When you imagine yourself on an island in the Caribbean you probably picture a certain style of building. In the Cayman Islands its known as the Caymanian cottage. These candy-coloured cottages are covered in shiplap and feature sloping roofs, large windows flanked by plantation-style shutters and airy porches.
But that aesthetic is slowly changing on Grand Cayman as progress and culture steadily evolve.
“We’re seeing that modern contemporary style coming into the market as a trend,” says Kim Lund of Lund Team at RE/MAX on Grand Cayman. “We’re seeing homes that are a lot more contemporary, condo complexes that are more contemporary and even commercial development.”
According to local architect John Doak, there are several factors influencing this shift.
“The variety of architectural styles of Cayman continues to broaden as the trends and pressures of the outside world and our local real estate market will dictate,” says Doak. “It’s a continuing and natural trend, happening in all aspects of today’s lifestyle. In an Island of approximately 60,000 people and now comprising up to 144 different nationalities, there are many challenges to contend with, including the changing face of our architecture.”
And whilst some may bemoan the move away from tradition and quaint gingerbread design, those working in the field like Doak see the possibilities.
“Architecturally, we are designing and building smaller and more sustainable solutions for our residences and by the same token for our offices and places of work. We have discovered we don’t need all that excess space. We’ve been introduced to a new vocabulary of words and concepts which fall under one word: sustainable.”
But that doesn’t mean a shift away from what makes life in the Caribbean so wonderful. After all, for all their aesthetic appeal, the origin of Cayman’s traditional architecture — as in all places — was born of necessity, a way to deal with the heat, rain and winds whilst also making the most of the outdoors.
“We love seamless indoor/outdoor lifestyles, so our pool areas, outdoor kitchens and gardens are places that we now embrace, enjoy and explore all week long,” says Doak. “Our homes are designed to welcome the breezes and orientated to optimise the sunlight whilst shading from its heat.”
Whilst these new clean lines and modern styles might be worlds away from tradition, they still pay respect to and make the most of what Doak calls “this place Cayman.” And that, he will tell you, is the most important element.
“It’s actually a phrase that I use to describe the way we design in different places and different countries in this region. The building or project should be appropriate to its siting and its surroundings, i.e., ‘of this place Cayman’ or another country,” says Doak.
Still, many come to the Caribbean and to Grand Cayman in particular for the traditional aesthetic, for the look and feel and lifestyle you can’t find anywhere else in the world. And to those people, Lund says not to worry. Cayman is still Cayman.
“Right now it’s patchy,” Doak says of the development. “The contemporary style is a new style coming into the marketplace. So it’s only getting a foothold in the market now.”
So what about if you’re looking to buy or rent on the Island right now? “Almost without exception,” Doak says, “they have more of a chance of getting into something traditional.”
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Author: Rebecca McBane