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The mission of my Dan Leslie Bowden Fellowship in the Humanities project is multifold: to explore the identity and culture of West Coconut Grove through its architectural history, to raise awareness of the under-recognized architectural contributions of the early Bahamian settlers, and to examine the cultural impact of the West Grove neighborhood and shotgun-style homes.


My project investigates how the architecture of the original West Coconut Grove community encouraged socialization. The shotgun-style houses' front porch acted as a gathering space. The linear house design and the close proximity to the street also encouraged a strong, tight-knit community. By creating my own renderings, 3D model, and CAD drawings, I deepened my understanding of the communal element encouraged by the architecture, and represented the research through my own perspective.


To better understand how the built environment conveyed a narrative of their world, I conducted three interviews with West Grove residents to capture important recollections of their past. Two of my interviewees are direct descendants of original Bahamian settlers from West Coconut Grove. One interviewee is a native from Nassau, Bahamas, and is currently the reverend in West Grove’s Christ Episcopal Church, created in 1901 by Bahamian immigrants.


My fellowship stipend was used to travel to Nassau, Bahamas, and investigate the Over-the-Hill neighborhood of shotgun-style and framed vernacular houses. I was also fortunate to spend a day touring with Bahamian architect, Assistant Professor Valeria Flax, of the University of Bahamas.


I hope that my project reflects how communities can be built through personal connections. Architecture affects social interaction and often represents a community's values. The early Bahamian settlers brought with them construction skills and architectural styles, which in turn facilitated building their close-knit communities. The design of the houses within their neighborhoods encouraged the development and persistence of these human connections. I believe we can learn from this by continuing to investigate which elements of architecture and design in other communities encourage social and cultural interaction.

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