Trinidad and Tobago Institute of Architects

$10,000 TTIA and Colin Laird Grant for inspiring architects

  • architectsadmin
  • May 5, 2024
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The Trinidad and Tobago Institute of Architects (TTIA) is calling on the nation’s aspiring architects to apply for the TTIA and Colin Laird Grant, which is valued at $10,000.  To accommodate for the number of expenses incurred by citizens who venture overseas to pursue education in architecture, the TTIA, together with the family of architect Colin Laird, began the initiative last year, designed to cater to nationals already enrolled in an accredited international architecture programme for both undergraduate and graduate degrees. Laird was a local architect well known for both the National Library and Information System Authority (Nalis) and Queen’s Hall, buildings that he designed.

He was a sole practitioner in T&T for 54 years, having designed over 200 homes and worked on the restoration of many buildings throughout the Caribbean and Latin American regions. Besides the funds being a financial help for architecture student Sienna Lewis, who received the grant last year, she said “what actually became a lot more important than the grant was the connections made” ever since, which had allowed the 23 year old to familiarise herself with local architects and gain information on architectural activities in Trinidad.

She also mentioned that architects ought not to ignore the island’s homegrown structures, as they possess innate intelligent design. “In my perspective, we shouldn’t ignore our vernacular architecture, the architecture that is homegrown, that came from our indigenous roots, that every race of person has contributed to creating, for instance, the ajoupa and gingerbread houses, the ignored simple structures that have so much intelligence in them,” Lewis said. Sienna is an undergraduate/masters student , she just graduated with a MArch after five years as an undergraduate/masters architecture student.  Another recipient of the grant, Alejandro Ramdahin, who is a third-year student at The New School, Parsons School of Design in New York City, said he was in shock last year when he discovered the grant, as he had not been aware then that T&T had a community of architects.  “I got a call from my father saying that there was this advertisement in the newspaper for this grant, and I was kind of shocked because I did not realise there was a community of architects in Trinidad. So, I applied for the grant, and a few months later, I got a call back from the treasurer saying I was one of the winners,” Ramdahin said. 

The 22 year old, who is also the recipient of a government scholarship, said the grant helps him with other expenses such as food and transport.“The grant has been so helpful to me. The expenses to just study this degree abroad are so much of a burden. There are other things that aren’t covered like housing, food, and transportation, and this grant has been really able to put me afloat because I’ve been working and studying at the same time. This grant has been a lifesaver for me,” Ramdahin said.  When asked what he thought needed to be improved in the country’s architecture, he cited the fact that there are no degrees in the country dedicated to teaching architecture.  “I think what Trinidad is really missing is a school of architecture, because we need Trinidadian architects who are tailored to the challenges of developing nations; and we have such a unique cultural heritage and history, which is something we can’t learn here

in the United States or the UK. I was just telling Renate that I was in the library and there were no architecture books related to the Caribbean,” Ramdahin said.  Upon finishing his degree, the young architect will return to T&T to create buildings with a lasting impact on the landscape.  “Yes, definitely, I really want to have some tangible impact in my country, you know. Architecture is one of those professions where you kind of leave a lasting impact on the landscape,” Ramdahin said, adding that the profession focuses on functionality and aesthetics, areas that, he believes, are missing from the current catalogue of local buildings.  Architect and honorary treasurer of the TTIA, Renate Allum, shared with Guardian Media her advice for those aiming to submit their design portfolios before evaluations in June.

“The design portfolio is a representation of yourself! Be true to yourself! It should reflect your personality, design aesthetic, and current skill sets. The work shown in the design portfolio gives the judges an insight into the student’s perspective/outlook on architecture/built environment. Because a student portfolio is typically conceptual works, the content displays your beliefs/values/aspirations” Allum said. For aspiring architects, regardless of age, Ramdahin advised to actively look for grants and other opportunities which he confessed he hadn’t known before going abroad. Furthermore, Lewis also called on fellow architects to come together to create ideas that T&T can offer the world.  The application period for the TTIA and Colin Laird Grant for Architecture Students is between May 1 and 30. It will be an online submission and the link has been posted across the TTIA’s social media platforms. 

Sales generated from the purchase of the book on Colin Laird’s works, Forged from the Love, written by Robert Clarke, are directed to the grant; it is available for purchase at the Paper Based Bookshop, The Writer’s Centre, 14 Alcazar Street, Port-of-Spain. The criteria for judging are Design Portfolio, Personal Statement, and Explanation of need. 

Matthew Chin
Multimedia Journalist, Arts & Culture
Guardian Media Ltd. 
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