the difference in the stained glass techniques. In the nave, the tiny fragments of the stained glass windows are symmetrical. Patterns are intricate but conventional; nothing too abstract. In the Victorian chancel however, the stained glass showcases magnificent representations of the saints. The fusion of colour on the individual glass fragments is also quite impressive. Outside the church, the corner of every wall contains yellow brick, known as London stock. According to Laird, this was one of the few materials, which had to be imported when the Church was being erected. The rest of the wall is made up of regular brick but it is the subtle difference in their arrangement, which gives away the architectural period. Whereas the brick layout in the main area of the Cathedral is organized; bricks are laid in terms of size and shape, the brick layout in the Victorian chancel is less structured.

According to Reginald Power in his “Short History of the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity,” up until 1858, the church was “blocked on two sides at least, by dwelling houses, and services were often disturbed by quarrels in the yards adjoining. As opportunity offered, these places were bought up and the churchyard opened.” Today the churchyard is impressive, a smaller reflection of the breathing area offered by Woodford Square to the north. A large area at the front of the Cathedral facilitates offers parking for members of the congregation. On the Hart Street side, there is an extensive lawn with attractive gardening.

Reference: Architecture of the Holy Trinity Cathedral

Have a superb week ahead!

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City Hall - Port of Spain, Trinidad, vernelle noel, thinking insomniac

City Hall - Port of Spain, Trinidad

This is a sketch of City Hall, in Port of Spain, Trinidad which flanks the northern edge of Woodford Square. The building is of a modern style. Read below (and click the reference link) for some more information on my mentor Colin Laird, and modern architecture in Trinidad & Tobago.

“THE MODERN ARCHITECTURE of Port of Spain can be seen to have evolved in four distinct phases: 1900–1938, 1939–1961, 1962–1980 and 1981 to the present. Laird and Lewis were independently active after World War II and demonstrate the two primary tendencies which informed architectural production during this period. These influences revealed themselves through, on the one hand, an exported postwar British architectural culture––‘tropical modernism.’ This was a form of modernism derived from the functional, formal and programmatic tenets of mid century European modernism, modified by an interest and concern with the climatic conditions imposed by tropical climates.”

From Modern Trinidad outlined and the Works of Colin Laird & Anthony Lewis by Mark Raymond

[Update: I updated my cartoon posted on Saturday. After I posted it, it was bothering me that I left an important part of the cartoon out… the chair]. Feel free to look at it again >>>.

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TSTT House, port of spain, trinidad, vernelle noel, thinking insomniac

TSTT House - Port of Spain, Trinidad

This is a sketch of TSTT House on the Brian Lara Promenade in Port of Spain, Trinidad. This was the third of my 3 sketch delight last week. The TSTT House facade was renovated (I can’t remember what year) by architect, Colin Laird. The exterior improvements included the installation of Aluminum Composite Panels and I believe the screen (see image in this post >>). There is a lovely sculpture by one of Trinbago’s great artists, Carlisle Chang.

About the sculpture:

Instead of gold leaf this time we used silvers of Copper. Unfortunately my technical experts did not advise me carefully and the mural began to show some deterioration within a year, but this has been very carefully remedied, although with some loss of the original handwork that was done on the surface. It, however, remains quite monumental in scope and it is a pity, in fact, that one is never able to see it clear across Independence Square. You can only see it at an angle.

From interview in March 1977 for “Environs”

Click here to read entire interview >>>

Don’t let anyone stop you today.

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trinidad treasury building, vernelle noel, thinking insomniac, port of spain, architecture

Treasury Building - Port of Spain, Trinidad

Yesterday I went down to Port of Spain to meet a friend, and while waiting I was able to sneak in 3 sketches in about 30 minutes. It felt great to get some sketching done! The sketch above is of the Treasury Building in Port of Spain, Trinidad. The front of the building stretches a city block, and quite beautifully might I add. The building is constructed of stone and its base is a shiny black stone (like granite).

The Treasury Building
Today, the site on which the Treasury Building stands hosts divisions of the Ministry of Finance, but it has borne witness to many important events in Trinidad and Tobago’s history. On August 1, 1834, thousands of slaves stormed into Port of Spain and gathered in front of the site to protest being given “apprentice” status, rather than freedom from slavery. Known as Government House – which occupied the upper floor – the building was home to the old Treasury and Rum Bond. Four years later, in 1838, at this same location, the Emancipation Proclamation, announcing the beginning of the end of slavery, was read. In 1966 the building became the first home of the Central Bank of Trinidad and Tobago. In 1985, crowds once again returned to the front of the Treasury building on August 1, but this time to commemorate Emancipation Day, as a national holiday.

Reference: The Tourism Development Company

I found this old photo (not sure from what year) on the NALIS website. The Brian Lara Promenade now fronts the Treasury Building… Look at cars!!! The Promenade (a tree-lined park) now runs the width of the city center, complimenting Port of Spain by adding a relaxed laid-back flavor to the bustling streets of the city (see photo here>>). I also found this pretty cool blog: The Caribbean History Archives.

Treasury Building, Port of Spain, Trinidad

Treasury Building - Port of Spain, Trinidad (Photo courtesy NALIS)

Another photo here >>

Have a great day!

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One Woodbrook Place, thinking insomniac, vernelle noel

One Woodbrook Place

Hi all… Today’s post is a negative of one of my sketches of One Woodbrook Place in Trinidad. I apologize for not having a Visual Recipe for you today…it has been a bit hectic. Hope you enjoy this and have a wonderful weekend.


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