Looking to sea from a beach makes it easier to reflect on my research into the architectural and constructional opportunities offered by NoZone city. Ten days ago, seven of us embarked on this trip, all involved in construction through living in, or working on, fixed/mobile/touring/demolished buildings.
Although locals organised the trip brilliantly, only five of us arrived. The missing two, a daring engineer and entrepreneurial architect, found the distractions of the low-life bars they discovered on their stop-off en route more enticing. I await with interest the reports of their detailed enquiry.
As a visitor I can only identify the opportunities offered by the particularities of context. In this city there are no cold bridges; indeed, interiors are undefined. Most accommodation is served by balconies/outside rooms; windows become security screens.
This and the low-rise construction allow a free plan; circulation is eradicated; rooms serve off each other to satisfy need and use, not statute. There is minimal planning and building control. No one measures daylight factors here.
Light (its manipulation for shade), views and cross-ventilation are the primary concerns.
All the schools are, as Duiker would have them, open-air.
Proximity to the equator makes nonsense of the single, fashionably shaped, heavily serviced, glazed tower; an example of commercial orthodoxy meeting climate and failing to respond to opportunity.
My detailed experience was of hotels: the Crown Plaza (international, tired, with revolving restaurant that works); my base the Kapok (international one-off; Ian Fleming's Bond meets Jacques Tati's Hulot) and the Hilton. The last offers a model that I intend to steal: climb up a steep incline glimpsing a stack of folded, shaded glazed elevations (balconies as brise-soleil), arrive on top of the hill, enjoy the promenade to reception, descend to your room and delight in the view - brilliantly simple. The promenade is Corb at Algiers; the vehicle drop-off is Corb (again) at Poissy. In this case, however, the mountain skyline is unaffected and the entrance copes with real traffic. Pool and car park are correctly located to the rear (hidden from view).Many buildings borrow from genius; few have the talent to steal.
The requirement for vehicular entrance may be obvious but it is rarely executed with conviction or style;
cars are segregated and offered the 'tradesman's door'. This is wrong;
we still rely on, enjoy and delight in cars. Are we guilty for enjoying heroic visions of cities actually designed for cars? Of course not. The sooner we accept that cars will outlast the problems associated with highway engineering and exhaust fumes, the better. Arriving by car should be designed to be delightful; let's reject worries about that inelegant term 'porte cochÞre'and respond to the design challenge.
I have learned a great deal from my time here:
of heroes (Brian Lara and Dwight Yorke), of the endemic government corruption, and of the architecture of NoZone. The benefits of this alternative urban model, one that allows for a swift response to collective and individual need, was summed up by the hand-painted sign at the petrol station: 'Luck occurs when opportunity meets preparation'. NoZone allows opportunities for cities to flourish, recognising that the alternative is ossification.
The city is Port of Spain, Trinidad, and I came to watch England's cricket team, which took an unassailable twonil lead in a four-test series.That they are led by Michael Vaughan, who, like four of my party and four-fifths of the population of his city, is a Sheffield Wednesday supporter, only enhanced our enjoyment, providing a further example of the potential for delight when opportunity and preparation are allowed to coincide.