By Dean Arlen — Installation Artist

September 2021

Figure 1 — the tacarigua sculptural playspace+vending proposal — proposed for the eddie hart savannah, trinidad and tobago, the caribbean — presenting vernacularism

On Monday April 26th 2021 there was a virtual conversation hosted by the Urban Development Corporation of TT (Udecott) regarding the Revitalization of Ariapita Avenue. Ariapita Avenue is a main thorough fair running east-west between Wrightson Road and Tragarete Road. The main focus of the consultation was on the area from Colville Street (at the eastern end) to Maraval Parkway (at the western end). I will support full heartedly any project that aims to promote quality of life, present innovate design paradigm, present social justice design methodology, create art-design suited to our particular Caribbean experience.

Some of the main points that popped up during the conversation were the following:

  • Environment — the property values of the area will increase;
  • Security — with this redevelopment there will be a renewed presence of police in the area;
  • Taxes — there will be taxes created whose purpose is to support development

The Main Architect at UDECOTT, Mr. Marlon Charles, made a presentation which highlighted the hard and soft development proposed for the area. The presentation of the Main Architect also called attention the Soft Targets identified in the project, that is the short term development goals, which were as follows:

  1. Development of the pavement;
  2. Placements of garbage bins;
  3. Placement of Police Posts;
  4. Placement of trees — there will be the planting of trees on both sides of the pavement; and
  5. Placement of Arches at both ends of Ariapita Avenue

Further, the presentation of the Main Architect also called attention the hard targets identified in the project, that is the short term development goals, which were as follows:

  1. Construction of two parking infrastructures at both the east and west end of Ariapita Avenue;
  2. Enhancement of the side walk, including but not limited to tiling, levelling.

With regard to the response from the community which was participating via from ZOOM as registered guests, the following were the main takeaways:

  • There is a need for the control of noise levels — music is generally played until 4:00 a.m. with no reprieve. It appears as though the EMA and the police have no control of the noise pollution situation;
  • There is a need for an Emergency Route to facilitate the ability to navigate the space easily — residents were genuinely concerned about their personal access to their property, in addition to their ability to move in and out of the area in emergency situations;
  • There is a need for the implementation of a cut-off time, after which drinking and noise making should cease;
  • The Avenue becoming a rum shop avenue, rather than an integrated commercial area.

Theorizing Spatial Art-Design, is an exciting endeavour for art and design, allowing for the conceptualization of amazing social, political and economic innovation; creating leaps for our collective experience.

Our global modernity has experienced amazing strides in the development of inclusive, social justice framework; through activism, sustained intellectual theoretical debates and the practicing of social justice and inclusive aesthetics withing communities. This has allowed for the political-class and community an awareness around these issues, there importance in quality of life, and national socioeconomic development.

These strides has allowed artists, designers, urban planners, architects, community activist to reengage, invigorate their practices, some of these issues are listed below;

Figure 2 — black site celebration from black space
  1. Decolonial Theory — decoloniality has allowed minority, nativity groups to challenge western hegemony strangle hold on history and aesthetics, by including their stories into the mix (There has been the theorizing of black/coloured space ) — most notable is the movie The Black Panther, fashion designer Stella Jean popularization of African inspired prints in the international western fashion industry. The above link places black and brown bodies at the centre of western design theory, challenging western hegemony assumption on urban and rural theory and practice.
  2. The METO Movement — This movement allowed us to examine the structural abuse of women/men in communal spaces — bringing attention to the marginalized and the rights of the marginalized to safe spaces . The importance of designing and empowering systems that protect, diffuse fear, hold account people to rise the quality of life. The theory of planning mixed use spaces in creating safe spaces for the vulnerable, is one aspect in urban planning theory that can make communities safer. The concept is simple, that more eyes and bodies present in communal spaces, criminal and toxic behaviour is minimized.
  3. LGBTQ&A Activism — Also allowed the national debate to happen, creating a right of place for the LGBTQ&A a presence in our communal spatial politics. In our national politics elections, we witnessed the first Trans-Gender person running for official office in Trinidad and Tobago. The Jason Jones Case against the state of Trinidad and Tobago, popularized the conversation on the right of LGBTQ&A peoples to experience communal spaces safely
  4. Black Lives Matter Movement, BLM — in Trinidad and Tobago challenged our colonial legacy, a legacy that constructed and violated black and brown bodies due to a western hegemonic political and economic ideology. BLM brought to the national consciousness Afrocentrism, Blackness, colourism, our historical experience slavery, colonialism, neo-colonialism, reparations, vernacularism, economics, political representation; BLM allowed us to interrogate, explore, expand these particular points. As in #1 and #2 the theory of planning and designing spaces to reflect the character of a people has become an accepted troupe.
  5. The Green Revolution — This movement has seen the rise of healthy food becoming a real concern. Examples of this are the Green Market Santa Cruz, The Fonda Mands Reforestation Project,
  6. Climate Change — This movement has seen major global policy change for industry, policy, community and development.


All six (6) of the abovementioned movements have revolutionized marking and making, from writers — writing gender sensitive dialog into the plays, films, advert (The Stag Advert), to state officials — seeking more diversity in the policies — The Marriage Act, UNC attempting to look more diversified, electing the first Woman Prime Minister and Woman President. Trinidad and Tobago has seen its fair share at being socially responsible.

In my opinion the Presentation by Senior Architect at UDECOTT Marlon Charles, bore no resemblance of having a concern for this new radical social modernity imperative, where history, people, heritage informs practice. Further, I believe that the Cookie-Cutter presentation, where we rely on conceptualism to get us through the proverbial consultation door does not cut it. The presentation bore no witness to finding that element that resides in communal aesthetics. This element is the eureka to great art!

The words of intent were missing from the presentation, therefore, a socially dynamic design was also missing.

Bearing the above comments in mind, the following suggestions are made with respect to Art-Design considerations:

  • Materiality — Port of Spain has a long history of craft, the use of the right material (wood) can revitalize this strong craft tradition. This material can be integrated with green architecture, which can radically alter experience of the space.
  • History/Memory — Port of Spain has a rich history, from Amerindian peoples, to slavery, indentureship, colonialism, migration. This history can be used to invigorate an amazing new aesthetic, in which designing from memory is utilized. This usually connotates memorializing memory. Designing memory means finding new iconography to create patterns, textures, colours. Designing memory has been utilized by artists like Mark King who have been exploring these processes.
  • The Social — the consideration of “the social” has become important aspect in urban and rural planning curriculum and theory, participatory art-design practices has seen “the social” important in bring fort a sustainable aesthetics, corporate entities has identified “the social” in their Corporate Social Responsibility CSR programming. The above three practices have engaged “The Social” in developing a sustainable economy for their practices. This has challenged traditional “National Consultation” processes — Design Charrettes has been reconceptualized to deal with the 6 social alterations

“The year long process with community members to document neighborhood memories and heritage assets, identify heritage values, and create spaces for existing local cultural producers and conservationists” — BlackSpace

  • Green Design — Art, Architecture, Design should reflect the poetics of a people, if just to inspire us through great art, engineering and craft. Trinidad and Tobago is an island with a great tropical rainforest challenged consistently due to political and private under development. This is when architecture can respond, the designing of green buildings, green communities is not a new phenomenon it has become necessary in the “concrete urban jungle” living experience (an example of this is The Bosco Building.) which has seen the disappearance of the famous home gardens, the mango tree, coconut tree, the green fig patch
Figure 3 the bosco building — milan — italy — from DESIGN BUILD NETWORK — vertical forestry in the urban space

These are just a few but important suggestions, that I believe are acknowledged honestly will bring immediate, radical input to art-design, innovation, maintenance, policy, politics, communal living and culture.

Our broad aim is to facilitate the development and installation of public art in Trinidad and Tobago.