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Caribbean

ARCHITECTURE AND AESTHETICS


Didier Lucceus
MAY 2018

Brown University 20’


This past semester I have had the pleasure of studying blackness and the black
experience in a number of forms. In a public policy course I took with Jonathan
Collins this semester, I studied black politics, examining the Jackson Plan, a
grassroots organized plan for black self determination in Jackson, Mississippi.

I also had the pleasure of taking a class with Mariam Kamara, a Nigerien
architect and urban designer. The class, Designing the 21st Century City in West
Africa, studied the role of imperialism in the urban and economic development
of West Africa, specifically Niger. The studio component of the course
culminated with a design project around economic informality country’s capital
of Niamey.

In Introduction to Environmental GIS, a class lead by Samiah Moustafa, we were


given the freedom to use Geographic Information System software to conduct
research on any topic we were interested in. My project on transportation
access in Boston revealed a sliver of the inequity faced by black people seeking
public transportation.

Finally in the class for which this magazine was created for, The Caribbean:
Cultures, Politics, Histories and Literature, I was lucky enough to be taught by
Patrick Sylvain and learn alongside other students of Caribbean heritage.

For the final project for this class I’ve decided to put together a small magazine
which seeks to capture the beauty, individuality, and history of architecture in
the Caribbean, linking the ideas and concepts to those discussed this semester
in the seminar.
Table of Contents

6 10
Introduction Imperialism
Why Architecture Imperalism in Space

Architecture can reveal The imposition of western


much about the nature and structures on colonized soil is
development of a community part of the colonial process, a
and society. How does the West African example, and how
Caribbean fit into the study of the Caribbean differs.
architecture as a whole?

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13 20 25
Haiti Jamaica What’s Next
Gingerbread Houses The Jamaican Veranda Current Work

Haiti’s distinct and unique The Jamaican Veranda has What is the future of
gingerbread houses. French shifted from a colonial space architecture in the Caribbean?
‘inspired’ yet completely into a culturally and socially How is architecture being used
Haitian. Reconciling this significant space in Jamaica. to repair social challenges?
relationship.

5
Introduction

Buildings and architectural creations represent manifestation of an institution which enslaved


them for over 400 years.
the largest fossils in our society. The structures
we interact with each day carry with them a
glimpse into the past’s history, and culture. Con-
Likewise the space created by prisons, where
sidering persistent structures like the Taj Mahal,
incarcerated people are often forced into pro-
The Eiffel Tower, or the Empire State Building, it is
longed solitary confinement, has led to clear
clear that architecture carries with it history and
detriment of the psyche. Thus one should not
culture
underestimate the importance of the building or
the man made structure.

What is Paris without the Eiffel Tower, a struc-


ture which Parisians and all French alike, hold
Despite the potency of all architectural struc-
so dearly to them? People create identities and
tures, many structures are often left out of our
cultures around these man made structures. All
discussions of architecture. Vernacular architec-
of these man made structures have stories to tell
ture is an architectural style designed around and
and likewise create stories for the people who in-
with the needs and skills of locals. Development
teract with them. The American plantation house,
of vernacular architecture is largely dependent
for many represents a ‘supposedly’ rich history,
on availability of local materials.
but for many African Americans, represents the

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Hotel Sevilla, Havana Cuba ; Alka Patel 2003

Zona Colonial, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

7
Guadeloupe, Pointe à Pitre; La cathédrale Saint Pierre Saint Paul

Board house on Bay Street corner, Bridgetown, Saint Michael, Barbados; Nelson, Louis 2004

8
The image on the left of the board house in Bar-
bados is an example of Bajan vernacular architec-
The Caribbean remains distinct from Sub Saharan
ture. Corrugated metal roofs are frequently seen
Africa. Much of structural design in Sub Saha-
in vernacular architecture as they often represent
ran Africa represents the imposition of Western
the most available, structurally sound, and sus-
forms on African Soil with interspersed vernacu-
tainable roofing material.
lar architecture. On the other hand, the spaces
in the Caribbean represent an amalgamation of
countless ideas and influences, a sort of architec-
Discussions of vernacular architecture have
tural creolitie reflecting largely reflective of the
only just begun in the design community. Many
rich history of the Caribbean.
contemporary architects are only now realizing
the feasibility and sustainable design of vernacu-
lar structures. 21st century architects are using
Despite the significant influence of colonization,
vernacular techniques to develop sustainable
the architecture of the Caribbean represents a
solutions for the future.
creolitie of design, with western forms and ideals
melded with non western principals to create
architecture which is distinctly Caribbean.
What’s often left out of these discussions of
vernacular architecture are vernacular forms in
‘black countries.’ The Caribbean and Sub Saharan
Africa are rich with vernacular architecture which
has developed distinctly in response to the ef-
fects of colonization.

9
La Maison
Tropicale
French “Superiority” Gone Wrong

A 5 million dollar house that can fit into two shipping La Maison Tropicale is largely representative of neo im-
containers. The Maison Tropicale was designed by Jean perialist ideologies of design principles. Prouve and the
Prouve in 1940 to respond to what the french viewed as french government hoped to bring about social trans-
a lack of acceptable housing in the French Colonies of formation in their designs based on the universalist no-
West Africa, primarily in Niger and the Congo. tion that cultural differences could simply be overcome
by technological advancements.

Following his design, the French produced a large num-


ber of Prouve’s houses. To make the house cheap and The insistence of the French government to implement
easily replicable, Prouve used aluminum and designed the Maison tropicale in West Africa speaks to the superi-
the house with natural cooling in mind. His design and ority complex of the French. This implies that the Euro-
the bare minimum of intentionality behind it, led to the pean methods of construction and design were superior
global reception of La Maison Tropicale as a positive to vernacular styles and design methods, thereby as-
one. serting cultural dominance over the indigenous Africans.

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Malian filmmaker, Manthia Diawara, produced a docu- The Maison Tropicale failed in these West African cities.
mentary about the Maison Tropicale in 2008, the docu- It has now become the emblem prefabrication, despite
mentary shows the locations of the houses and explores its complete and utter failure. This is not the sole case
the relationship between the local community and these of the French imposing structures in West Africa, as this
imposed spaces. trend is evident in the French imposed design of many
cities.

The documentary revealed that the majority of Brazza-


ville and Niamey residents viewed the houses as foreign This trend in West Africa is in stark contrast with the
objects and were fearful of the structures. The Maison Caribbean, where many styles were adopted and devel-
Tropicale houses were completely different from the oped which incorporated both vernacular architecture
local vernacular architecture in both Brazzaville and the as well as western design standards.
Congo and came to be representative of French colonial
rule as they did not fit the aesthetic context of either
city.

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Floor Plans and Elevations of Prouve’s Maison Tropicale

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Photos of the Maison Tropicale in Niamey (Top) and in Brazzaville (Bottom)

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14
Haiti’s
Gingerbread
Houses
Legacy of Haitian Architecture

Soon after the 7.0 magnitude


earthquake of 2010 which killed
hundreds of thousands of Haitians
and left over a million homeless,
planners and architects looking
to repair the city have found
themselves looking towards some
of the older structures in the
county, what has been ironically
coined by American tourists as
Gingerbread houses.

15
During the mid 1860s, Haiti’s capital, with French ones. The ceilings are
Port au Prince underwent exponential intentionally built high for ventilation.
economic growth which lead to the Likewise the four sides of the pyramidal
formation of a very wealthy class of hipped roofs can withstand hurricane
traders, merchants and professionals. winds and helped these buildings and
Wealthy neighborhoods developed their residents to survive during the
within and around the city, as the new 2010 earthquake.
upper class sought to free themselves
from the rapidly densifying city center. These houses represent the Creolite of
Two neighborhoods Bois Verna and the island, French techniques combined
Turgeau became the home to many of with vernacular architecture unique to
these new bourgeoisie. the island, adorned with African vodou
symbols.
At the same time, a number of Haitian
architects left the island to study Gingerbread houses have become part
architecture in Paris. Georges Baussan, of the culture in Port Au Prince. William
Leon Matheu, and Eugene Maximilien Daniels/ Panos captured the relationship
were three Haitian architects whom between the owners of these houses
when upon their return to the island and the houses themselves. They have
began disseminating their own become spaces of Haitian culture,
interpretation of European styles life, and resilience even at the face of
throughout the country. disaster.

Haitian artisans were trained in the


French woodworking craft, leading to the
widespread production of these houses.
More modest middle class Gingerbread
style homes appeared throughout
the city and were occupied by the
lower and middle class, as the wooden
ornamentation became significantly
cheaper due to the widespread
production across the island.

The ornamentation brought back by


Baussan, Matheu, and Maximillien was
inspired by the Mansard style of France
at the time which boasts the same
hipped roof as the gingerbread houses
in Haiti.

Each colorful gingerbread house sports


ornate lattice woodwork, vodoun
patterns, and sharply hipped roofs,
carrying with them a history of the
city. The forms of the house combine
vernacular architectural techniques

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Paul Max Dure reading a newspaper in his Gingerbread house, once occupied by a former Haitian
President; WIlliam Daniels 2010

Gingerbread Homes; WIlliam Daniels 2010

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Gingerbread Homes; WIlliam Daniels 2010

Taking Care; WIlliam Daniels 2010

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A pair of dancers practice in Gauthier’s home, where she runs her studio; WIlliam Daniels 2010

Landmarks; WIlliam Daniels 2010

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The Jamaican Veranda
A STUDY OF THE CULTURAL SIGNIFICANCE OF AN ARCHITECTURAL FEATURE

The veranda is so subtly present Those who are unwelcome or


lower class may not make it past
larger home through the lack of
a veranda.
throughout Caribbean literature.
the front veranda of a Jamaican
From autobiographies and novels
house. The space beyond the ve-
to short stories, Jamaican authors
randa remains on reserved for Though structurally the veranda
pull from personal experience and
friends, family, or visitors of great pulls its inspiration from western
much of this experience has been
social status. structures it has become a key-
centered around the household
stone in the fabric of Jamaican
and more specifically the veran-
social society. It is a living space,
da. Even in music the veranda is
The presence of a Veranda on a social buffer, and a intentional
present, “to the verandah to look
someone’s house even signifies structure at the forefront of Ja-
up at Long Mountain and take a
their social status. Verandas are maican society. From the veranda,
stock of the day,” says a Rastafar-
not located in urban rent yards or much is controlled and much is
ian musician in Evan Jones, novel
shacks. Urban housing yards are observed. Spaces of indoors and
Stonehaven.
often spaces of communal living, outdoors meet elegantly, privi-
while the veranda represents a leging those invited over the
clear ownership and division of threshold and used as a place of
Though the Veranda was intro-
space. surveillance for those who are
duced as a foreign structure, it
not allowed to enter.
has become a key component of
jamaican society, delineating and
In Claude McKay’s novel Banana
diving socio economic classes in
Bottom, a novel set in north While verandas have become
the country.
Clarendon, the veranda is used part of Jamaican society, do they
solely to describe larger wealthier represent the colonial powers
homes. McKay also uses the lack which introduced them or rather
Spatially, the veranda sits at the
of a veranda to describe more a Jamaican adaptation and ap-
crossroads of indoors and out-
modest dwellings, “There was propriation of the power once
doors, existing both as a place
no veranda, but the front of roof exerted over them?
of reception and assembly. This
sloped off about five feet to form
unique spatial nature of the ve-
a piazza.” Though piazza and ve-
randa is used to maintain social
randa are often used interchange-
order for many Jamaicans.
ably he distinguishes the modest
dwelling he is describing from a

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“Though the
Veranda was
introduced as a
foreign structure,
it has become a
key component of
jamaican
society.”

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TheFuture
WHERE ARCHITECTURE IN THE CARIBBEAN IS HEADING

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ECOLE DEL’ESPOIR

EVA Studio or Emergent Vernacular


Architecture Studio is an Italian ar-
chitecture firm located in Haiti. Half
of their team consists of Haitians,
who help in project management,
site management, and design. In this
recent project, EVA Studio sought to
design a school space for students in
the Delmas neighborhood of Puerto
Prince. Keeping mind varying ability
of students, the school is designed
with numerous ramps to ensure
accesibility for all students.

Source Arch Daily 2017

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“The new Aeronautical and Aerospace Insti-
tute of Puerto Rico spearheads a nascent com-

Aeronautical and mercial aircraft maintenance industry on the


island. Planned, designed and built concur-

Aerospace
rently with a new Lufthansa Technik Aircraft
Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO)
Hangar at what was formerly Ramey Air Force

Institute base and is now Borinquen Airport on the


north western tip of Puerto Rico, this school
will prepare mechanics for employment in
fields related to aeronautics and aerospace.
The Institute will also provide continuing
professional training to those seeking new
aircraft certifications and professional devel-
opment.”

Source Arch Daily 2017

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Introduction

Maison Tropical

Failed Architecture. “La Maison Tropicale: From Failure in Niamey to Masterpiece in NYC.” Failed Architecture, faile-
darchitecture.com/la-maison-tropicale-from-failure-in-niamey-to-masterpiece-in-new-york/#comments.

“Maison Tropicale.” Villa Capra Rotonda | Architectuul, architectuul.com/architecture/maison-tropicale.

Gingerbread Houses

“Haiti’s Gingerbread Houses - Photo Essays.” Time, Time Inc., content.time.com/time/photogal-


lery/0,29307,2004148_2166285,00.html.

“The Gingerbread Houses of Port-Au-Prince, Haiti.” World Monuments Fund, www.wmf.org/publication/gingerbread-


houses-port-au-prince-haiti.

Jamaican Veranda

Hudson, Brian J. “THE CARIBBEAN VERANDA: A STUDY OF ITS FUNCTION AS REVEALED IN JAMAICAN LITERATURE.”
Journal of Architectural and Planning Research, vol. 23, no. 2, 2006, pp. 147–159. JSTOR, JSTOR, www.jstor.org/sta-
ble/43030766.

McKay, Claude. Banana Bottom. Serpent’s Tail, 2005.

Images taken from Artstor

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