Founded in 2000, Cornerstone.design is a creative and professional architectural design firm that offers a variety of professional architectural services, including but not limited to architectural design, heritage and adaptive reuse, urban design and planning, commercial interiors, and contract administration. “We consider ourselves to be innovative and contemporary while recognizing the special conditions of the Jamaican environment”. Issues such as culture, history, context, climate, and the use of regionally available materials are given particular importance in Cornerstone projects. The company is particularly interested in reusing heritage, ruin, and longstanding building structures in new and innovative ways. It is the firm’s belief that greater cost-effectiveness, efficiency and a better way of life can be achieved through design.
Cornerstone.design has two directors, (L) David Douglas and (R) Christoper Whyms-Stone, both of whom attained their Bachelor's degree in Architecture-Design from the University of Florida, and Masters degree in Architecture from the University of Technology, and Harvard University respectively. In an effort to ‘give back’, both principals were for more than ten years part-time lecturers at the Caribbean School of Architecture, University of Technology Jamaica.
In this global economic crisis, many companies everywhere have had to downsize. “There has undoubtedly been a decline in the construction sector especially at the scale projects in which architects are involved,” expressed Mr. Whyms-Stone, who added that his company has had to downsize staff. It was indirect, he said but came at a good time as two staff members were returning to school to pursue their Master's degrees. The company chose to strategically leave those positions unfilled in an effort to remain financially responsible during the economic crisis, and as such, the partners became even more hands-on in delivering projects.
When asked about the company’s contribution to green initiatives Douglas responds “I would not say we are a ‘green’ focused firm, however, I would say that as a firm we focus on good building practices, which inherently applies ‘green’ methods and technologies to each project”. Where possible Cornerstone.design takes advantage of the best qualities of each piece of land, particularly for projects where the terrain is sloping.
The company manages the use of the terrain to capitalize on the advantages of views, winds and to mitigate the sun exposure. At all scales, the firm designs spaces that would benefit from natural light and natural ventilation as much as possible. They have undertaken projects that harvested rainwater and made use of photovoltaic technology. Their work purposefully responds to the tropical climate and microclimate of the Caribbean region and the site. Particular attention is paid to building envelopes, which must avert a building’s ability to become a heat battery while facilitating controlled natural light and natural ventilation. (Photos of the Wright Resident)
There are few professions that are truly able to challenge conventions and shape our world in quite the same way that Architecture does. Whyms-Stone agrees, adding that architects are place and building makers. They are both architect and surgeon in making and remaking the physical built space we inhabit as human beings. Along with a team of planners, engineers and surveyors, architects shape our environment. The truth is that as technology, materials, lifestyles, perceptions and expectations change, the spatial possibilities for habitable spaces are also liable to be influenced.
Cornerstone.design’s built work has been in Jamaica. They’ve designed projects within the region but sadly they have not been built. “We would love to one day have a built project on a continent,” shared Douglas, as he continues to list the company as a full-service architectural firm, offering service from program development through contract administration. The firm designs all building types and scales
Whyms-Stone’s advice to young graduates testing the architectural market is to first get hired or apprentice with an experienced architect or firm. Join your local professional association, and develop relationships with others in the industry. Maintain a high level of professionalism at all times, and ask questions about things you don’t know, as you are not expected to know everything. Most importantly, be ethical in your approach to practice. (L) West End Negril Library (R) Double Height Cyber Cafe for the National Youth Center
It is part of Cornerstone.design’s practice to offer mentorship. “I would say it is something we strongly believe in and do. This is especially important in times of recession when the practice cannot provide employment for all the young graduates. It is usually this pool of pre-professionals who are approached and accept commissions to do small residential renovations and similar scale projects.” Cornerstone.design provides mentees with guidance in the design and professional practice and has found it to be a successful method of providing guided experience for the future professionals.
In keeping up with the technological mix, Douglas said the company has had to adapt to ever-changing advancements. He adds that technology changes so quickly, but currently they are using Vectorworks and Sketchup in-house for design, modeling and construction drawings. The firm sometimes outsources for presentation renders and animation. They do not, however, work with Building Information Modeling (BIM) in-house but have collaborated on projects with consultants who do. “It really is an amazing tool,” adds Whyms-Stone. (L) National Youth Center Proposed Floor Plans (R) Wright Resident
In addressing the question on voids and similarities as it relates to design and how we as diverse cultures learn from each other, Whyms-Stone said that “design is design” in terms of process. He went on to state that good designs must undergo rigor and interrogation. It shouldn’t matter what is being designed, he added. “We use processes and methods of thinking as the route to a final product. We can learn from each other because there are in fact cultural similarities and differences in how we perceive and use space”.
The building below is, The West End Negril Library, which, was completed in 2009 in the resort town of Negril, Westmoreland Jamaica. The existing library was a traditional timber building over 60 years old, which served as the original police station for the once small fishing village. The project entailed rehabilitating and reusing the existing 80 sq. mile building while adding an additional 300 sq. mile of new building to the library. The structure is organized in terms of served and service spaces. This idea was influenced by a connecting element, which was used to link the existing building to the new construction. This element became a repetitive organizer throughout the building. Much of the material pallet was swayed by the traditional construction in Negril using utility poles and timber. These were juxtaposed with a variety of concrete renders, glass planes and other elements. High ceilings and an abundance of natural light, distinguished the served spaces. Except for the computer room, the rest of the building is naturally ventilated. (L)Proposed Expansion Floor Plan for the West End Negril Library (R) West End Negril Library
The National Youth Service and National Center for Youth Development’s Youth Center are currently under construction in Spanish Town, St. Catherine. This 800 sq. meter building is intended to serve as a youth hub offering programs in career, deportment and development to at-risk youth. The two central elements are the double height cyber café, and the training and seminar rooms. The site exists within the Historic District and has on it the remains of the almost two hundred-year-old original Police Station’s buildings. The new building incorporates one of the brick ruins and reuses it as a primary feature. The superstructure for the Youth Center is made from structural steel, which remains exposed throughout the design. This material was chosen for its strength, thinness, and contrast against the existing thick brick walls. The steel provided the spans necessary to meet the program requirements. The Youth Center’s proportions and architectural language are intended to reflect the site’s vernacular in a contemporary expression.
Information provided by Cornerstone.design
Article edited by Janeen Ettienne