Wed | Feb 19, 2020

Jamaica has many architects, but they're unrecognised

Published:Friday | November 11, 2011 | 12:00 AM


The article in Wednesday's Gleaner (November 9) titled 'Pedestrians only! Yap sees waterfront as oasis of culture' was so grossly wrong in principles, inaccurate in content and so entirely misquoted architect Clifton Yap that it has many in our profession fuming that some journalists just don't understand planning and architecture and really make matters worse when such articles are written.

Minister Mike Henry's recent remarks at the JCC symposium, where he stated that Jamaica doesn't have enough architects, was unfortunate. This is so especially in the context that the profession, until recently, fell under his portfolio, and especially in the context of him opening the architects exhibition in 2008 and speaking in praise of the diverse and exceptional work done by local architects.

The minister is partially correct in that we don't have enough architects per capita as other progressive countries do. That we now have a school of architecture is radically changing that statistic. The lack of quantity of architects in Jamaica is partly due to governments that do NOT encourage the profession, and buildings being done by architects as more progressive countries have recognised. Jamaica has many, many, many good architects.

We have MORE than enough architects to meet the 'allowable' demands for architectural services. The Jamaican Government, like other governments, should encourage the development of the profession rather than the opposite. There has been NO PROJECT designed in Jamaica by a foreign architect that could not have been done by one of our many talented local architects with local engineers.

Because of the lack of support for architects in Jamaica, many offices in the USA, Canada, UK, Germany and the Caribbean are now staffed with Jamaican and Jamaica-trained architects.

Improving profession

In the last three years, NEPA has instituted a policy whereby drawings submitted with applications for development must be done by architects and engineers, i.e., professionals. What this has done to the quality of submissions is impressive. What it has also done to the profession is extraordinary. In the last three years since NEPA's policy came into being, the Architects' Registration Board has registered some 30-plus architects, with many more now applying. Architecture students with first degrees are rushing back to school to do their second [professional] degree as they appreciate that the authorities now recognise that there is VALUE in their profession.

It is now worth something to become a registered architect versus a technician/draftsman or first-degree student hustling independently or on the side while working for an architect.

Investing in architects and architecture is how a country begins to develop itself through a profession that has a significant impact on the physical landscape.