1. Design project on the island of Nevis

The assignment called for the design and implementation of a structure that provides for sense of place: A place for social events, parties, meals or solitary, sometimes meditative, activity. The property owner’s request was that the structure be built with locally available skills, materials and tools.

Bamboo, a local plant, is used for the scaffolding-like structure. This frame serves as support for climbing plantings and is used to rig tarps for shading the sitting area.

2. Image and visitor experience

The structure is endowed with a distinct identity and sense of place. Its appearance is a pyramid made of bamboo. It invites approach and entry from all four sides. From each approach, the views are framed by the gazebo’s structural elements. The structure itself is an interplay of long-distance views contributing to this narrative. The framework-like structure forms a hugging shroud. From the inside of the Gazebo the views are unobstructed. The external shroud of bamboo stalks conveys an image of protective envelope.

On a sunny day, the bamboo stalks cast their shadow on the tarps and project an enchanting rendering below. As the sun’s path transitions through the day, so do the shadows. At night, with a single point source fixture, the light is analogous to that of daylight, yet different - less complex.

Wind-transparency for the structure, tarps and plantings provide some protection from wind-driven rain.

A surround of poles provides a sense of seclusion, hospitality and protection.
Large, inviting portals are designed into each of the four sides of the structure.

3. Physical environment

The Island of Nevis is a tropical place, with Caribbean seasonal climate and vegetation. It is located within hurricane region. Trade winds and rainy and dry seasons are a feature of the region. The prevailing wind direction is from the northeast. The site is a residential property with ocean frontage, located on the windward side of the island.

The environmental conditions at the site are subject to occasional seawater invasions and high wind loads. There is relatively low vegetation due to poor soil conditions.

The two-acre property has a 1’ in 12’ slope from ocean frontage to Yamseed Road. The property is located next to a regional airport. The Gazebo is located approximately 650 feet from the runway, with a deck elevation difference of 17 feet.

The structure is a four-sided pyramid with 45-degree side angles. The footprint of the structure is 40’ x 40’. Because of the proximity to the airport’s runway, the height of the structure is limited to 30’. Plants and stretched tarps provide for shading and protection from rain. It is placed with unobstructed views, and is open-sided. The Gazebo’s 20’ square sitting area is a concrete pad is centered in the footprint of the structure.

There are a two existing stone structures on the property.

The structural footprint of the Gazebo is surrounds by a 12‘ wide zone of electronic sheep fencing.

Tarps that provide shade and some rain protection suspended from the structure to provide 8’+ headroom at the lowest point.

4. Structural aspects

Bamboo stalks are treated/cured to be insect and UV resistant.

The footings and the patio are reenforced concrete with imbedded anchor points for the bamboo stalks.

All intersections of the bamboo stalks are tied with 12 gage corrosion-resistant wire. These joints are gleaned from conventional scaffolding methods.

5. History

There have been three iterations of the gazebo. The structural design of all three are identical. The first and second iterations used local bamboo – the natural taper of their wispy branches was a characteristic feature of the design.

Inadequate curing facilities on the island left the bamboo vulnerable to aggressive termite invasions, and the first two iterations failed after three years and one year, respectively. Bamboo for the third (and current) iteration was harvested and cured off-island. (Container shipment called for these bamboo stalks to be cut to a uniform length of 40 feet). After 24 months, the current iteration remains free of invasive insects. Note the more formal architectural iteration of current structure.

© 2023 Roland Gebhardt