A celebration of good design

Governor Duncan Taylor recently presented the first Governor’s Award for Design and Construction Excellence to Camana Bay Town Centre and Elmslie Memorial Church, two entities that, in his eyes, exemplified construction and design that was ahead of its time. The Journal explores what makes these particular entities, as well as the other five shortlisted building projects, so important for the Islands as a whole.

The brainchild of the Cayman Society of Architects, Surveyors & Engineers and the Cayman Contractors Association, the Governor’s Award for Design and Construction Excellence is a new award specially created to celebrate the best in design and construction in the Cayman Islands.

Governor Taylor has lent his support to the project, taking responsibility for choosing the design project he believed should be given the prestigious award.

Thirty-four projects were nominated for the award and a team of judges – which included Norman Bodden, Jimmy Powell, Lisa-Ann Hurlston-McKenzie, Rupert Ackerman, Bendel Hydes, Garth Arch and Rayal Bodden – honed this list down to just seven finalists that also included Lighthouse Point, the Legislative Assembly Building, The West Indian Club, Cotton Tree Cottages and Water’s Edge, Seven Mile Beach.

Kris Bergstrom, vice president of the Cayman Contractors Association, says the judges were overwhelmed by the quantity of projects submitted along with the talent shown.

“We were impressed by both the complexity and the beauty of the designs,” he says.

The final shortlist
Lighthouse Point

Developed by Jay Easterbrook, this was Cayman’s first eco-friendly development, obtaining a LEED certification that required a new way of thinking when it came to technology especially in the field of renewable energy.

Legislative Assembly Buildings
The seat of democracy in the Cayman Islands, the design of the Legislative Assembly Building is based on the architecture of ancient temples and includes an inner sanctum where the legislative issues of the day are discussed.

Elmslie Memorial Church
Designed by R. Gilles of Scotland and built by two Caymanian master shipbuilders, Rayal B. Bodden and Roland Bodden, for The United Church in Jamaica, Elmslie Memorial Church is still going as strong today as when it was first built in 1922.

West Indian Club
The exterior and gardens of the West Indian Club have been completely redeveloped by Sandy Urquhart, embracing Cayman’s native and indigenous plants.

Cotton Tree Cottages
These holiday homes for discerning travellers again embrace the natural environment as well as celebrating Caymanian architecture and design.

Camana Bay Town Centre
Encompassing pedestrian friendly living spaces as well as shops, homes and public amenities, Camana Bay Town Centre embraces nature and the natural environment and has become a focus point for many locals.

Waters Edge, Seven Mile Beach
This property exemplifies luxury living on one of the world’s most prestigious locations while at the same time providing owners with a home built to hurricane resistant standards.   

A celebration of old and new
In the end the award was presented jointly to Camana Bay Town Centre and Elmslie Memorial Church. Taylor explains how he came to the final decision: “Elmslie Memorial Church was the most complex structure ever seen when it was built in 1922,” he says.

“It was the first building to use concrete blocks in its construction and is still a significant and important building in the Cayman Islands. It was built as a church in 1922 and still serves its purpose today.”

Taylor says as this award was its inaugural year, the judges did not want to limit entries to just new developments, in order to honour all great construction projects in the Cayman Islands; however, going forward they may limit the age of projects to five years.

Moving on to the Camana Bay Town Centre, Taylor says this particular construction “touched on all the criteria guiding the judges, in so many ways.”

“It really is a project of design and construction excellence and, like Elmslie Memorial Church in its time, it is a huge employer, so the value it has brought to the Island is unquestionable,” he confirms.

Judge Garth Arch says the Governor chose the two projects that were top of the judges’ final seven shortlist.

The hallmark of good design
Judge and established artist Bendel Hydes says the criteria that stood out for him during the decision-making process was the projects’ “unique design and durability”, while judge Rupert Ackerman says a good design and construction project, as in any industry, abides by predetermined rules and principles. Ackerman, whose projects have included the TV station building, the Piccadilly Centre, Hammerheads and numerous homes and large scale projects, says functionality played an important part in his design criteria.

“You can design a pretty building but it’s no use if it’s not functional,” he comments. “Form followed function in both the winning designs and that is why they stood out.

“For the Elmslie Memorial Church we took into consideration the fact that there were no computers to assist in the design and construction process and everything was done by hand. The end result is a celebration of sustainability,” he says.

Camana Bay, he advises, is an excellent example of form following function.

“We live in the tropics yet it’s easy to find buildings here that seem as if they’ve been designed for New York City. They forget about orientation and the fact that we have lots of hot sun to mitigate; whereas Camana Bay Town Centre has taken all of this into consideration.”

Ackerman says he is impressed by the natural temperature control that the design of Camana Bay brings via the channeling and harnessing of natural cool breezes through open spaces as well as lots of shade, cooling buildings and the space in between them.

“The average person might not notice this, but that’s the hallmark of good design,” he explains.       


The judges had a hard time deciding: From left, Kris Bergstrom, Governor Duncan Taylor, Bendel Hydes, Lisa–Ann Hurlston–McKenzie, Garth Arch, Rupert Ackerman and Jimmy Powell.