Regenerating while respecting the testimonial value: Fort Charlotte as a museum of local history and identity place for the community. An open place, capable of welcoming international users and contemporary expectations.
The Fort is located on a hill to the north-west of Kingstown, capital of the island of Saint Vincent, overlooking the harbour. The complex consists of the main Fort building, built at the end of the 18th century, its courtyards and some service buildings (former tank, former armoury, former officers' mess). The building is interspersed with dense tropical vegetation, which also characterises the cliffs overlooking the sea.
The reuse of Fort Charlotte as a museum and meeting place triggers processes of cultural re-appropriation and reconciliation with the difficult past, to which those walls and spaces are privileged witnesses. The design therefore developed with absolute respect for the testimonial value, while proposing a radical regeneration. In addition to exhibition spaces, the project envisages educational and interactive spaces, places for performances, installations for projections and digital exhibitions, an experiential cafeteria, an active plaza with commercial facilities, e-bike rental, observation and interpretation points for the cultural and natural landscape.
The Politecnica team contributed to the project with integrated design skills and strategic vision. The master plan for repositioning Fort Charlotte in the island's tourist and socio-cultural system was the result of meetings with local stakeholders and benchmark analysis.
The development of the project involved a number of challenges, first and foremost knowledge of the site and the artefacts, acquired through interviews, drone and laser scanner surveys of the entire complex, fibre optic exploration of the underground tunnels, and investigations into the materials used for construction. Another challenge was to identify the most suitable technologies for the context in terms of atmospheric conditions, but also in terms of ease and cost of procurement, without neglecting the ability to use and implement them by the workers potentially involved in the contract, who would probably come from the Caribbean region.
The museum inside the Fortress includes various edutainment elements designed for visits by the island's and the region's school communities, environments dedicated to the rediscovery and training of traditional building and craft techniques. The aim is to involve the population in the management of the site and, at the same time, to support the schooling and vocational training of the weaker sections of the population.
In the start-up report and throughout the project phase, there were opportunities to share and directly involve the population through face-to-face and online meetings, interviews, walks and shared inspections. The aim was to understand expectations and problems, opportunities for synergy and mitigation of impacts, building the basis for possible interactions and opportunities for joint management of the new spaces and functions envisaged by the project.