It is the collective responsibility of Barbadians to preserve the island’s architectural legacy.
So said Minister of Culture, Sports and Youth, Stephen Lashley, during his opening remarks last night at the George Lamming Distinguished Lecture 2013, held at the Errol Barrow Centre for Creative Imagination.
Lashley said: “Heritage preservation is really not an option. Heritage is an integral component of our cultural sector, with great potential to contribute to our socio-economic sustainability.
“I am sure that you will agree that of particular concern are the current state and the future of our architectural heritage. The importance of the appropriate restoration and maintenance of our historic built environment, especially which within Historic Bridgetown and its Garrison, cannot be underestimated,” he proclaimed.
The minister pointed out that there was a challenge in Barbados, and the region, to get “our people to regard this architectural heritage as theirs, and that it does not belong to the former colonial powers.”
“Ours is a shared and very varied heritage,” he added. “Our heritage buildings signify the collective memory and identity that reflects the experiences of persons who lived and worked there, who ultimately contributed to the uniqueness of its character, regardless of if they were of European or African ancestry.
“We must be proud of the enduring structure like the beautiful chattel houses, bay mansions, and upper level store houses. Those who designed and built them so many years ago displayed a great deal of skilled and professional workmanship and a specific, creolised Barbadian aesthetic.”
Reminding those gathered that his ministry’s role was to support and promote the protection, preservation and management of the island’s built heritage, he said the Task Force for the Preservation of the Built Heritage in Barbados had been established and was responsible for identifying sources of funding to assist with such preservation and conservation.
However, he admitted there was an “acute shortage” of trained professionals in all areas of conservation, adding the island needed to increase its capacity in conservation if it were to adequately maintain its built heritage.
Explaining that steps were being taken to meet this shortage, he said: “My ministry has entered into discussions with the Barbados Vocational Training Board, the Barbados Community College, the Samuel Jackman Prescod Polytechnic, and representatives of the Barbados Architects Association … with a view to developing a suitable conservation programme, which will ensure that the traditional building techniques are retained, and that historic buildings are maintained adequately.”
He noted that his ministry was also working with the Barbados National Trust, the Town and Country Development Planning Office and other partners to promote good conservation practices designed to preserve “our vernacular architecture”.
Stressing that it was not only Government’s responsibility, he said he was confident the private sector could work with Government to maintain the built heritage.
Lauding successful renovations within Historic Bridgetown and its Garrison, Lashley praised the newly renovated Masonic Lodge on Spry Street, a project of the Central Bank of Barbados; the Old Midwives Hospital in Bank Hall, which he said highlighted the excellent workmanship of the Ministry of Transport and Works; as well as two private residences on Nelson Street, including the Martineau Building.