Heritage and Health are at the Heart of Cayman’s New Architectural Designs.
From pastel-hued wattle-and-daub cottages to ultra-modern beachside villas, Cayman’s architecture pays homage to the natural environment that surrounds it whilst giving a cultural nod to the past and its future.
Beauty Is All Around
No matter where you live in the Cayman Islands, it’s a true feast for the senses — whether it’s the colourful, sweet-smelling aromas of flowers; the warm salty air on your lips; or the soothing sights and sounds of rolling waves hitting the shore.
It’s these special island attributes that local award-winning architect John Doak takes into consideration before he even draws up his plans. Well-known for his “Cayman Style” of architecture, his designs are described as “of this place.”
“As an architect, one of my obligations is to respect the cultural heritage and evolution of these Islands,” says Doak, who has devoted the last few decades to preserving and honouring Cayman’s unique small and simpler buildings.
Over the years, he and his team at John Doak Architecture have designed many prestigious residential and commercial projects across the Caribbean region; and they always consider all aspects of the natural environment in relation to the site of the building.
For their beach home designs in particular, this involves orienting the home to maximise ocean views and capture breezes, as well as providing shade from the rain and sun by creating shadows and reflection. Of utmost importance is to build with hurricane storm and lightning protection, and resistance to earthquakes, decay and corrosion (that warm salty air on your lips is not so good on building exteriors). The logistics of building on a remote location without road access or a place to dock a supply ship loaded with materials from the United States can also be a challenge, as are labour and expertise limitations.
Like architects, Doak says, they have to combine the ingredients of budget, siting, client aspirations, accommodations, scheduling and construction feasibility to “creatively concoct a unique place that is tropically spiced.”
“In culinary language, our buildings respect the ‘terroir’ or locale by blending these types of elements,” he says.
Looking to the Future
The “Healthy House” is a phrase Doak uses to refer to suitable, energy-efficient and sustainable homes; and the majority of the homes he designs follow these “green” principles. He notes, however, that here in the Cayman Islands, it’s not a recent trend. “Rather, it’s the way we’ve been design building in these parts for almost 40 years,” he says.
Over the last few years, Doak and his team have gravitated towards what real estate agents refer to as “ultra-modern” homes; but he says they are still very much “of this place.” Although the designs have become minimalist and functional, they are still influenced by the natural surroundings and climate.
Many of these homes feature panoramic views by incorporating disappearing glass walls; shade features and verandas; and they still orientate the home to capture the light throughout the day (including Cayman’s famous sunsets and sunrises), as well as the cool easterly winds. Woven threads and natural wood materials also feature prominently to offer a seamless transition between the indoors and outdoors.
“Gone is the decorative gingerbreading of traditional Cayman homes, now replaced with clean, open, uncluttered spaces and a freshness from the natural ocean breezes.”
Now is the perfect time to plan your trip to the U.S. – Cayman Airways has lowered airfares to all U.S. destinations. Find out more on caymanairways.com/LowFares.
Author: Lisa Boushy