Recycling old buildings; the future of T&T's tourism?
The proper preservation of historical buildings could set Trinidad and Tobago apart from the crowd and drive tourism numbers up, says restoration architect Rudylynn Roberts.
Speaking at a panel discussion held by the Trinidad and Tobago National Trust for World Heritage Day, Roberts said the key to modern tourism is preserving those aspects of culture that makes Trinidad and Tobago unique, instead of trying to mimic major cities.
“All of these things make us who we are, they represent our Caribbean people. All of that is part of the magic of historic buildings.”
“We keep talking about diversifying the economy…our old buildings can help with that. We are trying to get people to understand that our old buildings are important and we need to try and start using them to achieve our full economic potential.”
The event was held in commemoration of “World Heritage Day, International Day for Monuments and Sites 2017”.
Roberts said cultural tourism is the key to creating a unique experience that will keep tourists coming back to the country and said at present, the capital is beginning to mimic other major cities with no identifiable features to speak of.
“Cultural tourism is oriented toward exposing the visitor to unique historical sites and experiences…it is a blend of preservation, activities, and profit. People need to know that you can still live even while doing preservation projects.”
“This is where we seem to be heading with our architecture…everywhere looks like everywhere else,” she said, showing a presentation slide of the Port of Spain skyline compared to other major cities.
“They don’t talk about us, they do not talk about our culture, where we are from, our experiences, they don’t say anything, they could be anywhere in the world. The skylines are interchangeable.”
Architecture reinforcing identity
Roberts says historical architecture is also critical in fostering a sense of identity, belonging and pride.
“Through adaptive reuse, we can recycle our buildings, give them new life, so they can live again and continue to contribute to history and earn revenue for their own maintenance and support.”
“People who travel for cultural heritage tourism are interested in what we have to offer that’s unique to us.”
“They don’t want to come here and see Miami, they don’t want to come and see what they have at home, they want to come and see something different. They want to look at what we have, what we built.”
“All of these old buildings were built by our people. We built these buildings, our grandparents, our great-grandparents, it’s their craft, their art, their talent.”
“And we need to be proud of that, and try to keep the best of these old buildings so that we could teach future generations what life was like in the various periods when they were built.”
Also present at the discussion were Dr Rita Pemberton, head of the History Department at the University of the West Indies, St Augustine, Johanne Ryan, conservation officer at the Asa Wright Nature Centre, and Esther Vidale, project director of Nature Seekers.
The National Trust of Trinidad and Tobago was established by Act No 11 of 1991. In the Act, “listing” is defined as –“identification, cataloguing and recording of any property of interest.”
Recommendations for listing can only be made by the National Trust when the criteria stated in the Act are applied within related historic contexts.
While the Act makes provision for the Trust to purchase or and accept donations of Historic Property, it is not required for the Government to own or purchase any listed properties.
Private owners remain responsible for preservation and maintenance of such properties. It is still theirs to sell, mortgage, bequest or otherwise dispose of as they see fit.
The Trust may, in writing request the owner or the person in possession of listed property to disclose to the Trust the whereabouts of the property (as in the case of Art) and the person to whom the property is sold or given.
For more information on listed buildings visit the National Trust online at www.nationaltrust.tt