Calabash Jumby Bay Retreat

The beach-front residential retreat occupies a 1.2-acre lot located on the remote island of Jumby Bay two miles off Antigua’s northeast coast on the Caribbean Sea and only accessible via ferry or boat. Jumby Bay is a 300-acre, above-water island resulting from a volcano approximately 30 million years ago. During the colonial period much of the forests on the islands of Antigua and Barbuda were cleared and numerous invasive species have since appeared, which has been catastrophic for the islands’ biodiversity. The islands of Antigua and Barbuda now have strict regulations regarding importing plant material due to the fear of importing pests or blights not native to Antigua and Barbuda, and careful attention to the plant selection was needed to comply with these laws and respect the island’s ecological fragility.

Fortunately, there were over 200 existing, mature trees and palms on the property, but lawn dominated the existing landscape, limiting the wildlife habitat potential of the site. The client desired a lush, private garden that was reflective of their fondness for the native, tropical plant life. Therefore, this oasis had to be achieved by embracing what was already on-site. The design team assessed the existing plant material and rebalanced the entire site to create overall harmony and organization with elements of surprise.

The arrival sequence begins with the native Amphitecna latifolia (Black Calabash), which the project was named after, flanking the entrance of the site. The cobblestone entryway meanders through a grove of relocated Bucida buceras and opens to a courtyard of the main house and carport. On both sides of the entrance to the main house, low rain-capturing water features with Nymphea odorata add the soft sound of trickling water. Passiflora spp. engulfs the carriage houses to promote biophilic design and create additional greenness around the architecture.

To create privacy from the adjacent properties, the side gardens were restored and enhanced with relocated palms, Ficus benjamina, Tamarindus indica and existing Mangifera indica and complimented with Coccoloba uvifera and waves of understory planting including Tripsacum floridana, Agave attenuata and Portulaca grandiflora. The side gardens, which are used mostly as service corridors to the backyard, were designed as secret, winding pathways through diverse palm trees. All paths are organic in form, a request from the client, so the whole garden is never revealed in any view, creating mystery and a sense of discovery.

The veranda of the main house is a generous space for outdoor dining and was designed by the architect to be open towards the pool garden and the sea, blurring the line between inside and outside. Relocated palm trees along with generous understory plantings of Ernodea littoralis, Kigelia pinnata and Colocasia esculenta were planted closely around the house, so the garden appears to overflow into the house through the large glass windows. A couple of steps down from the veranda lead to the private bedroom bungalows, surrounded by layers of flowering Hymenocallis latifolia, Ernodea littoralis and Ipomoea pes-caprae and ferns. Passiflora spp. and Plumeria obtusa offer sweet, floral scents, so guests can sleep encompassed by green.

Existing, mature Veitchia montgomeryana were relocated to frame the central axis from the house to the sea, embracing the center lounge and dining space. The infinity-edge pool is surrounded by Portulaca grandiflora and Ipomoea pes-caprae and relocated Cocos nucifera. To accommodate the twenty-foot height difference between the house and the ocean, all rock work was redone to create terraces of natural stone. This also ensured the view towards the Caribbean Sea would not be obstructed. Conocarpus erectus and Coccoloba uvifera planting was incorporated in front of the terraced stonework to create a green façade towards the ocean. A lounge deck between the pool and beach becomes an intimate area to sit and view the ocean, and wooden stairs through the terraced planting provide access to a private beach.

The success of the project is attributed to the cooperation and teamwork from start to finish. The design team guided the client through the entire design and construction phases and engaged a landscape contractor who specialized in tree relocation. The landscape contractor together with the design team shipped supplies to the property to properly mentor the local construction team on how to carefully root prune trees and then relocate and plant them. Everyone working on the project was excited and engaged in the learning process. The local landscape contractor team was trained and guided by the landscape architecture team throughout construction implementation. Through this collaboration we created a symbiotic relationship that transformed the property into a lush oasis with deep admiration for Caribbean flora and advocacy for conservation.

Architecture offices involved in the design: Andrew Goodenough

Project Location: Jumby Bay, Antigua and Barbuda

Design year: 2016

Year Built: 2018

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