Professor Henry FraserArchitecural Historian / Heritage Consultant
Chairman, Sentinel Committee, Barbados National Trust
Writer, TV Presenter, National Orator & Motivational Speaker
Professor Emertius, Medicine and Clinical Pharmacology.
Immediate Past Dean, Faculty of Medical Sciences.
University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus, Barbados.


Article Index


THINGS THAT MATTER: Awards for Brilliant Bajan Architecture

Henry S. Fraser

“Architecture should speak of its time and place, but yearn for timelessness.” (Frank Gehry, famous Canadian architect)

“Every architect is – necessarily – a great poet. He must be a great original interpreter of his time, his day, his age.” (Frank Lloyd Wright, great American architect)

On Thursday this week a hugely important event took place at the Errol Barrow Centre for the Creative Imagination, UWI Cave Hill Campus – the opening of the BNT / BIA Exhibition of Architectural Awards. The event is a partnership between the Barbados National Trust and the Barbados Institute of Architects, to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Trust. And what a splendid showcase of Brilliant Bajan buildings!

The Barbados National Trust was formed 50 years ago to promote and champion the preservation of buildings of historic and architectural value, and places of natural beauty in Barbados. The huge challenges of preserving our many historic treasures in the face of rapid tropical decay and a global and local economic recession are being faced at the same time that UNESCO has inscribed Historic Bridgetown and its Garrison as a World Heritage site. This has brought the importance of our built heritage into dramatic focus.

Twenty years ago, when the Trust celebrated 30 years, Architectural Restoration Awards were presented to the Barbados Light and Power Company and Rus in Urbe on Crumpton Street, among others, for their splendid restoration work in the late 80s. In fact the BL & P headquarters building, the old Quartermaster Stores of the historic Garrison, was restored by Gillespie and Steel, and according to the BL & P’s Annual Report it came in at 60% of the previously projected cost of a new building that would have replaced it, before the late Mr. Andrew Steel of Gillespie and Steel said: “You can’t demolish this splendid historic building, let’s restore it properly and adapt it!” A hugely instructive case … because, as in this case, restoration is often much, much cheaper than replacing, and it respects our culture, our history and the older buildings are often “greener” and more people-oriented.

For this celebration the Trust teamed up with the Barbados Institute of Architects to invite submissions of both restoration projects and new buildings, for Awards, to recognise the best work in two broad areas: revitalising the buildings of the past (pre-World War 2) and new work (since 1990, the date of our previous awards). The best of our new buildings will become the “Treasures of the Future”!

The scheme is a great success, with 28 very high quality submissions, from most of our leading architects. The panel of five judges, from the Trust and the BIA, had a “humongously” difficult task, and a single point often separated the awards of first and second place in each of four categories, as well as the “Honourable Mentions” – all announced on Thursday night and presented by the President of the Trust, Dr. Karl Watson, and President of the BIA, Michael Lashley.

Henry Fraser Historic Houses Of Barbados Book CoverHistoric Houses of Barbados
Written by Henry Fraser & Ronnie Huges.
Available at all book leading book stores in Barbados.

Henry Fraser Treasures Of Barbados Book CoverTreasures of Barbados
Written by Sir George Alleyne and edited by Henry Fraser.
Available at the UWI Bookshop the publishers.

Henry Fraser Chattle House Book CoverBarbados Chattel Houses
Written by Henry Fraser and Bob Kiss.
Available at all leading book stores.

Henry Fraser A-Z Barbados Book CoverA-Z of Barbados Heritage
Written by Sean Carrington, Henry Fraser, John Gilmore and Addington Forde.
Available at Days Bookstore Barbados and

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