Remarks by Governor General, H.E. Dame Cecile La Grenade at the book launch of Norris Mitchell’s “DYNAMICS OF URBAN ST. GEORGE” held in collaboration with the Willie Redhead Foundation at the National Museum on Wednesday 31 July 2013.
“Our country Grenada is steeped in history, much of which has not been adequately researched, documented, and recorded. In fact, the preservation of Grenada’s history has, in many respects, suffered from benign neglect. Anyone who takes the bold step to present in written form events and facts related to our country’s past should therefore be commended.
Mr. Norris Mitchell, an architect with a passion for and commitment to Grenada, has dedicated the time and effort needed to publish this work entitled Dynamics of Urban St. George. His book is factual, interesting, and a detailed account of the original layout and design of the town of St. George, with photos and drawings that vividly bring to life the St. George’s that some in the audience will no doubt recall, perhaps with nostalgia.
His book provides the historical background of St. George’s, along with its morphology and anatomy. It also outlines the challenges facing our capital city and offers a number of pragmatic solutions to address these challenges. Whether or not we agree with all the views expressed in this book, it is a “must-read” for all Grenadians seeking to understand and appreciate our history and heritage.
St. George’s is one of the most beautiful and picturesque capital cities in the world. Visitors are often enthralled by the spectacular beauty of the city, which is accented by its Georgian architecture that gives it grace, charm, and character.
However, the author argues, and rightly so I think, that in recent times we have not been sufficiently mindful of the need to preserve our capital city’s unique architecture. In many respects, St. George’s has been the victim of urban sprawl, with insufficient attention being paid to proper planning and to designing buildings that fit into or complement the overall architecture of our capital city. We only need to cast our mind back to the St. George’s 30 years ago and the St. George’s of today to understand the challenges we are facing. In all major cities around the world, urban planning is an important dimension of sustainable development.
In his book, Mr. Mitchell laments the lack of urban planning and the problems this has spawned in many other areas. Parking and overcrowding have compounded the city’s problems. However, one of the main issues to be addressed is our own attitudes to the buildings that are so vital to giving St. George’s its character. These buildings should not be viewed as old relics of the past that need to be discarded and replaced with modern buildings. Our beautiful ancient buildings should instead be cherished, preserved, and restored. Modern buildings, when juxtaposed with colonial-style architecture, can produce a jarring effect.
Some effects are being made in Grenada to develop eco-tourism and, more recently, heritage tourism. Proper urban planning is inextricably linked to those two areas of tourism. It is difficult to promote eco-tourism when St. George’s, the face of our nation, is a maze of buildings, with few sidewalks and parking facilities. Added to this is the capital’s lack of greenery. Shrubs and small trees in St. George’s could enhance the city’s appearance and improve the environment. If we wish to promote heritage tourism, which focuses on our historical buildings, landmarks, and sites, the city of St. George would be a logical starting point, because of the work needed there and because our capital city often gives visitors the first glimpse of our beautiful island. We all know that first impressions are lasting.
In his book, the author not only laments the lack of a clear and consistent urban planning policy for the city of St. George. More importantly, he goes on to outline his vision of our capital city based on a comprehensive and consistent design, and to suggest steps to address the problems and challenges the city currently faces.
Mr. Mitchell’s long list of Grenada’s historical buildings serves not only as a reminder of how fortunate we are to have such an abundance of beautiful ancient buildings but also of the challenges we face, given the extensive work required to restore or preserve these buildings. What character would St. George’s have without such sites as the Carenage, Sendall tunnel, Knox House, the Anglican Church, and the Cathedral? Yet, so many of these buildings are in dire need of restoration and repair.
We cannot control Mother Nature, but we can control man-made disaster. Many of the problems that plague out beautiful capital city are man-made. To address these problems, we must first change our thinking and, as a nation, appreciate our heritage and rich history. A change in our mindset can sound a clarion call amongst us, as a people, to value and respect our heritage. Only then can we begin to address our urban planning issues with a sense of urgency, since time is not on our side and the challenges posed by global warming, such as rising sea levels, can negatively impact Grenada in general and the city of St. George in particular.
As Governor General, I expressed my commitment to the restoration of Grenada’s historical buildings such as Government House and York House. I would like to reiterate this commitment today and to state, although it should go without saying, that I support the preservation and restoration of all Grenada’s historical buildings. If we as a nation demonstrate in tangible ways our commitment for the preservation of our country’s historical heritage, we will then perhaps be able to enlist the support of organizations such as the United Nations Education, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
In closing, I would like to again commend and congratulate Mr. Mitchell on his pioneering work, which should serve to heighten awareness among Grenadians of the need to address the risks faced by overlooking or failing to address our urban planning problems in the city of St. George. One of the key elements of sustainable development is proper urban planning, which Mr. Mitchell so eloquently underscores in his book. I therefore express the hope that Mitchell’s trailblazing work will prompt all sectors of Grenadian society, particularly our youth, to play an active role in restoring, preserving and revitalizing the beautiful old buildings that give the city of St. George its distinctive character.”
A Willie Redhead Foundation Presentation August 23, 2013.