March Newsletter 2023

Trainees learning to laser scan with Dr Brent Fortenberry, onsite at Roebuck Street.


Over two weeks in January 2023, 40 young people from the Caribbean, UK, and US carried out a comprehensive investigation of the historic architecture of Roebuck Street, Bridgetown. Within the UNESCO World Heritage Site, many of the buildings on this 650-meter long historic street have been neglected over the years and its regeneration is a priority for people on the Island. The Roebuck Street Research Studio is an important step towards this goal, generating the data needed to inform a conservation management plan. Trainees completed work on building documentation, investigation, and preservation mapping, using digital technologies such as drones, LiDAR, and 3D scanning. The data collected is being translated by Tulane University students in New Orleans and will inform the plan for Roebuck Street. The Research Studio has given young people the opportunity to learn new conservation skills on a practical project, training the next generation of heritage professionals, whilst contributing towards the preservation of the heritage that local people value.

The Research Studio was delivered in partnership with the Tulane School of Architecture, New Orleans, on behalf of the Roebuck Street Redevelopment Trust. The CHF’s Queen Elizabeth II Platinum Jubilee Heritage Skills Training Skills Programme made it possible for 6 UK-based participants to travel to Barbados and take part in the two-week training course.

This newsletter features articles from Sir Trevor Carmichael (Chairman, Roebuck Street Redevelopment Trust), Mr Ronald Boyce (Head of Building, Samuel Jackman Prescod Institute of Technology), Dr Brent Fortenberry (Christovich Associate Professor of Historic Preservation at Tulane University School of Architecture), and Claudette Levi-Farnum (Trainee at the Roebuck Street Research Studio).


Trainees learn more about building documentation and condition assessment on site, Roebuck Street.


The Road Ahead is Roebuck Street
by Sir Trevor Carmichael, K.C.

The road ahead is Roebuck Street.  It is a street scape of importance and very special significance.  Like Wall Street in New York, it is important to Barbados but with a difference.  It is however more important than Wall Street because it encompasses not only business, but also all of the components which make Barbados what it is, what it was, and hopefully what it will continue to be in its full manifestation.  For, it is the street on which Barbados' Parliament first met in 1639.

 The story of Roebuck Street goes back to the "Roebuck" tavern from which the street received its name; and as early as 1700 people referred to it as Roebuck Street or more fashionably "The Roebuck".  Earlier, it was the "Causeway" as a result of the bridge which spanned the gully at its entrance.

Today Roebuck Street is easily one of the more cosmopolitan spaces in Barbados.  Its ownership and property structure regime consists of two Police structures, the Insurance Corporation of Barbados, the Calvary Moravian Church, The Barbados Labour Party Headquarters, Harrison College, The Nation Newspapers; and numerous business houses owned by a wide variety of persons of differing classes, colours, religions and professions as well as the Crown.  The ownership structure is such that some vacant lots and homes are present, some structures are under proper maintenance, while others require that care and attention which regrettably is sometimes sadly missing but often plagues areas of important interest.

 At the apex of this street is the Globe Cinema, once referred to as the Picture Palace of the Caribbean, and which opened in December 1949 with a glamorous function reminiscent of that era; and with at least 200 persons attending.  The Globe maintained its glamour until about two years ago when it closed for business after many years of movie viewing, shows and spectacular entertainment.

The Globe serves as the symbol and the substance of a Roebuck Street crying tearfully for regeneration with a purpose - a future Globe Cinema not unlike Hawaii's Palace Theatre, acting as a spur to a nascent local movie industry and lively entertainment sector.  Allow me to venture into the movie industry today in its various manifestations; as it is replete with financial opportunities carrying both social and economic benefits.

In the case of New York, the television and film industry is not surprisingly the second largest in the world ranking after Hollywood.  It is recognized as a growth sector even though it employs approximately 100,000 people and raises approximately US$5 billion in revenue every year.  Toronto's film industry on the other hand provides some relevant lessons for Barbados since it is smaller than New York.  It is primarily a city of location shooting as opposed to studio filming, and as would apply to Barbados, it has had to provide important tax incentives and engage in judicious marketing to achieve success. After starting virtually at the back of the pack, Toronto's television and film cluster now ranks third in North America (and by extension the world).  Many of its attributes for success are present, or on a very small scale potentially present in Barbados.  For Barbados has a reasonably large amount of creative and technical talent which will garner greater experience exponentially as movie and television making is attracted to the island.  Barbados has also understood the tax and financial benefits of signing "co-production treaties" with important movie making jurisdictions, and it will hopefully hasten the process of legally entering into such treaties.  More germane to our present considerations however are the diverse sets of possible locations which include our parks and our other many historic sites, not to mention our places of natural beauty and interest.  A Roebuck Street regenerated is one such place.

A Roebuck Street consortium will be best suited to bring together government, property owners and interested parties to agree on a strategy of regeneration with the purpose of improving Roebuck Street facades, purchasing or beautifying open spaces and ultimately creating a street experience (possibly even a weekend pedestrianised street) capable of attracting movie making and recreational enjoyment.  It will be a street capable of benefiting from the creative and beautiful Church Village Restoration undertaken by the Central Bank of Barbados and the proposed imagination as well as caring to be extended by the Synagogue and Codds House regeneration now being undertaken by the Barbados Jewish Community.  The presence of a regenerated Globe Cinema will add to the beauty and authencity of the Roebuck Street regeneration project.  The Roebuck Street Consortium is presently in the embryonic stages and will canvass for Government's fiscal and other incentives to facilitate and encourage a smart and successful regenerative process.  It will also tangentially seek to identity a list of workers who have been recently displaced; and it will endeavour to incorporate them where possible in to the work of the Consortium.

Ladies and gentleman this is not a call to arms, or even a call to fight.  It is, instead, a call to take on a multilayered project capable of careful and insightful planning which (with all things being equal "ceteris paribus") is guaranteed success at the planning and execution levels, and capable of delivery within a three to five year period.

In closing allow me to invoke the spiritual inspiration of 19th Century William Butler Yeats in buttressing the four successful regenerative models which I have today explored (two local, two overseas); and also the proposed regenerated Roebuck Street which can borrow so much from those four models.  For Yeats so softly reminds us:

Labour is blossoming or dancing where

The body is not bruised to pleasure soul,

Nor beauty born out of its own despair,

Nor blear-eyed wisdom out of midnight oil.

O chestnut tree, great-rooted blossomer,

Are you the leaf, the blossom or the bole?

O body swayed to music, O brightening glance,

How can we know the dancer from the dance?

Let the new Roebuck Street be the blossom and the leaf

Let us enjoy the dance, dance dance ………





Magazine Lane, off Roebuck Street.

Photographs above (Roebuck Street), Catherine Restrepo, TuSA.

An opportunity to learn, observe, and interact
by Ronald Boyce

The Samuel Jackman Prescod Institute of Technology (SJPI) was represented at the Roebuck Street Research Studio by myself, Mr Ronald Boyce Head of the Building Division, along with Mr Basil Small, Masonry instructor and six students from the Masonry Programme.  The purpose of the training session was to provide students with the opportunity to observe and interact with trainees from the UK, US, and Caribbean, as they compiled information using a 3D digital scanner and LiDAR equipment.

On arrival at the synagogue the group was introduced to the trainees along with Dr Brent Fortenberry.  The group then interacted with the trainees until they were ready to return to the Roebuck Street Studio to continue scanning the buildings within the environ.

After giving brief instructions to the trainees and compiling the data, Dr Brent Fortenberry took the SJPI team into the courtyard and gave a synopsis of how the 3D LiDAR laser scanner works. Dr Fortenberry highlighted that the scanner gathers accurate data by emitting laser light and then measuring how long it takes for light to hit the surface and bounce back to the sensor. Additionally, Dr Fortenberry emphasized that as the speed of light is constant, the time that it takes to get to the surface and bounce back tells the 3D scanner the distance between them. Once the distance is determined, the laser will begin scanning and measuring distances one point at a time. The scanner will measure thousands of data points of the surface in its field of vision within a matter of seconds.

The students were particularly intrigued by the fact that the data points can be used to accurately build a digital model which can be converted into 3D CAD formats using 3D software such as Artec Studio.

After this, the SJPI team was escorted to the Metropolitan High School in Roebuck Street where the scanner was attached to a tripod and an advanced trainee demonstrated how the scanner is used to photograph the buildings and record important data such as the dimensions and the defects of the buildings. Once the buildings were scanned the equipment was shifted approximately eight to ten feet from the previous location and the process of scanning was repeated.

After observing a few scans SJPI  students were given the opportunity to use the equipment. At first most students were hesitant to accept the offer but after one brave student decided to give it a try the other students quickly joined in. Eventually the students appeared to be at ease in using the equipment.

After spending about two hours in the field the group returned to the studio where they interacted with the trainees that were compiling the data. The field trip provided the opportunity for students to develop an appreciation for the 3D scanner and this kind of digital technology.

Currently, the SJPI offers programmes in Architectural Drafting and the Structural Drafting.  Students in these programs can benefit significantly from being exposed to 3D digital scanner and LiDAR equipment, since they are directly involved in designing new buildings and reproducing drawings to restore older projects.

This will assist in the

  • designing classes
  • Producing models
  • 3d printing

Dr Fortenberry will visit the SJPI and provide demonstrations to the Drafting students in May when he returns to Barbados to share the conservation management report with the Roebuck Street Redevelopment Trust. The Building Division at SJPI is very appreciative of this kind gesture.

The Barbados National Trust can also benefit from this technology by using the data to restore additional building in Roebuck Street, Bridgetown and its environs, or examine older building to determine their structural integrity. Construction companies can also use the data to give a detailed breakdown of how much has been accomplished on a worksite, which will ensure that deadlines are met or monitor the progress of a project. This opportunity to collaborate with the training programme was really fantastic.

Vibrancy of colour used in and around Barbados.

Student sketches of Roebuck Street, photographed by Catherine Restrepo, TuSA.

Roebuck Street Reflection
by Dr Brent Fortenberry

For the last ten years, I have had the privilege of working in Barbados with local stakeholders, particularly the Barbados National Trust. During that period, I have run a series of field schools that train heritage conservation students at the undergraduate and post-graduate levels from Barbados, the US, and UK. These programs have offered unparalleled experiential learning. In the past our programs have focused on sites of national importance such as Morgan Lewis Windmill and Gun Hill Signal Fort, as well as the cultural landscape of Speightstown. This year, however, was something special. The Roebuck Street corridor represents one of the shrinking numbers of historic corridors not just in Barbados but in the English-speaking Caribbean. The work generated through this studio will be crucial for stakeholders to make the critical conservation choice to preserve and celebrate the rich history of Bridgetown.

Over two weeks, students from the Commonwealth Heritage Forum Heritage Queen Elizabeth II Platinum Jubilee Heritage Skills Training Programme, the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill, and Tulane University Historic Preservation Program, undertook a comprehensive investigation of the historic built environment of the Roebuck Street Corridor. The overall project is being completed in collaboration with the Roebuck Street Redevelopment Trust, the Barbados National Trust, and the Synagogue Historic District.

Students completed detailed architectural descriptions of each building within the study area; this survey leveraged an ArcGIS platform with data collection taking place using a smartphone app. Next, students recorded the architectural conditions of each building to understand the various elements of decay present on the street-side façade of each of the buildings. The team also used terrestrial laser scanning (tls) and photogrammetry to create a series of street-facing elevations of each building.

After the two weeks on site, Tulane students returned to New Orleans to start the second phase in the research studio. The students are currently translating the digital data from the tls and photogrammetry into building elevations. From there, students will take the architectural conditions they identified onto the elevation drawings. Students will also identify opportunities for adaptive re-use for buildings on Roebuck Street.

The final component of the research studio is a proposal for a new interpretive space that celebrates the street’s rich history through the historic built environment using 115 Roebuck Street, a 19th-century urban storehouse as the context.

Collaborative projects such as these build heritage capacity for stakeholders. One of the challenges of understanding the historic built environment of Bridgetown is that the UNESCO World Heritage nomination focused heavily on the street grid and not the surviving standing built heritage. This research studio is the first step to better understand the town’s continuum of architectural heritage.

At the same time, this research studio is an opportunity to train the next generation of heritage conservation leaders on emerging technologies and best practices in the field.

The resulting deliverables for the program will include:

  1. Comprehensive Street-façade drawings of all the building
  2. Conservation conditions mapping for all buildings on Roebuck Street
  3. Conservation Management Plan for Roebuck Street
  4. Design guidelines for the corridor for adaptive architectural interventions and rehabilitation projects
  5. Interpretive narrative for Roebuck Street

Trainees deliver presentations on their findings from work on building investigation, documentation, and condition mapping.

Photographs above (laser scanning, Roebuck Street) Catherine Restrepo, TuSA.

A gift of an opportunity
by Claudette Levi-Farnum

Students from the Tulane University School of Architecture, New Orleans, along with six other students from different colleges across the United Kingdom, made a visit to Barbados for the purpose of conducting heritage conservation surveys for Roebuck Street, Bridgetown.  The capital city of historic Bridgetown and its Garrison have been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  This site, in conjunction the island as a whole, having a British colonial past, is replete with a rich heritage, which include a treasure trove of historic buildings.  It was through the ties of  architectural heritage to history, that I was drawn into this programme.

Therefore, through the diligence of my former Lecturer/Supervisor, Dr. Tara Inniss, of the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus, toward mentorship, I was introduced to Dr. Brent Fortenberry, his assistants and architecture students.  They were in Barbados to work on a project through which they mapped the buildings of Roebuck Street and surrounding areas in Bridgetown.  This exercise could be regarded as highly beneficial to the preservation of the relics of our built heritage. Consequently, the two weeks I spent with this group of professionals and students was a priceless gift.  We interacted on many levels, primarily bringing the built heritage of the city alive through the tools of information and technology.  The chronicling of this streetscape would be an important addition to the listing of heritage sites and buildings across the island.

This experience was such a gift of knowledge, experience, productive interaction, and relationship building.  Architecture has always been an area in which I held keen interest, an area I would explore, because as a Historian the architecture of historic buildings merged for me.  I would independently peruse online articles and theoretical information related to the architectural styles and types that had been left to us from yesteryear.  Therefore, sitting with Dr. Fortenberry and his students in a classroom setting and being armed with critical assessment information, and going out into the field to use the information to identify architectural features, increased my knowledge base, adding new and detailed practical weapons to my professional arsenal.

As a group we worked well together to complement the necessary outcomes. Therefore, on the ground there was a collaborative exchange of ideas and information, where I was able to fill in the historical data that created and informed the settlement of Barbados and Bridgetown, honing perspective.  Conversely, the team examined and elaborated on the architectural design types of the existing structures.  Filling in these gaps and building out the information, created a foundational understanding of the historic architectural product existing in Bridgetown and specifically on Roebuck Street.  Additionally, the use of the scanning technology used by the team was also critical to mapping the area.  This interaction with the technology was one of the important factors in the field study.  Being exposed to working with the scanner  was a very interesting experience, one which I would not ordinarily have had opportunity to do.  Initially the task seemed daunting and I didn’t think I could interact with it in a meaningful way, which meant entering the data and commands to elicit the correct information.  However, surprise, surprise, it was not as difficult as I initially thought.  The great thing is that this amazing tool created accurate images of the streetscape in real-time.  Truly amazing!

I thoroughly enjoyed the time I spent on the programme, as the exposure to the participants, subject material and technology, made for a very valuable experience.  As previously stated, I see the opportunity to be involved in this programme as a real gift.  The information and experience gained during this period has enabled me to assess our building stock in a more detailed way  than I was able to do, prior to becoming a part of this fine group.  Therefore, professionally I am more informed, and armed with material that serves to enhance not only my knowledge base but the quality of my product offering as a Historian/Tour Guide.

Laser Scan Elevation, Trafalgar Hotel, TuSA.

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