Press > Hospitality Design: Celebrating Bermudian Vernacular Architecture

Hospitality Design: Celebrating Bermudian Vernacular Architecture

Homepage, Design, Projects, Luxury

The St. Regis Bermuda will celebrate Bermudian vernacular architecture.

Known for its pink sand beaches and pastel-hued buildings, Bermuda is small but mighty, withstanding the many hurricanes and tropical storms that have battered the island over the years. Stretching 22 miles, the destination is prime for a comeback, with occupancy hitting 63 percent in November 2019, according to STR, while Visit Bermuda saw an 8.2 percent year-over-year increase of vacation and leisure visitors. Part of the reason for the resurgence is new and renovated properties popping up along the coast.

The St. Regis Bermuda will celebrate Bermudian vernacular architecture.

Situated in the town of St. George’s and set in the middle of a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the 122-key St. Regis Bermuda will wrap the coastline when it debuts in 2021. “The standout is the approach to the architecture,” says OBMI associate and lead hospitality designer Andrés Osorio, who was inspired by old Bermudian cottages. Multilevel rooflines and “increased proportions accommodate the contemporary lifestyle of this era,” he adds. For the interiors, Design Duncan Miller Ullmann enriched the property through “purposeful irreverence, saturated colors, and bold geometry,” says Eric Ullmann, president and design principal of the Dallas firm. Indoor-outdoor spaces will expand the connection with nature, while guestrooms with private balconies and outdoor living spaces will offer welcome moments of respite.

The Bermudiana Beach Resort is slated for a 2020 opening, also designed by OBMI Architecture Firm.

Hilton’s debut property in Bermuda, the Bermudiana Beach resort, will be nestled on a cliff that overlooks the island’s South Shore. Slated to open this year, the architectural design of the 111-key Tapestry Collection property is led by OBMI Regional Director, Colin Campbell. To be as welcoming to vacationing families as to honeymooning couples, a warm, inviting design reflects the natural beauty of the island while reinterpreting Bermuda’s history through a contemporary lens.

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Press > The Post Hurricane Construction Market in BVI

The Post Hurricane Construction Market in BVI

Employee Perspective, Projects, Tourism

Bringing in 2020, several buildings around and near the main round-a-bout in Road Town were finalizing major renovations. Some building owners added floors, replaced roofs and windows, changed wall cladding finishes and colors. Others were still trying to finish what was started prior to Hurricane Irma, which was over two years ago. Up until recently, I considered this area of Tortola, ground zero for construction projects.

To sufficiently give an account of the current status of the BVI construction market, it must begin at the pre-2017 hurricane season and extend 26 months past it. As architects, we have a good sense of where the construction market is by the number of proposals being asked of us and what is actively under construction. At the time, the active construction projects were a major resort renovation and the continuation of the North Sound of Virgin Gorda and private island developments. RFP’s being tendered were for midrise office buildings on Wickhams Cay. The bulk of BVI construction is traditionally single-family homes, vacation villas and docks which at that time, where not being built. The market was considered slow and stagnant, at best.

Fast forward to November 2019 and for most of us in the design and construction industry, it’s safe to say that we have been on what feels like a rollercoaster. The months between October 2017 thru March of 2019 were chaotic and this was widely accepted as a BVI construction market boom. In my opinion, the “boom” tapered off earlier this year and company staff levels reflect that but there are several opportunities on the horizon and the phase we are entering is one of sustained reconstruction, driven by the resorts and the Government of The Virgin Islands (GOVI).

Every category of built structures experienced either destruction or some level of damage from the hurricanes of September 2017. Reports stating that 80% of all homes were damaged ranging between $2.6 billion to $3 billion in damages. The Territory has made great strides in the last 26 months. From a simple replacement of metal roof cladding to full-scale repairs from catastrophic structural failures, the BVI construction market was wild and mostly unchecked. Where tourism numbers understandably fell, the construction market picked up the slack. However, this was not immediate. Several islands in the Caribbean also fell victim to either or both Hurricanes Irma and Maria. South Florida and parts of Texas were also impacted. That leads to delays from U.S.-based suppliers of essential materials, such as doors, windows, and metal roofing.

These are the same U.S. suppliers that most islands in the Caribbean, including the BVI, looked to for materials; however, they were serving their US-based clients first. Additional challenges that slowed down both recovery and reconstruction were:

1. Slow and Disputed Insurance Payouts;
2. Storage Deficiencies Due to Destroyed Warehouse at the Main Port; 
3. Curfews;
4. Material Shortages;
5. Damaged Electrical, Cellular, and Telecommunication Lines;
6. Labour Pool Impacted By Evacuations; and
7. Increased Demand for Fuel.

The GOVI made a few decisions to alleviate some of the issues listed above, which had a significant impact on the pace of the recovery, including expedited approval times from the Town and Country Planning and Public Works Building Authority Departments, the waiving of import duty taxes, and an increase in construction workers driven by a relaxed labour policy. These policy amendments encouraged foreign relief workers arriving in the Territory on short term work permits that could easily be renewed, and better still applied for once on island. This policy was a major driver for skilled construction labour to take up employment with contractors. An estimate of a 140% increase in construction-related work permits issued in 2018 reflected the labour needs at that time.

Another major influence on the pace of construction was that insurance companies required their customers who were filing claims to acquire multiple quotes for the repair and replacement of the hurricane-damaged areas of their home or commercial property. This direct interaction with property owners led to many contractors who provided the insurance repair estimates being employed to do the repair work once the owner received their insurance settlement.

Before the storm, the average contractor got by with a staff of 1 to 5 steady tradespersons. The general practice was that if a contractor needed a specific tradesperson, such as a tiler for a particular project, the contractor would enter into a freelance agreement with the tiler to lay the tiles for that project. This sharing of tradespeople meant most contractors did not have to regularly hire a tradesperson as a permanent member of staff. This practice still exists today.

After the storm, most construction companies had no choice but to increase their staff, and in some instances by 500%. The large amount of work also presented an opportunity for many contractors to change how they operated. Some of the more established firms with higher than average staff hired marketing professionals, quantity surveyors, project managers, and procurement and logistics experts. The larger companies also hired human resource managers to assist with the work permit process for the new employees. Individually skilled sub-contractors, like audio-video installers, marine-based contractors, electricians, plumbers, and roofers also benefitted from the post-hurricane reconstruction flurry and they too had to increase staff to accommodate the demand.

Earlier I compared the market to a rollercoaster. At present, the rollercoaster has slowed down and companies that increased staff levels are now reducing them as the demand has fallen off. Damage assessments, insurance claims, and roof replacements are mostly complete so the next phase will be driven by the resorts and the GOVI where it is expected that construction company staff levels will increase again.

The resorts and GOVI building sectors experienced massive amounts of damage and to date, most properties have yet to be fully repaired. In some instances, some buildings in both sectors are still in their post-disaster state. The majority of the resorts were decades old and the damage and destruction presented an opportunity for the owners to either dust off the plans that they always wanted to implement or hire architects to completely start over. Owners are looking at more resilient and cost-effective ways of delivering 4 and 5-star products and will all require experienced construction companies to deliver them. The reality is that most of the resort work will be tendered and won by the larger firms but there will be opportunities for sub-contractors to enter into sub-agreements with the parties.

As Q1 of 2020 begins, the GOVI of the day is expected to greenlight many projects in their portfolio of damaged building assets. The multitude of GOVI projects that range from schools to infrastructural repairs and upgrades are all expected to be tendered by both architects, specialist consultants, and contractors. Other GOVI related projects such as the airport expansion and the development of Prospect Reef are also on the horizon. As I write this article, design firms are about to respond to multiple requests for proposals from statutory bodies and the GOVI.

No discussion about the current state of construction in the BVI is complete without mentioning the role of the Recovery and Development Agency (the “RDA”). According to their website, “The Virgin Islands Recovery and Development Agency (RDA) was established in 2018 by the Government of the Virgin Islands as a transparent and accountable specialist project implementation agency to respond to the unique challenges faced by the Territory following the extreme weather events of 2017.”  To date, nineteen tenders have been issued with multiple successfully being awarded to local contractors. The RDA mandate includes capacity building, which means part of their role is to educate and train. Several seminars and workshops on procurement, risk management, life safety, just to name a few, are all geared to strengthen the knowledge base of local contractors. For many new and established construction companies, the RDA presents a viable opportunity to work on several Caribbean Development Bank (CDB)  and GOVI funded projects.

Local and foreign developers still see opportunities two years post-disaster and are looking to capitalize on the increased labour market and general positive economic outlook. Cities and developers understand that effectively using land to create multi-use destinations brings deep value to communities. There is significant diversification in the BVI development and construction market and, if you are looking for a contractor, there is no shortage of experienced and savvy ones for all project types and sizes.

With the increase of labour in the territory, one would have expected the average contractors’ daily rates to drop. That did happen for a brief spell, but once newly arriving workers got wind of what the traditional going rates are, then they went back up. What is hard to say is how much of the $764 million dollars related to property specific insurance payouts went back into reconstruction work, but it’s safe to say it was the primary driver of the construction market for all of 2018 and up to the end of Q1 of 2019.  

One unforeseen benefit coming out of this disaster cycle is a general increase in construction knowledge and know-how. Prior to the storm, what may have seemed like a difficult concept to grasp was how a roof is assembled, for example is now a widely held skill that many homeowners can quickly recite the assembly and material sequencing. Homeowners are also more intelligent as it relates to impact resistance requirements for door and window glazing and minimizing potential risks from overhangs, cantilevers and site excavations.

An area of construction that is severely lacking in the BVI is good quality interior finishes. The island has many quality tradespeople who are good at the basics and core components of construction but very few who are conscientious with the finished “move-in-ready” product. This presents a huge opportunity for small contractors to carve out a niche for themselves by offering high-quality interior finish work with a turnkey service which, at a minimum, includes carpentry, tiling, sheet-rock installation, carpet laying, electrical, plumbing, and air conditioning.

Finally, the economic substance legislation is another opportunity that some in the BVI sees as a possible benefit to the overall economy and to us in the design and construction industry. Partly because many companies will need office space and housing for this new labour pool. When talking about economic substance most are taking a wait and see approach.

The BVI will continue to ride the wave of a post-disaster construction tide but moving ahead with a steady and deliberate pace.

Press > Rosewood Little Dix Bay’s Much-Longed-For Rebirth

Rosewood Little Dix Bay’s Much-Longed-For Rebirth

Homepage, Design, Projects, Sustainability, Luxury

Rebirth of Rosewood Little Dix Bay

Looking for an idyllic tropical hideaway, a resort steeped in legendary history yet exuberantly refreshed and reimagined? In the celebrated annals of luxurious, nature-loving Caribbean retreats that brim with who’s-who lore, the British Virgin Islands is home to iconic Rosewood Little Dix Bay, newly reopened on Virgin Gorda this month after a four-year, at times tumultuous, closure. Secluded on 500 acres with a half-mile, powdery white sand beach, landmark Rosewood Little Dix Bay will undoubtedly be the happy talk of the turquoise sea during 2020 and beyond.
Founded more than a half-century ago by businessman and ardent conservationist Laurance Rockefeller (grandson of oil tycoon John D. Rockefeller), Little Dix Bay sparkled as an eco-conscious haven, a gem of his RockResorts properties, which were embraced by environment-attentive, well-heeled, privacy-preferring travelers, such as Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Philip and Prince Charles, as well as film stars and financial titans. Little Dix Bay changed ownership in 1993, joining Rosewood Hotel Group. In 2016, a planned renovation commenced. But a few months before its reopening, Rosewood Little Dix Bay’s future dramatically shifted. Fueled by nearly 200 mile-per-hour winds, Hurricane Irma, in 2017, centered its Category 5 eye directly over the property—devastating it and much of the neighboring community. The catastrophic result required a total rethink, a major and deep-breath rebuilding.
Rosewood Little Dix Bay’s much-longed-for rebirth this month feels like a baptism of sorts, a recognition of commitment and fortitude, realized hopes and dreams. It deserves a resounding high-five to everyone who came together—management and the people of Virgin Gorda and the British Virgin Islands—to transform upheaval into uplift. Their can-do spirit is a graceful affirmation of the power of renewal.
Masterful architecture company OBMI and New York-based design team Meyer Davis unfolded the metamorphosis. Eighty all-new guest rooms—one- and two-bedroom suites and villas with unobstructed water views—incorporate the latest modern amenities into an earth-appreciating aesthetic, showcasing natural materials, such as stone and wood, in artistic and fashion-savvy ways. Nodding to Rockefeller’s earlier era, Meyer Davis had fun paying tribute to the jet-set 1960s (with Jacqueline Kennedy as muse) by designing mid-century modern furnishings and integrating artwork and sculptural elements that exude playfulness: retro photographs of women wearing bathing caps; a cabinet of curiosities in the Great Room. Colored in soft earth-and-sea hues, guest rooms feature fantastical outdoor showers; some suites have their own plunge pools. Lushly replanted, floral gardens and palm trees are eye-catching and eye-soothing.
“Little Dix Bay has been such a darling of Caribbean travelers for 56 years,” says managing director Andreas Pade in an exclusive interview. “So from a Rosewood perspective, we are very proud of how we have been able to keep the resort’s identity and character intact, yet give the food and beverage as well as the service experiences a much more sophisticated feel—along with a distinct barefoot luxury approach.”
In addition to Little Dix Bay’s verdant beauty, its architectural and engineering advancements, such as protective shuttering, hurricane-proof windows and hurricane-minded construction, are fortified. “This project has had its share of trials,” continues Pade. “The process has been very long. What personally gives me the most joy is seeing the resort open again—and all the positive reactions from new and legacy guests alike. [To paraphrase Theodore Roosevelt] ‘Nothing easy is ever worthwhile doing.’”

Press > Revamped Rosewood Little Dix Bay Returning Early 2020

Revamped Rosewood Little Dix Bay Returning Early 2020

Design, Projects, Luxury

One of the Caribbean’s most legendary resorts is making its long-awaited comeback in the first quarter of 2020. The historic Rosewood Little Dix Bay resort on Virgin Gorda in the British Virgin Islands is set to relaunch in January, according to a spokesperson for the company.
Rosewood Little Dix Bay, set a spectacular crescent of sand in the southwestern corner of Virgin Gorda, will have a mix of cottages, suites and large villas. Food and beverage concepts will be comprised of the Sugar Mill eatery, the “wholesome slow food”-focused Pavilion; the Rum Room, an open-air rum bar; and The Reef House, offering a farm-to-table culinary experience. And yes, the resort’s renowned Sense, a Rosewood Spa, will return, along with a fitness center with state-of-the-art training equipment. The resort will feature two pools: the Pavilion Pool, set at the edge of the beach, and the spa infinity pool, a tiered ocean-view pool.
It will be a triumphant return for a hotel that has been closed since 2016, when it began a large-scale, multimillion-dollar renovation project lead by . That project came to a halt in 2017, when Hurricane Irma came through the BVI.
Now, the renovation and transformation of the resort, the largest of the property since Rockefeller founded the property more than a half century ago.
Its reopening will reestablish Little Dix Bay as arguably the premier resort in the BVI, joining a luxury portfolio in the archipelago that includes standouts like Guana Island and Scrub Island, among others.

Learn more: Caribbean Journal

Rosewood selected New York-based Meyer Davis Studio Inc. to lead the renovation and oversee the overall design concept for the resort’s refresh. OBMI, a Miami-based architectural firm, was selected as lead architect to manage the new structure of the Beach Grill and the remodel of the resort’s guest rooms and suites. Landscape Contractors and Design (LCD) carried out the design and overall enhancement of the resort’s landscaping, lighting and signage. Learn more about OBMI's vision for Rosewood Little Dix Bay: here.

Press > Invest St. Lucia to Develop Master Plan for Anse de Sable, Vieux-Fort

Invest St. Lucia to Develop Master Plan for Anse de Sable, Vieux-Fort

Design, Projects, Tourism

Castries, Saint Lucia – January 28th 2019 – Invest Saint Lucia (ISL) is in the process of developing a master plan for the Anse de Sable area in Vieux-Fort, as part of the overall redevelopment plan for the southern town.

Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Roderick Cherry remarked, “Invest Saint Lucia owns a large portion of land in Vieux-Fort and it has always been the Corporation’s goal to enhance the area. From as far back as 2001, we had envisioned a mixed-use development for Anse de Sable."

Mr. Cherry continued, "Thus, the proposed redevelopment for Vieux-Fort, featuring the Hewanorra International Airport redesign and plans for homeporting at the Seaport, made this opportune for a renewal of the Corporation’s plans."

Following an international bidding process, Invest Saint Lucia approached the team of experts at renowned architectural firm OBM International (OBMI), to discuss the scope of the proposed master plan for Anse de Sable.

“OBMI’s expertise in designing successful destinations across the Caribbean, Europe, and the Middle East gives us complete confidence in the firm’s ability to execute a vision for Anse de Sable that promotes sustainable tourism enterprise and increases the opportunities for investment activities,” remarked Chief Executive Officer, Douglas Kulig.

OBMI representatives were on island in December 2018, holding consultations with ISL and other key stakeholders such as the Saint Lucia National Trust (SLNT) and the Air and Seaports Authority (SLASPA). Cherry confirmed that OBMI was indeed the right firm for the project based on extensive research conducted by the Corporation. He stated that Anse de Sable and the surrounding communities in Vieux-Fort will stand to benefit substantially from the proposed mixed-use development plan. Thus, as this project progresses, ISL will ensure transparency, hosting consultations with residents and interested parties.

“We envision an enhanced community that will encompass schools, health care facilities, retail, entertainment centers, as well as a host of other community-benefiting amenities. The idea is to have this master plan designed and use this proposal to seek out investors – both local and foreign – to capitalize on the available opportunities presented by this master plan.”

Cherry said that the architectural design for the master plan for Anse de Sable may be available as early as the first half of 2019, at which time investors will be invited to participate in the implementation of the physical structures for the area.

According to OBMI, it has managed to overcome challenges by ‘developing a proactive, nimble approach to problem-solving and is now leveraging those acquired skills to their clients’ advantage, presenting inspired solutions with flexible adaptability.’



INVEST SAINT LUCIA (formally the National Development Corporation) is charged with the responsibility to stimulate, facilitate, and promote the development of business and investment activities in selected sectors of the Saint Lucian economy. We offer a comprehensive knowledge of the processes to set up a business and information on available incentives to foster growth and to expand your business. INVEST SAINT LUCIA is a member of the Caribbean Association of Investment Promotion Agencies (CAIPA).

About OBMI
OBMI is a global architecture firm widely celebrated for creating distinctive designs for high-end hotels, luxury private residences, and engaging communities. Since 1936, our mission has been to collaborate with clients to transform their visions into three-dimensional forms that are authentic and incomparably marketable. Through global design studios, we offer an integrated approach that combines responsive design strategies, the latest innovations, and technical expertise to create experientially memorable, environmentally responsible, and financially successful destinations.

Press > Real Life Caribbean Showcases Casa del Cielo Residence

Real Life Caribbean Showcases Casa del Cielo Residence

Design, Projects

Home in Cayman Designed To Open It's Roof To the Sky

OBMI designed Casa del Cielo as a family home in Vista del Mar that takes a different approach to the indoor-outdoor living concept, by opening the roof to the sky.

When Chris and Kristy Capewell began to discuss designs for the house they would build together, light and openness were key concepts – but a glass roof was not initially on their list of ‘must haves’. It was one of Chris’ more outlandish suggestions, which along with an indoor koi carp pond and the glass-fronted wine storage, found their way into the final design.

With three young children, many of the Capewell’s priorities were practical - a central open plan kitchen and dining area, the family’s bedrooms all on the same floor, a play room that was easy to supervise and outside space where the kids could kick a ball around - but Kristy’s art and design background, Chris’ creative ideas, and the guidance of architect Tim Peck and Mikki Chin of OBMI, enabled them to incorporate some striking design features into this functionality.

Tim envisioned the initial design concept, then Mikki helped translate it into reality working alongside Phoenix Construction to ensure it was built to the client’s original vision.

“The original concept was based upon a reinterpretation of the traditional Mediterranean villa, centered around a courtyard as the active hub of the house,” Tim explains. “In this case the courtyard became enclosed and conditioned, with all social spaces and the upper circulation gallery leading off this ‘courtyard’.”

A double-height dining room thus occupies the courtyard, with the kitchen, sunken living room and playroom leading off it, and the master suite and children’s bedrooms are accessed from the first floor gallery.

Although the courtyard was originally designed with a flat roof, set above narrow windows that would allow light to filter through, Chris’ radical idea of replacing the solid roof with a glass atrium transformed the design into something spectacular.

“Tim was amazing to work with because of the way he absorbed and realized ideas like this so effortlessly,” Kristy says.

Now, not only do they have the light and airy quality they wanted but they can sit indoors and see airplanes, storm clouds, and frigate birds passing over head by day, and revel in the sight of the moon and stars at night.

Occupying this central space is a stunning dining table, topped by a single slice of sustainably sourced chamcha wood, with a cluster of spherical pendant lights, made from wispy strands of fibreglass, suspended above it. “We always eat at the table in this house because it is where everyone wants to be,” the owners note.

Due to the covenants governing Vista del Mar, the exterior is Mediterranean in style and is finished in earthy, terracotta tones, whilst the interior aesthetic is fresh and bright. The high gloss white kitchen cabinetry, installed by Pooley Cabinets, and the pale wood-look floor tiles from ITC create a crisp, clean background that offsets the lush greenery visible through the large windows.

A few steps down from the dining room, a snug living room with a family-size corner sofa opens onto an outdoor dining patio with pull down fly screens, ideal for entertaining. For family nights in, a home cinema, complete with seats salvaged from Camana Bay cinema, make movie nights a special occasion.

Kristy’s own artwork, much of which follows an ornithological theme, with colours cleverly matching the tones of the furniture, adds personality and colour, whilst the bold use of hardwood softens the clean, contemporary lines.

“I love the warmth and texture that the natural materials bring,” Kristy says. “The touches of wood sit so beautifully beside the modern glass features.”

Oversize rustic wooden barn doors slide across to close off the playroom from the dining room when not in use and in the master bedroom, the same doors complement the solid hardwood bed, sourced on island from Absolutely Fabulous.

The ingeniously designed open staircase, with custom made cantilevered timber treads, that winds all the way up to a third floor office and roof terrace, only found its full expression as the build progressed. Wrapping around a stairwell lit by the same hanging lights as the dining room, it was only when the concrete was being poured that it occurred to the owners to put a pond and fountain at the base. The soothing sounds of trickling water, they say, greatly enhance the sense of calm inside, whilst a security system installed by the Security Centre affords them peace of mind.

For Chris, an avid fisherman, having a dock for his boat was essential, and with young children, a safe neighbourhood where they could play outdoors was key. The lot at Vista del Mar ticked both boxes and was large enough to put in a pool, lawn and a section of Astroturf for the kids to play on. Moreover, because the land had not been cleared, they were able - with the help of Vigoro Nursery - to preserve many of the established trees at the front of the house, providing a habitat for the birds they love.

Encouraged by both OBMI and Phoenix, Chris and Kristy were very involved throughout the design and construction process. With changing skies always visible overhead, the relaxing trickle of an indoor fountain and verdant, green surroundings, the Capewells have created a family haven perfectly tailored to their personalities. Better still, Kristy says, the house has given her the space, light and inspiration to pursue her painting more seriously and she is slowly reclaiming the butler’s pantry off the kitchen as her art studio.