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Over the last few months I’ve found myself intrigued by the notion of the “Real Anguilla”—not with regard to politics, society or culture (which are outside the scope of my real estate oriented articles) but with regard to development and architecture…so let’s have some fun.
Prior to Hurricane Donna in 1960 the Real Anguilla consisted primarily of wood and galvanized homes with occasional stone clad structures—most of these buildings have hip roves and brightly painted hurricane shutters and embody what one might wistfully call a traditional West Indian look…while there are not many of these buildings still standing due to Hurricane Donna, they do exist. The road to Crocus Bay is a notable stretch with the Wardens Place (a component of Koal Keel restaurant) being significant; The Valley has a handful of notable older buildings such as Wallblake House (on the Catholic Church grounds) and The Old Factory (home to my real estate office and art gallery); and on George Hill there’s a charming old building (which once was my Xerox office) to name a few--whereby the Anguilla Archeological and Historical Society is organizing a Heritage Trail to identify many of these structure for our guests…a wonderful plan.
Post Hurricane Donna construction shifted to a more durable model—one that focused on concrete and block as opposed to wood, galvanized and stone…it was this era that saw the rise of a number of prominent Anguillan businessmen, with Albert Lake being preeminent with regard to the importation of cement. The architectural style of these homes were primarily rectangular with flat roofs—often with steel bars projecting above the roof line to pick up columns for envisioned second stories…while seldom dramatic in appearance they were safe and sensible structures.
As such, thus far the Real Anguilla as defined by Anguillans was either of a traditional West Indian design or of basic buildings built for security and family expansion—enter the developer and the beginning of new definitions.
My father and my family were the first of the Post Revolution investors on Anguilla—we designed, built, managed and owned Cinnamon Reef Hotel from 1975 thru 2001…an absolutely wonderful experience. While I don’t want to over state the significance of what we did, I’d rather not minimize it, for we introduced the individual upscale villa model of hotel development and design to Anguilla--a design motif which became the Real Anguilla for a number of years and (I dare say) remains the model for measurement. While using concrete and block as the primary building material of the Post Hurricane Donna years, we introduced an interesting and eclectic architecture to the mix while maintaining a low density to the overall project—an eclectic that evolved into a Mediterranean / Moorish / Modern motif.
Larger more sophisticated resorts were built subsequent to Cinnamon Reef, but there was a similarity of approach—whether one looks at Malliouhana or Cuisinart or Cap Juluca or Cove Castles or Carimar or Altamer, there is an interesting and eclectic concrete architecture with a villa focus to the development and a reliance on open space to help define their elegance… although both Malliouhana and Cuisinart have central facilities buildings with guest rooms, their fundamental identity comes from (I believe) their villas.
Correspondingly, the individual homes built by the majority of land purchasers from overseas followed the model whereby Anguillans themselves began to follow suit--large and ornate villas of concrete and block leading to larger and more ornate villas of concrete, granite and marble…the old style West Indian motif defined in part by brightly painted wooden shutters, seemed to disappear from the architectural vernacular (sadly).
Now, to the modern era of design, defined (I’d suggest) by condo hotels which focus on real estate presales within a resort environment—although there were numerous such developments on the horizon prior to September 2008, just a handful began or survived…for the moment I’ll focus on Temenos at Rendezvous Bay, Viceroy at Barnes Bay and Shoal Bay Resort & Spa at Madeariman.
Whereby Temenos at Rendezvous Bay is Anguilla’s most glaring development failure, its architecture and design is fairly compatible with the Real Anguilla as defined by the grand hotels noted above—villa based, concrete and ornate in design with a Mediterranean / Moorish feel. On the other hand, Viceroy is regularly chided for not being part of the “Real Anguilla” insofar as it feels more monolithic--and although the project does contain of a number of villas the central buildings seem to dominate the resort’s atmosphere…whereby the architecture is the most radical departure from the Mediterranean / Moorish model referenced above. As for Shoal Bay Resort & Spa at Madeariman, which actually advertises itself as the “Real Anguilla” while I truly like its large glass walls and gull wing roof lines it too is a significant departure from what has been designed for Anguilla thus far—although it is a villa based project, its represents a significant (but welcome) departure from previous design types on island…one without an immediate design connection anything that has gone before (hence why “real” architecturally?).
As such, let me be so bold as to put forth a definition for the “Real Anguilla” to welcome both Viceroy and Madeariman into the fold: The Real Anguilla encompasses design that is well done, even if different; design that is defined by an up market approach to the built experience, is not rigidly defined by what has gone before but is open to architectural evolution provided it is upscale and (hopefully) a bit eclectic. Such an open definition has both social and economic value as well as enables and facilitates an inclusive architectural diversity--for I remember when I was told Cinnamon Reef was not the Real Anguilla and that we were ruining the island by building fourteen one bedroom villas on eleven acres…an accusation that didn’t run deep and was mainly voiced by a contented expatriate community, but one which I vividly recall with amusement in hindsight.
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