The best way to manage limited space and a strong desire for square footage-heavy amenities—go up. This is how Jamaican architecture firm Synergy Design Studio approached the design for their upcoming Freeport, Montego Bay project, a residential living development called Soleil, for Jamaican business Sharkfin Development Ltd. “We decided to push the limits and go vertically so we could maximize the land use for amenities,” said Synergy founding partner Bruce Lopez.
As a result, the high-rise apartment building will boast a waterfront recreation area, spa, gym, pool, tennis court, and dining pavilion, effectively offering residents an oasis amid the busy tourist-centric atmosphere of Montego Bay. Going up will also afford each unit a view of the bay, the mountains beyond, and the twinkling city lights of Montego Bay at nighttime, while maximising light and ventilation and maintaining privacy for residents. The building’s orientation and its shape, like that of a bird’s wings extended back in a wide V during flight, also play a role in affording each residence a million-dollar view.
“The client was inspired by the property’s stunning views, the varying colours of the sea, and the extensive mountainscape,” said Lopez. “They wanted those vistas to remain the focus.” Synergy went beyond simply framing the views with large openings.
Gently textured white quartz countertops, suspended modern lacquered vanities, delicately striated wood grain cabinetry, and glazed porcelain floor tiles selected to resemble fine bone china combine in an exquisitely modern design, yet the combination of cool finishes yields to Montego Bay’s true natural beauty.
“Interior designer Christine Azan kept the palette intentionally neutral to allow for the changing natural light from sunrise to sunset to reflect against its surfaces,” said Lopez. “The exterior fenestration frames the views while allowing reflections from the sun to enter and warm the space.”
On a more practical note, the floor plan’s organization allowed for efficiency of circulation and services. “The development represents a resort-residential lifestyle while maintaining a familial community,” said Lopez. “The orientation of each suite to capture water views and the integration of amenities and public areas while maintaining privacy was well-executed. The extensive amenities allow multiple options for individual experiences.”
The high-rise residence’s design is decidedly modern, which Lopez says is becoming more favoured in Jamaica. When he founded Synergy Design Studio in Florida in 2005, Lopez and his associates found that clients were hesitant to commit to this design style, but today, more clients are responding positively to the idea of modern design. Lopez points to two major factors that have helped fuel this trend: technological advances in the ways architects can share design concepts, and social media, which exposes homeowners and developers to varying styles.
“The client for this Montego Bay project wanted a first-world development with all the amenities and features one would expect anywhere else,” said Lopez. “They wanted to set a new standard for high-rise residential living in Jamaica.” Lopez, whose career in architecture developed in Miami during the economic boom years of the early 2000s, had several high-end residential designs under his belt when his firm was tasked with this Montego Bay project.
After the housing market crash in 2007, Lopez and his family relocated to Jamaica, where he opened the Jamaican office of Synergy Design Studio. “The office and associated projects have been growing steadily ever since,” said Lopez. “The Jamaican construction industry is in a good place right now and we have been able to capitalize on that by bringing the experience of international projects to the table.”
Lopez has melded his style and experience with Caribbean vernacular, resulting in a modern interpretation of the region’s architecture known as tropical modern, or contemporary Caribbean. It’s a style that builds on the vernacular architecture’s response to climatic conditions—allowing for natural light and good cross ventilation—by turning to modern methods to achieve the same outcomes. Lopez, who’s wanted to be an architect since he was a child, is firmly in his element at the design table.
“As a child, the idea of creating structures that humans would inhabit, and that would influence the quality of their lives seemed very ‘special’—a privilege of sorts,” he said. “Today, I appreciate most aspects of the industry, but if I had to pick one I like the most, it would be the conceptual design. I believe good architecture is driven by a strong concept. The initial stages of a project make it or break it.”
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