Remi Groenendijk

Architectural Engineering: Sint Maarten

Bethlehem; from exploitation to ecosystem service

Over time, building cultures can become extremely well adapted to their direct physical and social context. The Dutch colonised Sint Maarten in 1631, disturbing the original building culture by bringing their own building traditions and materials. They also brought slaves, to work on the various plantations.

 Many of the current descendants of the original slaves experience trouble with their housing conditions; there is a constant threat of hurricanes and a general lack of building knowledge and materials. The island depends on imports. Using cheap concrete to build something resembling bunkers seems to be their only option.

 The proposed intervention transforms an abandoned sugarcane plantation (Bethlehem) into a public park that cultivates natural building materials; mostly bamboos. The main building is a craft school. The exemplary design embodies traditional vernacular building principles and invites the surrounding communities to learn how to build cooperatively, in a climate responsive and sustainable way.

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