AND STILL THEY STAND…
It’s refreshing when a review of a new book is imaginatively paired with another book, which could not – within the scope of the subject – be more different. In this case, Papillote Press’ Still Standing: the Ti Kais of Dominica by Adom Philogene Heron, with photographs by Marica Honychurch, was reviewed in The Architectural Historian, the magazine of the Society of Architectural Historians of Great Britain, alongside a study of Ernest Shearman: Ecclesiastical Architect by Diana Beckett. Both “despite being slim in size, pack an intellectual punch”, says the journal, whose review was written by Neil Jackson, a past president of the Society of Architectural Historians of Great Britain and emeritus professor of architecture at Liverpool University.
While the former book celebrates Gothic-inspired, brick-built London churches from the turn of the 20th century, Still Standing focuses on the vernacular architecture of Dominica. There is nothing grandiose about a ti kai — small, humble wooden homes, many also dating from the same period; but they pack a hefty punch in their durability and craftsmanship, built in sympathy with the climate and topography of this very mountainous and rainy tropical island. Professor Jackson explains the architectural qualities of the ti kai – and then references the homes of two of the residents, among the 25 interviewed who “show their particular understanding of their homes, from the use of long lasting bwa plan (Tecoma leucoxylon) shingles of McDonald Faustin’s ti kai to the mortise-and-tenon joinery of Fidel Luke’s, where the structural frame, he says, ‘holds for a lifetime’.”
In conclusion Jackson points out that three of Shearman’s churches are now listed, “affording them a security which neither the climate nor the Dominican government’s housing programmes will ever do for the ti kais.” A similar point was also made in another review of Still Standing, this time in the journal of the Royal Institute of British Architects, by Thanshu Vithanage, herself also “a born and bred islander”, although not from Dominica. As she writes: “The threat to the ti kai makes this book even more valuable as a record, and as a call to preserve buildings of high architectural and historic value.”
Papillote Press would also like to remember the contribution of the Vernacular Architecture Group (VAG) for its input into making the publishing of Still Standing possible; and, similarly to the Caribbean Cyclone Cartography project, led by Adom Philogene Adom.
The Architectural Historian, the magazine of the Society of Architectural Historians of Great Britain, May 2023
The RIBA Journal, 10 February 2023 https://www.ribaj.com/books