I took a detour with my sketch pad frequently throughout our four weeks. Trying to be less conspicuous, I enjoyed overhearing household conversation in Jamaican patois, children playing, a variety of music on the radios. The barrier between the household and the street is permeable in places where buildings "breathe", ventilated rather than air-conditioned. Sometimes, residents approached me to ask what I was doing, and I explaining our Field School experience, particularly our partnership with Falmouth Heritage Renewal (FHR) in re-building the house on Albert Street. They asked if their houses could be helped, and I explained the mission of FHR and the great work they are doing to preserve historic buildings in this town, celebrated for its treasury of Georgian architecture and vernacular board houses built by free blacks in the 1800s. I've learned that, though some outsiders appreciate Falmouth's architectural heritage - scholars, preservationists and, last but not least, Royal Caribbean Cruise Line who chose to build their gated wharf here, named 'Historic Falmouth' and developed to imitate the Georgian architecture of Real Falmouth - the stewards of Falmouth's heritage are its residents. For more on the dynamics of tourism + preservation & sustainable development in Falmouth, see the outstanding report Oasis on the Horizon (University of Virginia - Brady, Redfearn, Nelson & others)
My documentary detours led me to examine the neighborhood urban scale by attempting a rooftop plan of the historic blocks we traverse daily. I was impressed by the roof forms of Jamaica, the likes of which I'd never seen in combination quite like this before. Many small roofs traditionally cover a historic house in Falmouth, many hip roofs especially. Roof forms meet edge to edge within the footprint of the building. I thought, with my US mindset: This looks like a real challenge to a watertight building! and, More expensive to build, with a greater number of members and complex forms! I learned: In an environment threatened by hurricanes, a composition of many smaller roofs fares better in the storm. Better to replace one small roof than to lose your entire building with the lift-off of one large roof. Additionally, it's possible imported lumber was hard to obtain in greater spans. I learned a little about roofs in my detours, and thought a lot about the preservation of the real historic Falmouth as I listened to the neighborhood patois.