What are we actually studying? Where am I, really? So much of this project is bound to the physical sites and the design choices implemented there, so the other day the team took a tour of Nassau and the mega-developments on the island. (The team has, in some senses, disbanded – Helen finished her week here, and Travis and I have split to work on separate projects with Amelia. I’ve hit the Archives leg of my research – today I went through the entire Photography collection in the Bahamian Archives!) We’ve explored, in different segments, the entire perimeter of the island (New Providence) and Paradise Island/Hog Island/Atlantis. How these sites negotiate their construction with local communities is one focus, and the justification of development by their purported engagement with the natural environment (through research, outreach, or programmatic visual allusion) is another. One day was spent at Atlantis:
But the real crux of this research project, and one of the major case study sites, is a large resort Development under construction on Nassau. Predominantly financed by Chinese patrons (as many large developments, public and private, now are on Nassau), the buildings rapidly rose from the sandy spit in months. While Atlantis has its large aquarium and has made efforts to aid marine science research and outreach in the years since its opening, the Development has a small team of environmental consultants on board from the start. As we walked the long beach, a site of heavy resort development for the last 50 years already, we noticed a group of Bahamian young adults running in lines down the beach. Athletic training for school, probably, but we joked that maybe they were training to be hardcore hotel staff. Walking back we chatted with one of the girls in her gym uniform and it turned out they were training to be hotel staff – you have to be fit to run across the huge campus! We apologized for taking her time from a class for their hospitality school (there’s an entire training hotel on site), but she said, “I’d be in trouble if I didn’t talk to you!”
We’ll continue to do site visits as the project rolls along. Personally I can’t wait to talk to any architects for large developments in the Caribbean: so much of the message/program/schtick of a resort in embedded in the visual program of the buildings themselves. How their architects intended their design to be received speaks as much of the project of a development as anything, especially within the context of architectural style on Nassau as a whole. Other case studies are on other islands – the Family Islands are stunning – open, flat – and I can’t wait to go!
Until next time,