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Building Beach Houses: A Q & A With Design Manager Shawn Archer

It has been almost a decade since Shawn Archer walked through the doors of The Crane for the first time as a Junior Architect. In the years that have followed, the now Design Manager has stewarded the design of The Crane Village – a nod to Barbadian heritage architecture, the discreetly private Residences in the Park and the renovation and restoration of Marine Villa – the original 18-room Crane Beach Hotel. Now, Archer turns from the traditional architecture of The Crane to the contemporary design of its sister resort on the Barbados’ East Coast – Beach Houses.

Q: Beach Houses has been described as being inspired by the idea of really getting away. What factors influenced the design?

A: The site of Beach Houses itself is off the beaten path – a quaint country diversion from the main road. Entry to the site for the first time is an experience of firsts – anticipation and then awe once you enter the gates. The expanse of sloping open space nestled between heavily-treed boundaries creates the perfect enclave of this resort.  That concept of “anticipation and reveal” is repeated  on a smaller scale within each Beach House residence.

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Q: What was the approach taken to combine the contemporary design of the Beach Houses with the history of surrounding areas?

A: Within the collective local consciousness, Barbados’  East Coast is the space where we traditionally go to “get away” and where one will find the “Bajan” version of a beach house. These traditional beach houses share similar features – expansive balconies or patios, external dining, large open-plan living spaces, large windows and doors that bring the outdoors in and that especially provide views across the Atlantic. These features have now been executed at Beach Houses in a contemporary way.

Q: Describe your design process. Specifically, what is unique about the Crane Resorts’ design-build model?

A: What makes the Crane Resorts’ design-build model effective, and unique, is that our previous projects feed into the current – not only in what we’ve learned in the design and construction but also in the operation. Immediate and real-time access to the end users of our designs  – employees, owners and builders – ensures that plans are always being reviewed to include proven design. The vertical integration of the organisation provides us with access to a vast reservoir of knowledge and experience, and our ongoing evaluation of design constantly moves us closer to perfection operationally and experientially.

Q: What role does green building and environmental sustainability play in the design of Beach Houses?

A: There are a number of design features of the Beach Houses project which are green initiatives. Moreover, these initiatives are not just environmentally sustainable, but also make good business sense. Each Beach House has a vegetated “green” roof which reduces the run-off caused by typical roof coverings. This vegetated roof also helps to reduce the solar heat transfer to the indoor spaces, thus making the rooms more comfortable and reducing the cooling load of the air conditioning units. Of course, I must mention here that the vegetated roofs will also improve the vistas for residences on higher terraces.

Each Beach House residence has been designed with large windows and large overhangs allowing the spaces to be naturally ventilated, reducing the need for air conditioning and reducing energy consumption. LED lighting has also been used throughout the residences along with low-flow fixtures that reduce the water consumption.

Provisions have been made for the Resort’s waste water to be treated to a level where it will be cleaner than the water in the natural springs that dot the site! This treated water will be used for irrigation in gardens across the entire resort, reducing the demand on the municipal potable water supply and again, reducing operational costs.

Q: What aspect of the design at Beach Houses do you think will have the biggest impact on the owner’s experience?

A: Going back to my initial point, I believe it will be that experience of anticipation and awe at the reveal from the macro to the micro level. From cresting the hill at the top of the site and looking over the expanse of the Atlantic  – to walking into your bathroom, which feels entirely like it is part of a secret garden. I truly believe this dynamic is what will make the biggest impact experientially to the owner.

Q: What is your favourite design feature?

A: My favourite design feature would be the hot tub seating and pool bench. I imagine many persons just sitting and gazing out to the sea for hours.