Dr. Perry Polar (Caribbean Network for Urban and Land Management (CNULM), Trinidad and Tobago), along with Carolyn Trench Sandiford (President of the Caribbean Planners Association (CPA), Belize), Femia Wasenhagen (FERACON Planning and Design Consultants, Suriname), Margaret McDowall-Thompson (Planner, Trinidad and Tobago), Marie Duarul (Eco-construction consultant, cd2e, France) and Christine Lafeuille (Risk Assessment Specialist, Lille Metropole, France) were invited to attend the Conference entitled “Rencontres Guadeloupéennes de L’Urbanism et du Bâtiment Durable” (The Guadeloupe experience in Urbanization and Sustainable Buildings) from 7th -10th October 2015. This event was hosted by Réseau D’Urbanisme Durable (Guadeloupe), The Council for Architecture, Town planning and Environment (CAUE), Agence de’lEnvironment et de la Maîtrise de l’Energie (Guadeloupe) and other sponsors.
Dr. Polar presented on the Caribbean Urban Forum. His key points included:
• He spoke a bit French but preferred to deliver his presentation in English
• Tobago was a French colony. Although Trinidad was not a colony of France, there was substantial number of French settlers in Trinidad and Tobago in the late 18th Century. This has had significant impact on our culture including the development of a patois (no longer spoken by mainstream), Trinidad Carnival and some characters within it. He stated that there is need for a closer relationship between Trinidad and Tobago and France.
• The CNULM was a networking organization bringing together Universities, agencies and organizations in urban and land management. He spoke to3 projects in heritage and curriculum review.
• He stated that the Caribbean Urban Forum is a gathering of policy makers, land use practitioners, academics and other land management professions for policy dialogue, knowledge sharing and capacity building. He shared information on the countries which hosted CUFs since 2011, number of participants, organization/ countries of attendance and key activities at CUF5 in St Lucia earlier this year.
• He noted that CUF2016 will be held in Suriname defined the theme and sub-themes
• He posited the question asking if the audience would like CUF2017 to be held in Guadeloupe. There was a response by the audience that we would work towards this possibility.
• There is the possibility of facilitating internships for students in the French Caribbean at CNULM.
The other presenters focused on the following topics:
• Plan to introduce a rapid bus (electric) system in Martinique (Franck Numeric)
• Strategies for de-polluting industrial sites to make them fit for use (Christine Lafeuille)
• Recycling clothing for use as insulation material (Marie Darul)
• Proposed heritage conservation plans for areas in Port of Spain (Belmont, Woodford Square, Piccadilly, Queens Park Savannah) (Margaret MacDowall-Thompson)
• Description of an ecologically sustainable building a Le Parc National de Guadeloupe (Perrine Huguet and Lauren Seauve)
• Details on Degree in Architecture and Sustainable Buildings in Caribbean and Amazonian environment (Ted Soubdhan and Véronique Phalente)
• Eco-construction- see, touch, understand (Marie Darul)
• The potential for a bamboo industry in Suriname to supply construction materials (Femia Wasenhagen)
• Challenges in the planning profession in the Caribbean (Carolyn Sandiford Trench)
The Conference also had several associated activities. These included:
(1) Visit to Basse Terre and Pointe-à-Pitre
Guadeloupe is composed of the two main islands, Grande Terre and Basse Terre as well as smaller islands and has a land area of 1629 km2. Grande Terre and Basse Terre are separated by a narrow strait which is bridged. A field trip was organized from Le Gossier (a sea side resort area) is part of the urban area of Pointe-à-Pitre which is the commercial capital of Guadeloupe as it is the site of its main port and home to approximately 40% of its population. Basse-Terre (the administrative capital) is located on the southwestern part of the island, also termed Basse Terre which is largely mountainous. The city was founded in 1643 but was temporarily evacuated in 1976 when Le Grand Soufriere erupted.
(2) New headquarters at National Park of Guadeloupe
A sustainable building was constructed at the new headquarters of the National Park of Guadeloupe. The building was designed to follow the contours of the landscape and not to damage the terrain. Boulders from the area were collected to form the foundation.
Internally the building is composed of mainly of a mesh with attached pieces of wood. This allows for the free flow of air negating the need for air conditioning but also allows for shade in the lobby and corridors. Transparent plastic sheeting and reflectors on the windows also allows for light. Birds and other small creatures may have interaction with people, a concept which is disappearing in our current form of urbanization.
(3) Memorial ACTe
The Memorial ACTe (Centre Caribeen d’expressions et de Mémoire de la Traite et de L’Esclavage – Caribbean Centre for the expressions and the memory of the slave trade and slavery). Construction began in 2013 and it was inaugurated on May 10th 2015 by French President François Hollande in the presence of several ACP Heads of State and the people of Guadeloupe.
Inspired by the impressive root system of the banyan trees which grows into bare rock on an adjacent hill, the architectural design chosen was “Silver roots on a black box”. The black box represents the cornerstone sheltering the riches contained in the knowledge of the past on which memory was being built. The roots represent the quest for the origins to which the history of slavery and the slave trade. The structure also forms part of a waterfront urban regeneration project for Pointe-à-Pitre.
(4) Construction of Elderly hospital with sustainability elements
The Elderly Hospital at Palais Royal, City of Abymes is currently under construction. The names of the wings reflect the names of the countries of the Caribbean. It will house elderly persons with Alzheimer’s Disease and persons without hence issues of access were considered (i.e. requirement for passes, high fences).
Of note is the solar air conditioning which is being installed. Water in tubes on the roof will be heated by the sun and pumped into vats. While some hot water will be used to supply the needs of the facility, for the most part, the energy will be extracted from the water and used to generate electricity through a process of gas exchange. The water will then be cooled and pumped through insulated pipes in the building for cooling.
All participants were pleased for the opportunity to learn from the Guadeloupe experience as Guadeloupe has demonstrated the ability to translate urban planning concepts of actions which can impact on energy efficiency and climate change.