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Moulton Mayers – My most challenging project

Moulton Mayers – My most challenging project


by Moulton Mayers Tue, Nov 15. 2011

I have been practicing Architecture in the Caribbean for the past 25 years and I must say that this is the most challenging project I have ever designed. The first challenge is that the project was a design competition among five Architects; three local and two foreign.{{more}} A panel of assessors made up of Architects and Engineers concluded that MMA design solution was the most responsive solution among the five competitors and subsequently commissioned us to design this building that fit so beautifully within the urban fabric. We believe wholeheartedly in contextual architecture.

The site as you could see is tight and is bounded on the west by a water course that historically is noted for overflowing its banks. This was critical in the sense that the client wanted underground parking. We were therefore faced with some serious design issues. How do we prevent water infiltration and how do we design the foundation to sustain hydrostatic pressures?

Thanks to my able structural engineer and mechanical electrical engineer, the underground parking lot is a reality. It is historic, for the first time in the history of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, there is an underground parking lot. I am appealing to our legislators to legislate that all proposed commercial and institutional building in Kingstown shall incorporate underground parking. This would certainly help to alleviate the existing parking problem in Kingstown.

Another challenge we had to grapple with is how to make the building responsive to Heritage Square. You would note that we have used the south façade to help define Heritage Square and at the same time, create a plaza area with public amenities (seating and landscaping) as an extension to Heritage Square. In short, we made this project an integral part of Heritage Square. As an urban designer, I was disappointed when the old public library next door was fenced away from Heritage Square and was very glad, when an automobile knocked down the fence and was very sorry that it did not knock down the entire fence. I am appealing to the powers that be to legislate design guidelines that all commercial and institutional buildings that frame Heritage Square shall be more responsive to Heritage Square in terms of creating public amenities in the form of seating areas, landscaping/greenery and façade enhancements.

We had several changes in the schedule of accommodation prior to construction, during construction and after construction. Initially, the design brief called for five (5) departments for five (5) different tenants, including a department for the client. During construction, the program was adjusted to three (3) departments. Then we were asked to redesign the project exclusively for the National Commercial Bank (NCB).

Then NCB came along and said that they only needed the first two floors and the underground parking to accommodate their operations. On completion of construction, the Bank of St. Vincent and the Grenadines bought the building and asked us to redesign the first and second floors to meet their spatial requirements. This is the reality amid the labyrinth of challenges – a building that is a jewel in the urban fabric – a building that is an icon – a building that is a beacon in Kingstown.

It is these challenges that consumed the long time that it took to deliver this magnificent building. I am sure that you would agree with me that the long construction timeframe was worth the while.

Earlier, I said that we believe in contextual architecture. In order to mesh this building into the urban fabric as a whole, we incorporated into the façade of the building some of the structuring elements that made Kingstown charming. You would note the peak hip roofs that have a tendency to mimic the mountains and ridges that flank Kingstown; the classical cornice parapet walls, the sunscreen above proportionate the rectangular fenestrations, the cobblestone pavers and the classical portico above the main entrance. These elements are so positioned and composed to balance the rhythm, scale, proportion, texture and colour in a more technological, high tech and architectonic manner.

The sweeping curving street façade certainly engages the fabric of the city in an unconventional manner. This is a welcoming statement, saying here is a sense of place; a sense of belonging.

As soon as you enter the building, you know that aesthetics matter. But you never feel that anything is wasted or put there on show. As you look up, you would note that the skylight bathes the interior with a luminous glow that gives you that sense of awe. In modern day language, we call it the “wow” effect. If you look back, you get that sense of relief looking into Heritage Square and by extension the Caribbean Sea. This sensation reoccurs as you enter each floor.

Just some practical information about the building.

The building is approximately 40,000 square feet in area and four (4) stories excluding the parking basement. The construction cost is $14.4 million ($350 per square foot). The basement is an underground parking lot that accommodates 20 automobiles, a printing room, archive/vault facility and maintenance department.

The ground and first floors occupy all activities of the Bank of SVG. The second floor constitutes rentable spaces, which are already tenanted. The partial third floor is a gym with outdoor roof top space for socialization.

The building is fitted with barrier free designs and therefore is also user friendly to the physically challenged.

There is a ramp, two passenger elevators, toilet stalls equipped with grab bars, door lever locks, vanities and teller counters to accommodate the physically challenged.

In the building industry, this building is what we will call a smart green building. The building is fitted with ultramodern, state of the art energy efficient systems. It is fitted with security systems, A/C systems, AVE systems, fire fighting and alarm systems, telecommunication systems, energy saving electrical systems, lightning arrestor systems and IT systems.

The materials used on this building are low maintenance materials and so we expect maintenance personnel to maintain a high standard of cleaning.

It is said that “good architecture comes from inspiration”, but great architecture comes from collaboration.” I want to make it abundantly clear that the successful completion of this project is as a result of a team effort and not only the efforts of Moulton Mayers Architects.

I want to thank wholeheartedly my client National Properties Ltd and to single out Mr. Hally Dougan, CEO, he was my pay master. If I did not get my fees on time, I would certainly not single him out.

  • Mr. Glenford Stewart from Stewart Engineering Ltd. – Structural/Civil Engineer
  • Mr. Trevor Sylvester from Sylvester Engineer Ltd. – MEP Engineer
  • Mr. Brian Begg from Design Collaborative – QS
  • Mr. Anthony Abbott from S. G. Defreitas & Co. Ltd. – A/C subcontractor
  • Mr. Archer Trotman from Trotman Electrical Ser. Ltd – Electrical subcontractor
  • Mr. Bulze from Bulze Plumbing – Plumbing subcontractor
  • Last but not least, Mr. Sibert Liverpool and Mr. Stanley Richards from SibLi Construction Ltd. – General contractor – they have engendered impeccable finishes on this project and so we are proud of them and thanked them.

We wish to thank all other organizations who played a role in the development of this magnificent building and all those who allow this worthwhile project. I would like to let the building team know that they gave us the opportunity to showcase our talent and expertise. We have benefitted immensely from this experience and pledged that this project would be a part of our heritage tourism in the not too distant future.

Thank you!!!