Sat | May 25, 2019

Pick Your Parliament | Design Collaborative hopes to claim a piece of Jamaican history

Published:Wednesday | October 17, 2018 | 12:00 AMPaul Clarke/Gleaner Writer
Architect Evan Williams and architectural assistant Jason Scott from Design Collaborative looking at their design for the new Parliament building to be constructed at the Heroes Circle Park in Kingston.
Design Collaborative design for Jamaica's new Parliament Building
Design Collaborative design for Jamaica's new Parliament Building

With about two months until the climax of the Houses of Parliament Design Competition, all eyes will be on whose design will be chosen to become the historic model by which the Government will construct its new seat of power.

That honour could well fall to the 46-year old architectural firm Design Collaborative, which is among five architectural teams still in the running for that seminal place in Jamaica's history.

Established in 1972 with the young Evan Williams and company pulling the strings, the firm is now on the brink of crafting its biggest project to date, and Williams strongly believes they can get it done.

"People have asked what prompted our design, and I keep saying it is our Motto, 'Out of Many, One People'. We wanted to design a great, iconic building; we didn't want a regular-looking office building, so we endeavoured to create just what we have now, a statement building," said Williams.

"When you think of countries around the world, it's their buildings which obviously come to mind, and these reflect that country. We see that in the White House in Washington. It makes a statement to the world, one of power and influence."

He stated that it is that kind of powerful statement Jamaica's new Parliament building must exude.

"Our seat of power and authority must also be a standout building that inspires our leaders and incites our people to achieve greatness. So we felt that this building should reflect that image; it should be a statement that everyone can relate to, not only locals, but when people living elsewhere think of Kingston, they must think about this building first," Williams reasoned.




Seated at a big table located in the centre of his Paddington Terrace, St Andrew, office, poring over the glossy prints of the design he hopes will topple all the other contestants, Williams was a picture of pride.

"The building's facade articulation references the country's colonial and classic design vernacular. We cannot deny that we are an ex-colony, and most of the buildings that are recognisable in Jamaica, we get them from our colonial past," noted Williams.

"Interestingly enough, even some of our domestic architecture reflects that Georgian influence, so I didn't want to deny that because that's part of who we are. But on the same hand, I didn't want it to be the overbearing statement."

His design clearly shows classic fretwork and Georgian latticework, which Williams said is a nod to many true Jamaican architectural works.

"That's what immediately comes to mind when we look at this design for our Parliament. I really believe it was a wise decision to open up the process to all Jamaican architects, whether at home or abroad, to participate in the exercise of designing the country's new Parliament," he said confidently.

According to Williams, his design speaks to the heart and soul of the Jamaican people.

He shared that it is intended to be an edifice that is sure to attract the attention of the people for the full 24 hours.

"What I mean by that is, we will have a reflective pool, which at nights will reflect upon the waters the beauty of the building when it's lit. And that was also designed with the idea that we are a country of land, wood, and water, at the centre of our existence," reasoned Williams.




His construction will have as part of the landscaped area an amphitheatre and a giant-screen TV, where persons can sit and enjoy some entertainment next door to the Parliament. It will also have a jogging track laid out around the perimeter of Heroes Park, where people can exercise.

It took Design Collaborative's five-member team three months to bring the design to this stage.

Jason Scott, an architectural assistant at the firm, said that it was a painstaking process, which saw the team members working long hours to perfect the design for submission.

"It was hard work; long hours, too. In fact, we worked 24 hours every day, including weekends. But now the real work begins as we will now be asked to put in more details to our submission," said Scott.

Submission of designs in this (penultimate) round is due on December 18. The public will then be asked in a People's Choice Poll to judge the designs, with the winner set to be announced in February 2019.