In March, Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness announced Kingston-based firm Design Collaborative as winner of the Government of Jamaica Houses of Parliament Design Competition. The proposal received first place from the jury and the people of Jamaica, who were invited to participate in the People’s Choice Award. Launched in May of 2018, the competition invited teams, led by a registered member of the Jamaican Institute of Architects, to submit proposals for a new democratic center in the nation’s capital. A total of 37 proposals were submitted, of which five were shortlisted. The shortlist was competitive, with icons such as David Adjaye and David Hutton appearing among the participants. Nevertheless, a team of four independent Jamaican architects, three of whom live in Texas, managed to capture the crown.
Daimian Hines, AIA, Gregory Lake, AIA, and Christopher Bent, Int. Assoc. AIA, occupy various roles in the Houston architecture scene. Previously only loosely connected by the profession, the group joined forces to produce the winning scheme for the international design competition. The competition, sponsored by famed Jamaican-born architect Gordon Gill, required that at least 50 percent of each team be of Jamaican heritage. This prompted a meeting among Hines, Lake, and Bent, who connected the group to long-established Jamaican architect Evan Williams. After assessing their team’s capabilities in design, communications, and project management, they decided it was time to “lock the door for a few months and deliver a design.” As Hines says: “This was more than just a project. This was an opportunity to work on the most significant building in the history of the country where we were born.”
The competition called for a design, sited in Kingston’s National Heroes Park, that both represented the rich history of Jamaica and propelled the nation into the future. Designers were tasked with creating a public, democratic center and greenspace that would vitalize local urbanism and establish a welcoming sense of community. The complex program called for the accommodation of contrasting spaces — both private governmental functions and open, public areas that encourage discourse and interaction. The jury, made up of leaders from various Caribbean architectural societies, schools, and professional institutions, found those qualities in the proposal by Design Collaborative.
Titled “Out of Many, One People” — the motto emblazoned across the Jamaican coat of arms — the proposal is representative of the history of governance and intersecting cultures that have generated Jamaica’s modern national identity. Alongside the African majority, Jewish, Syrian, Lebanese, Indian, Chinese, German, English, Scottish, and Irish populations have also put down roots on this Caribbean island. Reminiscent of traditional Jamaican colonial architecture, the design’s rectangular crossing columns metaphorize Jamaica’s historic cultural melding while simultaneously mirroring the nation’s flag, first flown in 1962 when Jamaica established political independence from Britain. The columns also represent the inter-connectivity of citizens and elected representatives working together to advance the nation. The building’s circular plan is equally significant in symbolism and distinction. This form not only represents unity, but also eliminates any hierarchy of front, back, and side. The 52-acre oval site allows access from all directions, prompting the team to design a building that welcomes visitors from any angle. The jury appreciated the complex narrative embedded in the design, noting that “the bold and circular form assertively conveys the symbolic value of the parliament and successfully accommodates the functional requirements.” With the help of OJB Landscape Architecture, the team integrated this visual statement into the existing park by submerging service areas and parking to create public greenspaces, such as the “People’s Plaza,” a sculpture garden, and an outdoor amphitheater. While the original competition only called for the development of a singular building, the Government of Jamaica broadened the scope of construction to include the proposal’s complete park redesign.
The project is set to break ground next fall, and completion is anticipated in 2023, just one year after the 60th anniversary of Jamaican independence.
Sophie Aliece Hollis is an architecture and journalism student at UT Austin and TA’s editorial intern.