It’s been the site of countless takeoffs and landings, warm welcomes, and yes, even some tearful goodbyes.
Owen Roberts International Airport as we know it took shape in the early 80’s, and through the years, one feature literally stood above the rest – the iconic A-frame. With the new terminal scheduled for completion in 2018, the architect behind the A-frame shares his thoughts on the end of an era in aviation, and the beginning of a new one.
“It was originally intended as a symbol, a visual hook that people only hang their first image of Cayman on,” explained Arek Joseph of the airport’s key visual feature.
For more than three decades, that A-frame design has become what its architect intended; an icon of the Cayman Islands.
“It’s our statue of liberty, it’s our pyramids, it’s our Eiffel tower,” said Mr. Joseph. “It’s our symbol of home.”
Now retired, Mr. Joseph said he designed the airport in the early 80’s on a tight budget of $15 million.
“Before we started its design, we had to demonstrate to the Caribbean Development Bank that the building would pay for itself, so you take the landing fees, the concession areas, the parking fees, whatever income the facility could generate,” said Mr. Joseph.
The design was accepted, and the “new” Owen Roberts International was completed in 1984, four months ahead of schedule.
“It was done flawlessly by Arch and Godfrey, who never claimed extra time, extra money, it was a beautiful project, well executed in my unbiased opinion,” said Mr. Joseph with a chuckle.
However, as construction continues on a $55 million dollar renovation and expansion project, Mr. Joseph is not clinging to the past.
“We have to move on, we have to move on as we are a major financial centre, we are a major tourist destination, and we cannot let our customers and our visitors have anything but the best, which is what the Cayman Islands purports to offer its customers. For that reason alone we have to change,” said Mr. Joseph.
He said he’s pleased his iconic A-frame will be implemented in the airport’s new design.
“They’re going to become structural elements that hold up the roof that will be over this area, so the A-frames are staying,” he pointed out.
The waving gallery under that iconic A-frame is set to close for good in January. Mr. Joseph said that, too, is a sign of the times, as the structure’s open air design no longer complies with international security standards.