The theme of the conference was “Architecture Matters” and there were a number of speakers on various topics. My talk was “Contemporary Caribbean Architecture: Emerging Aesthetics” and was held on Friday 13 September 2013 in the Students Union Building at Montana State University.

When I was invited by the Montana Chapter of AIA to give a talk at the AIA Annual Fall Conference in Bozeman Montana I must confess I was most apprehensive indeed. However at this stage of my career I thought to myself “what the hell – lets give it a shot”. By the time I arrived at Bozeman I had developed a cold from the change in weather so I had to keep a very low profile for my stay there.

Three Themes

My talk dealt with three main themes:

  • Architecture only matters if it makes people happy
  • The need for architects to promote their work and to educate the public
  • The emerging aesthetic of contemporary Caribbean architecture
The Architecture of Happiness

I began by referring to the work of Alain de Button’s “The Architecture of Happiness” and showed a number of well-known projects I felt that made people happy, among these were:

  • The Barcelona Pavilion by Mies Van der Rohe
  • The Palacio de Itamaraty, Brasilia by Oscar Niemeyer
  • The Reichstag, Berlin by Norman Foster
  • City of Arts & Sciences, Valencia by Santiago Calatrava
  • Casa Battlo, Barcelona by Antonio Gaudi
  • Centre for Clinical Science, Stanford by Norman Foster
  • Lloyds Building, London by Richard Rogers
  • Salk Institute for Biological Studies, California by Louis Khan

Then I shifted focus to the Caribbean tracing the development of architecture beginning with the Ajoupa followed by the Chattel House and Caribbean Style leading to the comparative analysis of the development of vernacular architecture of dwellings by Jack Berthelot and Martin Gaume in their work Kazantiye. In order to prepare the audience to better appreciate the evolving contemporary aesthetic in the Caribbean I then provided an outline a political, economic, social and environmental context.

Presenting Architecture

Following this background I then shifted to explain the need for presenting architecture and educating the public as a necessary prerequisite in order to make the transition from a colonial to a contemporary form of architecture. The need for architects to publish and exhibit their work is a key strategy necessary to gain the shift in public appeal. I then made the case for a book on Contemporary Caribbean Architecture that could become a new aesthetic reference point for the public.

Contemporary Caribbean Architecture

I ended my presentation with some images that I made of contemporary Caribbean architecture taken in 2012 of the Windward Islands and 2013 of the Leeward Islands pointing out that I planned to visit and photograph projects in the Greater Antilles in 2014 and hopefully publish in 2015.

I ended the talk with a challenging thought, “I would like to end by reminding us that the responsibility for the state of architecture rests with us all, but for the first world [you], the responsibility to demonstrate the usefulness of architecture is even greater – since the worldwide profession depends on your success”.

AIA Montana

Brian Lewis delivers his address at the AIA Montana Fall Conference

AIA Montana

Montana State University Students Union Building: venue for the AIA Fall Conference