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Genius Loci – Deity or spirit of a place
“The remnants of factories that have survived throughout the Caribbean region serve as examples of considerable architectural achievement and of the islands’ prosperity when ‘sugar was king’. Like fortifications and estate houses, the sugar factories were built by the slave population, and these remains survive as their legacy of toil and skill.” – JUDITH A. TOWLE.
Today, erasure of historical traces in the landscape is unbridled due to inadequate legislation and a pervasive apathy towards the merit and value of their restoration. Grenada’s second largest town, Grenville, located on the Atlantic coast, possesses one of the few remaining colonial buildings, now slated for demolition. Adaptive reuse of this once magnificent Georgian landmark reimagines it as host to a new urban centre, activating and infusing purpose into a building left abandoned since it was gutted by fire over a decade ago. Restoring its distinguished brick façade allows it to embrace a new commercial program, yet assert its historical countenance as a scenographic marker throughout the new spaces framed within its walls.
At street level, the old eastern façade reaffirms its civic presence. It is porous, inviting pedestrians into a courtyard engaged in a dialogue between contrasting visages of different eras. Growing upward and respectfully set back from the old facade, new interior spaces hover over the ground level parking connecting the two main arteries of the town. Despite Grenville’s clustering of commercial buildings looped around Ben Jones Street and Victoria Street, the town suffers from congestion and lack of a designated centre. Sitting in the low-lying basin of La Baye, the town is predisposed to frequent flooding. As in other coastal Caribbean towns, climate resilience has introduced critical design parameters. The new Grenville commercial centre is conceived as a catalyst for improvement of the town fabric. The site is re-cast as a main attractor for Grenville. Elevating the commercial levels safeguards them from flooding while maximizing onsite parking below. A dynamic, transformative architecture emerges at the interface between the old and new.
To offset Grenada’s high energy costs, Green Building Technology is embedded within the design framework, including photovoltaic cells, a solar chimney, a reflection pond to provide passive cooling, Low-E glazing, and a water collection system. At the western entrance on Ben Jones Street, a monolithic stairway with seating tiers and an accessible ramp lead to an elevated public plaza. A stylized solar canopy presents a more contemporary portal, broadcasting progressive new ideals and reinvigoration of a landmark.
The plaza offers the public a reprieve and a place to meet away from the crowding at street level. Currently no such space exists within the town. Built on its past foundations, the proposed commercial facility brands its spirit and legacy onto the conscience of the community, as a protected cultural asset. As a small developing state, Grenada relies heavily on tourism. Conservation of its unique sense of place, its history and its environment are paramount to ensure sustainability for a prosperous future.
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