• Published: 04-3-2016
  • Written by: Laura Narayansingh
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Interview with Brian Lewis


What was the main inspiration behind your book - Contemporary Caribbean Architecture?

Although the architectural landscape has not been particularly inspiring over the last decade, I wanted to end my career doing a project I enjoyed. I had done the book ‘Manikin: the Art & Architecture of Anthony C. Lewis’ for the firm’s 65th anniversary and I felt we should do another book for the 70th anniversary. I also enjoy architectural photography and felt that a book on Contemporary Caribbean Architecture could become a useful point of reference that might help promote a new type of architecture in the Caribbean.

Your father and founder of acla: works lamented almost half a century ago that there was little innovation in West Indian architecture and called on architects and builders to move beyond the replication of North American and European styles. Do you think much has changed?

It is my opinion that the architecture landscape is going in multiple directions at the same time. On the positive side I can see the beginning of some interest in contemporary architecture. Regrettably, there is still a strong North American and European influence under the guise of ‘world standard’.

In doing the research for your book you came across many fine examples of Caribbean architecture - if you had to choose a personal favorite, which would it be and why?

This is a really difficult question to answer. I have reviewed the 49 projects in the book a few times since and find that almost every single project is excellent. I am hesitant to choose a single overall favorite but will make a selection using various criteria:

• Innovative Architecture: Shipping Container Office in Jamaica.

• Clever Renovation: Victoria Gardens Villa in Trinidad.

• Colorful Caribbean Architecture: Corner Villa in Trinidad.

• Green Building Solutions: Artist’s House and Studio in Trinidad.

• Best-finished Project: Dame of the Stars Villa in St. Barts.

• Profound Sense of Place: Mangwana in Bequia.

• Transformation of a Utility Building: SME Facility in Martinique.

• Eccentric Project: Phoenix in Jamaica.

• Calming Place: Roger’s Villa in Guadeloupe.

• Blend of Traditional/Contemporary Architecture: Parc d’Activites Office Park in Guadeloupe.

• Contemporary Design: Ani Villas in Anguilla

Choosing just one would be difficult!

What do you think Tony Lewis would be most proud of when he looks at acla:works today, 70 years after he established it?

The fact that the firm continues to survive despite the introduction of design-build and the misguided use of foreign architects over locals; all this while the firm’s principals still adhere to the highest design ideals and ethics and continue to participate in the development and shaping of the local and Caribbean architectural profession.