Students from Good Hope Country Day School listened intently Monday as architecture students and a teacher from the Danish Aarhus School of Architecture spoke about their project to restore the old Danish Barracks in Christiansted and three other old buildings in the territory.
The 10 students from Denmark are on a three-week work study project collaborating with the Department of Public Works, the V.I. Legislature and Centennial Commission, on the restoration of the old barracks as a centennial project. In 2017 the U.S. Virgin Islands will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the day the territory was transferred from Danish control to the United States.
The involved parties hope to transform the barracks – a decrepit yellow building on the east edge of Christiansted, on Hospital Street – into an Architecture, Design and Building Arts School.
Simon Sjogaard, a thesis student from the architecture school, said their goal is to educate a new generation how to heal abandoned historical buildings.
Maj Dalsgaard, a teacher at the architecture school, said people must understand the past and act in the present to understand the future.
“Everything built tells a story how people lived,” Dalsgaard told the middle school students. “The project is about identity and St. Croix and Denmark’s shared history.”
She added it is a great project to teach the younger generation how to preserve buildings the right way.
Sjogaard said they don’t know much of the history of the building yet – other than it being a hospital, school, police station and the barracks. He added the students will go to Whim Museum and the Landmarks Society this week to do more research. They do know there at one time a fire destroyed another building behind the two main buildings that face the street.
Eighth grader Stephen Bannis said the presentation was very interesting and bringing the building back to life is a good idea.
According to Monica Marin, DPW Cultural Preservation and Restoration coordinator, the students are examining the location and doing measurements of the site. The students will also work on drawings that re-imagine the spaces with this new purpose in mind and offer suggestions for the facility.
“The students’ participation in the project is essential to us in that we hope to include their ideas and voices in this early stage of development,” Marin said.
The projected cost of the restoration for the centennial project is $10 million.
Marin said her department and the centennial commission are going to work with the Danish government to see if they will give a gift of $5 million for the project and the V.I. Government to budget another $5 million to complete it.
“This project is something we hope will happen,” Sjogaard said. “We’ve learned so much here. We want to show politicians the potential to make this happen.”
He added he hopes local government will find the funds to make the joint venture happen.
“We all find this project is fun,” Marin said. “It’s a very exciting dream project for us.”
Marin said on St. Thomas, the project calls for the former Danish military hospital in Charlotte Amalie to become the Virgin Islands first National Museum, tied in with the Smithsonian. A group of architectural students from the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts are similarly working on St.Thomas at the Old Jarvis School. And on St. John they are looking at restoring the Battery.