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St. Ann's Bay Museum

Part 1 Project 2002
Mlela Matandara
University of Technology Kingston Jamaica, West Indies

The Final design project was a civic building in the Urban Context of St. Ann’s Bay.The given task was to design a Museum to house the artifacts of the heritage town of St. Ann and most importantly the nearby Plantation New Seville.

The site given was an expanse green terraced lot previously the home to Marcus Garvey’s photography studio. With its view of both sea and mountains it was a site waiting to be impregnated with a visionary yet historical landmark. The seductive riveting motion of the land evoked a strange bond with the idea of the museum and formulated the concept of levels, planes and a timeless journey of sensuous thought-provoking uses of light and space. The progression from the lowest level where only the mountains could be seen to the upper street level which bestowed the visitor with a breath-taking view of the sea gave birth to the concept of enlightenment for this was truly a journey at the climax of which one was given a new perception of the town. This would be the eventual journey through the museum. Essentially a series of levels carrying the visitor from view to view and stage to stage until the ultimate view point and reward had been attained that of an identity and a complete view of both mountains and sea.

The entry being the most important aspect of the scheme had to be one that impressed upon the individual their ignorance. Thus being a space that generated feelings through the materials used and the quality of light. It was designed to be a dark, damp space, the material of the walls being cut stone which can be cool to the touch with shards of light occurring at intervals, giving the visitor information about the journey they are about to undertake. They are then thrust from this dark passageway to the bright lobby which gives access to the galleries and free exploration of the museum.

The spatial components consisted of three two-storey gallery modules, a lobby area, sculpture garden along with an auditorium, café and museum shop which were independently accessible when the museum was closed. The museum service space was in the basement level, hidden from the view of the patrons under the sculpture garden along with parking. It consisted of curators and administration offices, workshop, storage and staff facilities. Other service areas included the security station, loading dock, entrance lobby and patron restrooms. There is an elevator and stairway located on either side of the museum. The steel and glass vertical circulation gallery linked the three two storey galleries and on the third floor provided an interactive gallery that would take the visitor through a climatic informative journey in the form of a short movie providing a fitting climax to the information section of the museum upon exit unto the upper level of the cut stone circulation tower where an expanse limitless view is bestowed upon the visitor of both the sea and mountains.

The galleries on the first floor are interactive installations and traveling exhibitions portraying current and historical scenes and events. The second floor galleries are more thought-provoking permanent displays of artifacts and stories of the town. These concrete galleries each have a central mezzanine which afforded the lower floor a soft light and the upper floor a sense of transparency. The slab roof planes of the galleries were convoluting in form symbolizing the fluidity of the native people and the exuberance and vitality of life displayed in their culture. The ceilings below the skylight are frosted glass emitting a soft, constant glow throughout the space.

The way in which light played on the different surfaces in the galleries was important from the rippling effect on the walls of the lower galleries from the water directly in front of it to the light bath on the top floor of the circulation tower. The gallery spaces were protected from the harsh intense sunlight by the adjustable louvers in the curvilinear shading devices which also moved in accordance with the time of the year and possibly deflect the direct rays. The option of photovoltaic panels installed above the skylights on each roof plane is a definite reality providing the museum with its own power supply and the use of water in the design was an attempt to create an environment that would facilitate the knowledge absorption process and enrich the journey to enlightenment.

Mlela Matandara

The final project, situated in the coastal town of St. Ann's Bay Jamaica, focussed on making a civic intervention into a historically charged context. The specific programme of museum required the acknowledgement of history as a generating theme, while not restricting the student to duplicating the vernacular. Ideological exploration was highly encouraged.
In this regard, the student worked well in the development of her idea, utilising a variety of methods. Primarily, ideas were developed 3-dimentionally in model and perspective form, exhibiting a good understanding of spatial manipulation and ideological representation. The re-interpretation and utilisation of local materials and detailing into contemporary form, allowed the project to retain a contextually relevant scale and language. Ultimately, the growth of the project from Parti into final form was steady, thoughtful and thorough, resulting in a sensitive, strong work.

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