In the commercial real estate world, The Observation Tower would be considered an anomaly. Occupying a prime location on a busy shopping street, it has never been available for rent. “If any one building exemplifies Dart [Real Estate]’s approach to development, it is The Observation Tower,” says Michael Martin, AIA, Principal at Moore Ruble Yudell, which was part of the original masterplanning team for Camana Bay. “The five-storey tower is both an iconic landmark, similar to a traditional small town’s bell tower, and a civic space – one that invites residents and visitors alike to share a unique vertical experience. While it has no direct commercial return, the [Observation] Tower identifies Camana Bay as a very special place – one that creates a true sense of community.” At the time it was built, the 75-foot Observation Tower was the tallest building in Grand Cayman. From its top deck, it offers panoramic views across the North Sound to Rum Point, along the full length of Seven Mile Beach and down to the cruise ships moored in George Town’s harbour. As a visitor, there is nowhere else on island to get such a vista. At Camana Bay, design is as important as function and The Observation Tower is no exception. As the focal point of the town day and night, The Observation Tower is lit up like a lantern after dark with a welcoming glow that spreads its warmth to the streets below.
Italian Tile Mosaic
Renowned underwater photographer Jim Hellemn was commissioned to reproduce a coral reef as the basis for a floor-to- ceiling mosaic. In an effort to capture the diversity of Cayman’s marine environment, Jim and a team of local photographers shot a variety of dive sites across all three islands before combining them into a single underwater scene populated by native species including schools of horse-eye jacks, a lone spotted eagle ray and an array of vase and tube sponges. The mosaic is made from over 3 million hand-cut Bisazza Venetian glass tiles from Vicenza, Italy. It took 12 months to assemble and eight months to install, using over 150 colours from bright cyan where sunlight pierces the ocean’s surface to midnight blue of deep sea. The best way to see the mosaic is to climb the Tower’s 231-step staircase, which in itself is a masterpiece of design.
Art and science unite in The Observation Tower’s double-helix staircase – “double helix” referring to the molecular structure of DNA where two strands spiral around each other and are joined by bonds at their bases. Like DNA, The Observation Tower has two staircases conjoined to create a variety of routes and perspectives. Art aficionados may also recognize this concept from M.C. Escher’s 1953 lithograph, “Relativity.” Escher’s vision of endless varied paths opening onto experiences is echoed elsewhere at Camana Bay, where courtyards and other communal spaces surround The Observation Tower. Since opening in 2009, the Observation Tower has become a favourite stop on the tourist trail, featuring high on the list of attractions at Camana Bay. The Observation Tower provides a winning combination of look-out point and public art that both locals and visitors have come to treasure.