Often when one travels abroad, historical sites and parks with a variety of activities open and free to the public are main attractions. Now plans are underway for a similar experience here in New Providence in Clifton Heritage Park.
The Park, which houses a great deal of historical ruins dating hundreds of years old and an abundance of protected local nature and wildlife, is undergoing redesign by the husband and wife team of design firm Whittingham Design Consultants to include more community and family oriented, educational and environmental attractions.
"There were ideas in place but not a master plan,"says Robert Whittingham."So we were contacted, and at that point had an opportunity to make a contribution to the nation--to put a master framework in place to develop and realize what the property could become over the years for Bahamians and visitors alike."
"It's important for Bahamians to understand who we are and where we came from,"adds Carla Whittingham."Clifton was an opportunity for that to become a reality--to experience our history and to be proud of it. It's a beautiful experience to have two worlds coming together--the historical and the present."
It's perhaps one of their least-known projects, they admit, however that will all change as the developments come to light over the next few years and Bahamians and visitors alike recognize the innovative and authentic spirit of their design.
While both halves of the Whittingham team were born in The Bahamas, they took different career paths until meeting along the way and combining their talents.
While Carla studied Interior Design at the Art Institute of Atlanta and International Fine Arts College in Florida and came back home to The Bahamas to pursue her career, Robert started off studying Architecture at a technical college in Florida and worked his way through civic, resort and residential architectural projects throughout North America, Europe and The Caribbean while at a firm in Florida.
It was as a result of his resort specialty that he took a job back home, in 1991, to work with a local firm designing the Club Med Resort on San Salvador. He contacted Carla for products, and met the woman whose interior design sensibilities would soon help to make the two of them a force to be reckoned with in the design industry, when she would formally establish Whittingham Design Consultants in 1996.
While most local design firms operate similarly, Carla and Robert pride themselves on their desire to make their company more of a boutique, hands-on experience and offering quality service to their clients. Their services range from conceptual design, space planning, sourcing and procuring of products, architecture, building, mill work design, finishing and installation of projects.
"We feel that what sets us apart from other firms, is that you are not just another client, rather, you receive maximum attention and service,"explains Robert."I visit my job sites every day--which is not the norm. Being more hands-on, you can circumvent problems that arise during construction and keep our budgets in line and our clients happy."
Indeed, Whittingham Design Consultants has always kept their client's best interests at heart, while balancing the desire to support local artists and artisans. It's part of their endeavor to challenge existing, local and world views, by showing that Bahamians are as knowledgeable and creative as any international firm--and are overflowing with talent.
"I am always very concerned and aware of the importance of interpreting the needs of my clients and executing them authentically,"says Carla.
"I challenge myself daily to perform at my optimum. It's important because we want to represent our people and our profession, within our country, in a way that can break barriers. When a client walks away I want them to think we really have talent here."
One of their well-known projects, for example, the Atlantis Beach Towers Mezzanine, was designed by them, and made up of locally designed and fabricated products."We proudly employ local artists to work with on projects, so as to reflect, support and highlight the amazing talent that we have here."
It's evident that their approach makes them the perfect team to design such a national treasure as Clifton Heritage Park--indeed, that's what board member to Clifton Heritage Park, Bennet Atkinson, thinks.
"In their first presentation for the master plan it was obvious they were enthusiastic and passionate about the park--they shared our vision; they got it. It matched our expectations and we were extremely thrilled,"he says.
"They are remarkably humble people who are really talented and they care--we need more people like them."
Indeed, the board was especially thankful as the Whittinghams contributed their time and talent pro-bono, a testament to their deep love and appreciation for Bahamian heritage and history.
"There's a tremendous wealth of history at Clifton,"points out Robert."There are many sites locally whose history need to be preserved and turned into notable historical destinations, so as to educate and expose locals and tourists alike to our extensive culture.
It's that consciousness that makes this project even more promising and exciting, and which they hope will receive the needed funding in order to continue its development. The hope is for others to partake and contribute in the various aspects of the master design. As the project moves forward, the two will always be proud that they have been able to leave their mark on such an authentic and notable Bahamian historical park. Indeed, the first of its kind.
"It's not often you get an opportunity like this, a historical development,"says Robert.
"A historical development for the future,"adds Carla."It's a way for us to give back. At the end of the day we all have to take ownership in the direction the country is going. All of us have to challenge ourselves, and ask what we can do. This project is one of the ways we can contribute positively."
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