By Juliet Austin
At the risk of sounding dramatic, revolutionary rumblings are afoot in Grand Cayman that could alter the social fabric of an entire region. Dart’s long anticipated Camana Bay – a compact, master-planned town spanning two bodies of water from the world famous Seven Mile Beach to the North Sound – has not merely dipped a toe into the warm waters of change but dived, full throttle, into a sweeping tide of architectural reform.
An antidote to the ‘loneliness of spirit’ permeating modern society, Camana Bay has ‘gone back,’ to create a future revolving around community. Embracing intimate, mixed-use neighbourhoods, the new town’s nostalgic return to traditional values cultivated with human scale and proportion at its core has schools, shops, civic facilities, parks and entertainment all within a stone’s throw of home. “We are not interested in perpetuating monocultures,” explains John Hillman, Director of Sales for Camana Bay. “There is something here for everyone. All can participate.” And with rentals at The Terraces leased out within one hundred days, participating they are.
Reigniting the lost heart of the hometown, Camana Bay initially focused less on individual housing lots and more on reacquainting people with a sense of community that has long lain dormant. Creating opportunities for social interaction via architecture, one quarter of the town centre’s total area was designated public space, meticulously orientated to maximise cooling breezes and promoting outdoor living by offering a wealth of annual events, exhibitions and workshops. As John aptly states, “The Centre of Town is the hub of life.”
Outside, ‘life blossoms’ around four central courtyards: Jasmine, Gardenia, Canella and Cassia. Casual seating areas, enhanced by tinkling water features by Fluidity, foster the natural inclination to gather. “The Town’s creation is like a garden, sowing seeds that will bear fruit for generations to come,” states Siân Cullen, Camana Bay’s Marketing Manager.
Interestingly, it is those future generations who are leading the charge, intuitively embracing change without the need for re-education on the nature of human connection. Amble down The Paseo, the pedestrian-only streetscape, and hear children’s laughter – uninhibited appreciation of the sensory experience that is Camana Bay. As the cinema turns out, youngsters play in the magically illuminated fountains, spraying jets high into the night air. Diners eat under the stars; office workers stroll home, grabbing a drink en route or browsing the fresh, local produce at the evening markets. What other place, one has to wonder, would sacrifice prime waterfront real estate to incorporate parks, a boardwalk and The Island – where hand-picked palm trees create a quintessential tropical aesthetic?
Yet the logistics are remarkably straightforward: stick a compass point into the centre of town, draw a circle quarter of a mile in each direction and… a neighbourhood is born. A network of interconnected, tree-lined streets and biking trails serve vital social functions as places to see and be seen; children walk to school or pop to the park to play; neighbours exchange pleasantries and the human condition enters life centre stage.
Framed by architectural details that celebrate local history, climate, ecology and craftsmanship, numerous subtle signatures shape each streetscape… award-winning designs by Moore, Ruble Yudell Architects, OLIN Partnership and Duany Plater-Zyberk, to name but a few. Despite allusions to the regional vernacular, the town offers fresh architectural direction, honouring the essence of Cayman, but assuredly adopting its own innovative look. Light fixtures designed exclusively by L’Observatoire accentuate louvered façades, deep overhangs and shady porches, while infrastructural elements run underground, ensuring no unsightly blots on the landscape. Features are designed to age gracefully, adding character, charm and patina to an aesthetic intended to grow organically long into the future.
Gone are the days of escape from the confines of small town living. Now, those who were once drawn to the lights of the big city are taking an introspective look at the value of knowing where they came from. And while the notion of ‘hometown’ is, for some, a distant memory, at Camana Bay, the heart of hometown has been returned to the people with the promise of ‘being the change in the world,’ that they wished to see.