Serious, relevant Ideas are taken for granted. Most of them evolve from uncomfortable experiences and not from magical sparks of sudden inspiration. At present, there are obvious external influences in everything we’re constructing for human occupation and otherwise. Our cadre of homegrown senior architects is silent out of frustration and disgust, to quote from a conversation recently. It didn’t begin where I am now. The gaff revolved around the absence of value placed on the broadside of the M.V Torani not so long ago, and if there were a movement of any type to preserve the excellence achieved and contributed to by Guyanese over the past 60 years, much less 200 years, to posterity; to conclude the need to be aware on the ‘M. V. Torani’ was the first largest ship built in the Caribbean in 1960, and the 75th launching carried out by Sprostons ltd. Since the company built its first vessel in 1949. If we cannot measure what we have done, then our self-esteem will always be subject to an inferior complex, that permits our readiness to be exploited, as true colonials are expected to be. Concerning the question of architecture and its design for the current and future categories of home-located business, which will be the option of the future, with the kind of businesses possibly not foreseen immediately but will emerge inevitably, carving out a significant niche in its infancy.
If our workforce is to be functionally sustained as traditional incomes dissipate, as with the once vibrant water-front, the sugar industry, and a host of other once-specialist businesses like advertising agencies, printers, and more important the cottage industries of once dependable joiner shops, art galleries, tailors and seamstresses, lost to cheap but expensive in the long run low-quality footwear and clothing via internet and local foreign stores, (Foreign means outside of the Caribbean cultural zone) who do not even sponsor a local domino tournament as traditional local businesses are accustomed to do. The economics of foreign stores do not comply with a give back, at least not to the local populace, not even through a Christmas advertisement. Therefore, the criteria to engage foreign businesses who supply the bulk of cheap goods, some in areas that can be produced here, is a mystery outside of their paying taxes when engaging public exchange social participation.
When activities, as mentioned in the last paragraph, are again activated as means of livelihood, even if they rent a house for production and living, when I say production, I am not talking about a factory. Still, it can be IT product development, photography, design of products that range from jewelry, craft items, kitchen accessories, music, T-shirt graphics, pre-school or social finishing classes, or any of a dozen expressions that require a studio area to work in comfortably, that entails earning, while maintaining a secure home environment, which means not stumbling on décor or other territory colonised legitimately by ‘the family’.
As a young man, it did seem that Guyana was going in that direction. Despite the ‘oil crisis shortages’ excellent produced peak caps were bought through Howes Street, Charlestown; sheets were sown, batik and professionally done tie-dye clothes executed locally were available, and Linco’s an Aladdin’s cave produced clothing that traders took to the islands and made money while satisfying local markets. I was even alarmed to discover that Traders took my comics sold them for GY$12 at GNTC, and were being sold for US$15 in the islands [it was GY$6 per US$1 at the time. The problem is that regardless of the high-end jobs that the oil industry will require ongoing, the majority of citizens need to live now. Most of those oil jobs in the interim will require experience in fields that we don’t have. Though the oil industry will initiate many new local career opportunities shortly, we must diversify. I’m reflecting on a different cottage industry performance stage in past Guyana. The reality is that the potential still exists. What we need is a legal framework, with active involvement between authorities and skilled personalities towards the organising of cottage industries/ cultural industries/ small businesses as the past collective represented. The challenge of Guyana from now rests with the standards of Architecture and design to accommodate home businesses, which represents in some metropolitan countries (last time I checked in the USA before COVID; 40 per cent of businesses were home located).
In closing, I pay attention to architecture because it was a school-age desire. Fate dictated otherwise, so I’m aware that each era commands a new expression. With the impact of technology on production and effective clarification-based communications, and the realisation of climate change, it should not be very difficult to envisage the potential and its possibilities.