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Design by forethought



The architect Ann Hodges designed a Holiday place on the north coast for whatsisname, the hugely wealthy guy of Island Records. I liked it. My colleague at the time did not. He thought the houses were trying to recreate the accretions and accidents of age. In other words the architect was trying to design wear and tear, the effort of maintenance and the happy and comfortably chaotic atmosphere which results from people living in a building and interfering with the fabric in wanting nails here and shelves there and openings there. They discard things and mend things. This is the age of a building, the beauty which results from living well and absorbing experience with an attitude of enjoyment.

When you try to design age, rather than allowing the process of age to do its business, the chances are the result looks suspicious, artificial and the quality of the artificial is the authentic reconstructed under absolute control. It can be done but it has to be done well, with forensic sophistication. Her designs according to her critic did not come out of the collision of needs and contingencies, but in an attempt at reconstructing them. Collision has something aggressive and violent, reconstructing that collision loosens it.

The dislocations in much of the best Jamaican architecture result from this collision of needs whereby the offered solutions refuse to subordinate themselves to the leading idea. In this way they create another fit, a more jagged fit if you like, whereby the requirements for a monumental front are met in the design until thoughts surrounding the placing of a front door come up. At that moment it is quite possible to end up with a monumental front, meant for entry, but with the entrance moved to the side.



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