Historic Architecture in the Caribbean Islands

Historic Architecture in the Caribbean Islands

Historic Architecture in the Caribbean Islands

Historic Architecture in the Caribbean Islands


"Organized by type of structure and by island, this gorgeous volume-full of photographs-depicts and describes the history, influences, and characteristic features of the Caribbean's unique architecture."


The Caribbean Sea, covering an area of approximately 750,000 square miles, is named for the Carib Indians, who once inhabited this area. There are thirtysome major islands and island groups and hundreds of smaller ones, many of them uninhabited. The sea is bounded on the west by the Yucatan Peninsula, Belize, Honduras, Guatemala, and Costa Rica. On the south, the boundary is defined by the coastlines of Panama, Colombia, and Venezuela. On the north, the Caribbean is separated from the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic by the Greater Antilles (Cuba, Hispaniola, and Puerto Rico) and the Virgin Islands. The curve of the small islands in the Lesser Antilles defines the eastern boundary.

The Lesser Antilles also have geographical subdivisions that have been named. The Leeward Islands, those lying north of fifteen degrees north latitude, include St. Martin/Sint Maarten, St. Kitts and Nevis, Antigua, Montserrat, Guadeloupe, and Dominica. The Windward Islands, those to the south, include Martinique, St. Lucia, St. Vincent, and Grenada and the Grenadines. The latter list may also include Barbados and Trinidad/Tobago. (In the political subdivision used in the British West Indies, Dominica was included in the Windward, not the Leeward Islands.) The Netherlands Antilles (Aruba, Curaçao, and Bonaire) are located just off the coast of northwest Venezuela.

Several maps from the fifteenth century showed a land named Antillia, located far west of Portugal between the Canary Islands and the southeast coast of Asia. Sometimes it was represented as an archipelago, sometimes as a single mass of land. The name Antilles was derived from Columbus's belief that he had reached the fabled land of Antillia.

The term West Indies, of course, was used by Columbus because he was under the impression that these islands provided a new route to the Indies, a term that at that time included the whole of eastern Asia, whose wealth had been described by Marco Polo a century earlier.

A wide range of environmental factors has influenced architecture in the Caribbean Islands, and these factors differ from island to island, as well as on individual islands. There is to be found within this area the complete range of physical land characteristics--mountains, volcanoes, flatlands, forests, deserts, and so forth. Each of these situations affected building material availability, and each presented unique demands for shelter and comfort requirements.

The Caribbean Sea lies south of the Tropic of Cancer and north of ten degrees north latitude; although the area is all considered to be tropical, there is considerable variation in climate characteristics. Some areas are arid, almost without . . .

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