Location: Port Antonio, Jamaica
“For many years, Port Antonio, a jungle hemmed town on Jamaica’s northeast coast, was synonymous with a specific kind of languorous glamour. Today, however, that glamour has faded but it’s left behind a wonderfully romantic afterglow. As you drive down the road of this small market town, you pass elaborate gates in various states of disrepair peeking out from behind tangles of vines, each marking a former great house or abandoned-looking grand hotel. These days, the town’s appeal lies in its seclusion from the dangers (both aesthetic and criminal) often associated with the island’s tourist-heavy cruise-port towns, most notably Montego Bay, 120 miles to the west. (Kingston Airport is 67 miles to the south.) It also has none of the stuffiness, the croquet lawns, and gin-and-tonics, of Jamaica’s Old World winter break institutions. You won’t find restaurants with white tablecloths and mercilessly inflated Caribbean prices driven up by imported foods. This is the Jamaica where, on a Thursday night, you can drive into town — past the old columned estates — and lose yourself in the euphoric rhythms of a local street party.”
– NEWELL-HANSON, Alice. “Port Antonio: Jamaica Unplugged”. The New York Times 2015
Here, lies East Winds Cove, a 2 and a half acre property overlooking the eccentric local landmark Trident Castle. The site closed its doors as a boutique resort 25 years ago. It consisted of 3 villas with views across the bay and a family house on the roadside with views towards the bridge where the ocean meets the river. What she hopes to create is a boutique resort with an individual single story dwelling. This building should function as both a short term and long term home rather than as a rental space; embracing both the reality and fantasy of Island life whilst at the same time working with the rhythm and nature of its spectacular environment.
The brief was to create a linear space with a low profile that would be elevated to maximise sea views and mimic treehouse living. Indoor/outdoor living was achieved by incorporating floor to ceiling glazing that residents would remain connected with the environment at all times. The challenge was to make the building ‘look like it had always been there’ and whilst it is sizeable, it should not impose on the landscape; “simple, uncomplicated and unapologetic”.
During the design process, it was imperative to be realistic regarding the limitations of the local skilled workers, their lack of experience with working on a building of this nature and the lack of access to some equipment. Climate also had to be taken into consideration, Jamaica does encounter hurricanes and Portland, in particular, experiences more rainfall than any other Parish. When removing large trees, ackee, coconut palms and breadfruit to clear the site, we had to consider the future replanting, as many of the trees offer protection from the extreme weather.
Construction began in June 2015 with the digging of the foundations. Due to the terrain and lack of access to equipment, the trenches were dug by hand. Steel was also bent by hand as most of the tradesmen are artisans, extraordinary considering the precision, discipline and speed required.
The project manager, Mr Gilbert Byles, was a previous student of Frank Lloyd Wright and whilst not a qualified architect, has had a wealth of experience as a designer, builder, and engineer. As the primary designer on this project, I greatly appreciated his guidance during the first few months.