Monday 21 October, 2019

Putting the art in “art-chitecture” with Elizabeth Pigou-Dennis

Historian Elizabeth Pigou-Dennis (Contributed)

Historian Elizabeth Pigou-Dennis (Contributed)

Following her arc-history presentation at the Kingston Creative Artwalk on Sunday, historian Elizabeth Pigou-Dennis taps into the rich history of Jamaica's “art-chitecture”...

Through her historical enquiries, Dennis maintained a keen interest in material culture and architecture. This led to her joining the Caribbean School of Architecture over 25 years ago. Since then, Dennis and CSA teammates have worked to build a dossier chockful of architectural and historical knowledge.

Do you recognise any of these landmarks downtown Kingston?

Here are six things to know about Dennis...

She loves the colour purple, architecture and people.

“...architecture is essentially about people and the impact these buildings have on its occupants.”

She also loves to read, and travel, naturally.

LOOPLifestyle (LL): Having done several presentations on Kingston's architectural history. What aspects of the artwalk were you most interested in witnessing?

Elizabeth Pigou-Dennis (EPD): “My colleague, architect Andre Baugh presented students' explorations of skyscrapers and I find that an interesting avenue.” She added, “the skyscraper has evolved from being a bland tall rectangle to much more interesting forms with technology and sustainability taken into consideration. So, I was excited to see that!”

In no particular order, these are Pigou-Dennis' top four architectural spots downtown Kingston...

1 Bank of Nova Scotia on King Street. A very majestic building of monumental scale without being overpowering. The double-height columns impart a sense of grandeur in the public space of the street. The main structural materials were modern — steel-reinforced concrete, with other fine materials and finishes. The design typology is Spanish Colonial.

2 Coronation Building on Tower and King streets. Built of Spanish Colonial design but with a different articulation compared to the bank (just across the street). It was a commercial complex, designed with round arches that created an arcade for pedestrian comfort. The structure is held together by concrete and steel, but with more traditional finishes such as brick, tile and local woods.

3 The Public Buildings: the Supreme Court, Tax Administration and General Post Office. These long horizontal blocks were built with steel-reinforced concrete in abstract classicist typology with generous window openings for ventilation. Lush landscaped gardens front each block and extensive piazzas were added for pedestrian comfort.

“Justice square” opened in 1911, shortly after the great earthquake of 1907. The Government at the time (led by Sir Sydney Olivier) was very proud, particularly when court was in session.

The streets would be closed off thus forming a square around the area, hence the moniker. These three buildings were hybrids featuring elements of tropical design, historical references and modern materials. All built between 1908 and 1912.

4 The Digicel Headquarters on Ocean Boulevard. This is a building of the 21st century. The designer's utilized contemporary materials with a reinterpretation of traditional shading devices. They also integrated state of the art energy technologies.

The building appears very industrial, yet the entry and lobby grant generous views of the sea, taking full advantage of the waterfront ambience. It's also very contemporary in articulation, yet the site features an outdoor museum. There is a layering of historic memory projecting its past as an ordnance storage site.

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