Why developing the Old Barracks will revitalize historic Virgin Islands towns

St. Croix architect Gerville Larsen explains the Christiansted town plan at a public meeting.

In 2013, St. Croix architect Gerville Larsen had the winning concept for a town plan for Christiansted. At charettes sponsored by the Virgin Islands Economic Development Authority, Larsen proposed the revitalization of the Old Barracks as an urban campus and education lab that would research, teach and present the traditional architecture and building crafts of historic Virgin Islands, Caribbean and other towns.

Larsen envisioned an educational institution that would serve as the catalyst for bringing people back into Christiansted town as students, teachers, residents and small business entrepreneurs. Larsen believes that building a school that would produce a skilled and credentialed workforce in masonry, woodwork and ironwork would provide training for local youth, in town housing demand for teachers, students and the entrepreneurs needed to serve their needs. He believed that it would create the workforce needed to revitalize and maintain historic structures while at the same time creating opportunities for the enhancement of the Virgin Islands cultural heritage product which would greatly enhance its tourism product.

Larsen’s concept was built on the experience of the Virgin Islands – Danish Apprenticeship Program which ran from 2002 to 2006. The five year program was a collaboration between Denmark and the US Virgin Islands where students were trained in traditional masonry and other craft techniques. It also builds on the work in carpentry and woodwork being done in Frederiksted by the Crucian Heritage and Nature Tourism – Building Arts Institute (CHANT).

The proposed school will offer training that will range from certification of professional draftsmen and other construction skill trades to a two-year degree in architecture. Larsen anticipates collaboration with educational institutions in Denmark, West Africa, the United States and the wider Caribbean as courses in restoration, aesthetics and maintenance are developed. The school will look forward as it stands on history, and there will also be courses in sustainability, energy efficiency and other 21st century imperatives. Student skill in the crafts will be paired with lessons on building and maintaining a business and cultural tourism development.

The Old Barracks site consists of a large compound with old trees to include the Hospital Street ruins, and the L-shaped building with large staircase with adjacent historic walls that connect two buildings. Its redesign will include educational facilities for students, exhibition space for art and scholarship, a community cafe’, and amphitheater or outdoor space, research center for archive studies, workshops for crafts and housing for guest professors.

Stonework and woodwork found in our Virgin Islands towns.

Larsen and Danish School of Architecture professor Mogens A. Morgen, Aarhus supervised the creation of three architectural approaches to the site. They were created by Hildegunn Gronningsaeter and Felicia Ferrante.

Imagine the revitalization of our Virgin Islands historic towns!


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Virgin Islands Architecture Center for Built Heritage and Crafts
1236 Strand Street
Christiansted, St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands 00820
USA