Cocktails With - Julie Sullivan JonesSunday, November 30, 2014
We spot the ever-so-personable Harvard-educated Julie Sullivan Jones, architect (registered in USA) and lecturer at UTech's Caribbean School of Architecture (CSA) at The Barrington Gallery, where Bernadette McKinley-Matalon is debuting her Emergence collection, and later in Boston where she's all set to slice the turkey...
You are readying for Thanksgiving: does it bear as much significance today as, say, two decades ago?
Thanksgiving is all about gratitude, accepting what you have and sharing the day with people who have helped you along the way. Our last Thanksgiving in the US was in 2006. It is sad for me to experience how, in only eight years, the merchandising of the curiously-named Black Friday has taken over and warped the message of this holiday. The sense of deprivation a merchant would have you feel, in order to stimulate you to buy more, have more and want more, is in stark contrast to accepting where you are and breaking bread with those who are significant in your life.
Where are you originally from and what brought you to Jamaica?
I'm from Boston, Massachusetts. My husband, Mark Jones, had a consulting assignment in Kingston, Jamaica. His assignment lasted a few years, and we visited Jamaica on his business trips. Our son, Anders, who was then 14, saw the need for computers in schools and created an NGO, Teens for Technology. He and his schoolmates in the Boston area helped to fund and give computer labs to over 350 schools throughout Jamaica over the next four years. We travelled to every corner of the island and met so many fine people that we, as a family, decided to move here. So Mark extended his business, and here we are.
You are an architect who lectures at the region's premier school of design and architecture. What are the challenges (if any) and what do you try to impart to your Caribbean students?
The Caribbean School of Architecture serves (CSA) students throughout the English-speaking Caribbean and offers a rigorous, practice-based education. In our third-year studio, we teach that architectural form must be generated by climactic circumstance. Our biggest challenge is to keep students focused on designing architecture that is unique to the Caribbean, and to address the problems -- and the opportunities -- created by relentless sunlight, heavy rain and big breeze. With the Internet and the media bringing award-winning international design to our doorstep, the temptation is strong to assume that what works in Europe, North America and northern Asia will get you an "A" at the CSA. It does not. Successful design precedents are from the tropical areas of Australia, Singapore, Africa, south Asia, and, of course, from our neighbouring Caribbean nations. These precedents, particularly those at the commercial scale, need to be put forward in our media as examples to follow.
The biggest challenge for those of us at CSA is a matter beyond our control: professional demand for architects in Jamaica is far below what it should be. It is hard for me and my colleagues to watch only a fraction of our Jamaican graduates find meaningful work in the field and gain the experience required to become fully-fledged professionals.
Does the Caribbean truly have its own design aesthetic?
Yes! The control of sun, breeze and water guide the language for our Caribbean aesthetic. Look for its most visible elements: sun screens, deep roof overhangs, covered walkways, verandahs, recessed windows, louvres, and sensitivity to the position and amount of glass. The biggest aesthetic is the quality of our interiors. Architecturally connecting indoors with outdoors frees us to surround ourselves with lush landscape, bounced light and fresh air -- yet still you can maintain your privacy, no matter the size of your yard or urban condition. Taking advantage of our natural elements results in a spatial and sensorial experience that is to be envied throughout the world.
We incredibly work in high/low-rise buildings that are all powered by electricity and are in need of air-conditioning 24/7. What's your take on this?
Properly designed architecture greatly reduces the dependence on air conditioning. We need to regulate the three rules of conservations: reduce, reuse and recycle. Each of these can be applied directly to our architectural language. Water collection, solar energy collection and breeze control will change our dependence and cost. There are many successful precedents.
Which architecture, old or new, do you find inspiring and why?
I am in awe of the work of Gordon Gill, the Jamaican-born architect practicing in Chicago with Adrian Smith. Check them out at SmithGill.com http://SmithGill.com. They are doing at a very large scale sustainable, intelligent, cutting-edge, drop-dead gorgeous architectural work. I'm a huge fan, daunted by the scale of their vision, research, and ability to put into practice what many of us just talk about.
If you could turn the clock back and be part of a building renaissance, which period would that be and why?
The era of High Middle Ages -- 1,000 AD -- and medieval cathedral-building: breaking through the limitations of materials with new structural ideas; integrating sculpture, mosaic and painting with architectural space to embody liturgical ritual and storytelling; and most important, inspiring societal values with a visible form.
How do you see Kingston's landscape 20 years from now?
I see our famous Kingston Harbour with eight times as many cargo wharves driving a new maritime economy, beginning with the CHEC transshipment centre alongside the airport. I see a revitalised downtown with a vibrant entertainment district at its core. Visitors from around the world mix with Kingstonians and listen to unplugged artistes, enjoy great food and good drinks. Curry Market will be legendary. Kingston's fabulous architecture will be rehabilitated, and new Caribbean-style buildings will replace open lots. Kingston's original grid of streets rebuilt, and the JPS wires will all be underground. Port Royal will be a living museum, marine lab, marina and navy yard surrounded by a cutting-edge, ecologically built town full of new housing powered by sun and wind energy.
And your dress style?
Interesting tunics by boutique designers worn with Capri leggings.
What's your favourite perfume?
Arpége Eau de Parfum [now discontinued]. When my supply runs out, it'll be Chanel No 5.
Flats or heels?
Heels, whenever possible.
LBD or jeans?
I never wear jeans.
What's your idea of the perfect date?
Enjoying a show of fine or performing arts — or comedy — then a delicious meal with good conversation and laughter.
What's on your playlist?
Joe Sample, Anita Baker, Til Bronner, Pat Metheny, Bob James, Norah Jones, Antonio Carlos Jobim, Paul Simon, Michael Buble.
When are you happiest?
Being with family and old friends; sinking a difficult putt; painting/drawing.
Where do you see yourself five years from now?
Taking part in the gradual redevelopment of downtown Kingston.