Reflections of Caribbean Soul 0 1017

Who and what inspired you to follow your passion of architecture to become an architect?
Construction is in my blood. My grandfather, Frederick Murrell, was a carpenter, and my father, Mc Donald Murrell, was a leading builder and contractor and owner of Mc Donald Murrell & Co. Ltd, builders and contractors. Those were the days when the gentleman contractor was experienced, competent and honest. My dad had strong written and oral communication skills, carefully documenting everything as it related to the business operations. My mother Linqu Murrel provided the support system as a homemaker.

Being the only girl among five brothers, our house was always full of boys. It is no wonder that I was not raised by my parents to be dainty as it were. I was raised to be strong and independent. I would repair the wheels on my bicycle, spin a top, climb the huge Graham mango trees and pitch marbles.

My father did all of his administrative work on the dining table in full view of the family, which accounted for my greatest inspiration to become an architect. He would take off quantities of materials for buildings from drawings, draft letters for his secretaries to type and write out instructions for his drivers on a daily basis. My father was articulate, precise, business-like, methodical, punctual and brilliant. He had an eye for detail. I was also privileged to meet outstanding architects such as John Gillespie, Colin Laird, Ruskin Punch, Roy Garner, John Newel Lewis, to name a few. When I was about 15 years old I remember telling Colin Laird that I wanted to become an architect, and he was very kind and encouraging. When it was time to go to university in England, Ruskin Punch was extremely helpful in guiding my education pathway to select a suitable graduate school of architecture. The architect was large and in charge and central to the building’s design and construction. Colin Laird’s design of a grand hillside residence with its octagonal shape, access bridges, spiral staircase and well thought-out views to the city of Port of Spain sealed it for me. I definitely wanted to become an architect.

Rudylynn Roberts was the first female architect who I ever met. In those days, there were only about two female architects in Trinidad and Tobago. I was in awe of this lady, who was so cool and unassuming. Today, Rudylynn is well known in many quarters since she was responsible for the restoration of the Cathedral of The Immaculate Conception in Port of Spain.

What were the influences?
Visiting construction sites with my father and getting to climb ladders to reach the upper floors of buildings such as churches, banks and offices that were either being newly renovated or constructed.

How do you define the Caribbean architectural landscape?
To me, the Caribbean architectural landscape has buildings that reflect the essence and the soul of the Caribbean and its people. It is all about easy living in secure buildings that are environmentally responsive and can withstand hurricanes and earthquakes. The Caribbean architectural landscape reflects our energy and creativity. It’s about conservation and sustainability, light and shade, colour and texture, ventilation and cooling, the relationship between indoor and outdoor spaces, meeting and hangout spaces, private spaces and public spaces, buildings that are reflective of how we live, work and play.

What features or elements did you create in your breakfast bar design featured in BBTT?
I have incorporated the following features to accentuate the feel and utility of the design:

  • Contemporary design.
  • Peninsula.
  • Allows persons to gather at the kitchen or the ‘heart of the home’.
  • Allows interaction between the cook/s and people seated at the breakfast bar.
  • The design allows for work or play to be done there.
  • Design done with children in mind since it allows children to sit at the breakfast bar to do their homework, relax or enjoy playtime while an adult supervises them and prepares meals in the kitchen.
  • The curved glass top is at a height of 42 inches above the finished floor level.
  • Seating for six people: leather covered seats to wooden bar stools
  • Located adjacent to the dining area and close to doors leading out to swimming pool area.
  • Travertine countertop for the breakfast bar provides additional countertop space in the kitchen.
  • The breakfast bar has drawers and cupboards for storage on the side with the refrigerator and sink.
  • Materials used for countertop construction: upper countertop in frosted glass, lower countertop utilises travertine, lower cabinets are laminate, upper cabinets are acrylic, stainless steel posts support and secure the glass top and stainless steel skirting.

Can you share some advice with our BBTT readers for creating a distinguishing outdoor space plan /design?
An outdoor space should be a sanctuary for relaxation. Entertaining and play and should be an extension of your indoor living space. Each individual will have their own dreamy ideas as to how they want to use their outdoor space and this will result in a unique design and plan. Each outdoor space will be as unique as the person or people who have commissioned the work. You will want to consider engaging the services of a landscape architect to help you to create your dream outdoor space.

When creating your dream outdoor space, here’s a helpful checklist:
Review and measure the entire outdoor space, both at the front and the back of the house, and do a holistic design for the outdoors.

  1. Determine your budget.
  2. Determine how you want to use the outdoor space. Do you want to enjoy a simple green spaces for relaxation, sporting activities, an outdoor kitchen or a seating/dining area? Whatever it is, have a clear idea of how you want to enjoy your outdoor space.
  3. What features do you want in your outdoor space, a tropical garden, a water feature, a gazebo or something else?
  4. Find out what building and planning codes will affect your design plans.
  5. Find out what fire codes will affect your design plans.
  6. Work with a trained professional to come up with your dream outdoor space.

What is your best advice for new homeowners, wishing to build their starter home if not dream home?

  1. Speak to a registered architect before purchasing any land or building for your dream home or starter home, or before you begin any renovations to a house. There is the Trinidad and Tobago Institute of Architects (TTIA), which you can contact with regard to hiring an architect for your project.
  2. Find out from a few architects what services they offer and their fees.
  3. Architects will not give you sketches of design proposals for your project for free. What architects will do is show you their past projects and let you know what services they can offer you.
  4. Select an architect to work with you on your project.
  5. Meet with your architect and let them know about the project that you propose to undertake.
  6. Determine your budget and discuss your proposed budget with the architect.
  7. Let the architect know if it is a starter home that you intend to build with the intention of expanding the house at a later stage. This way the architect can work with you to do a holistic design and obtain the required approvals for a house that will be built in phases.
  8. Discuss with the architect when you propose to start your project.
  9. The architect will take you through the design and approval stages for the project.
  10. The architect must ensure that the land is zoned by Town and Country Planning (TCP) for residential use before starting your project. Lands are zoned by TCP for: residential/resort residential/commercial/entertainment/warehousing/industry/agricultural/institutional/ conservation, etc.
  11. Speak to the architect about your lifestyle, family size, how you propose to use the dwelling, the proposed number and types of spaces, approximate room sizes, storage requirements and parking.
  12. The architect will work closely with you to design your home and make your dream a reality.How do you see the future in architecture?The future of architecture in Trinidad and Tobago is positive but a lot of work has to be done in terms of relationship building between registered architects and members of the public in order to make people aware of the value of hiring a trained architect when doing their building projects. Architecture in Trinidad and Tobago has been negatively impacted by shows on television that show residential designs and construction oversight being done by non-architects. The result is that the average person thinks that they can do their own building designs bypassing the trained architect and the regulatory agencies

    When you build, you hope to profit. Whether it’s a home or a business, the new building is meant to function in a way that suits your needs, to look better and have a better value than before. In other words, you hope to profit by design. It is an investment for the future. Architects see the big picture. They don’t design pretty pictures or just four walls and a roof, they create a total environment, the interiors and exteriors, which satisfy functional needs with exciting, dynamic spaces in which to work, live and play and which meets the requirements of regulatory agencies.

    The architect also advises on the need for other specialist consultants for the project. They can advise where costs can be saved and coordinates and manage their work. Buildings designed by registered architects attract added credibility from the financial institution with the required approvals from regulatory agencies such as Town and Country Planning, WASA, the relevant regional corporation, the local health authorities, the TT Fire Service, et cetera.

    Many building owners in T&T are unable to rent their buildings to the government or for commerce as they do not meet the necessary regulations.

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