top of page

Being a Registered Architect in the Caribbean

Written By Neomie Tavernier 

Contributors: Camille Douglas-Stephenson, JIA-Imm. Past President; Curisa Smith, ABIA-President;

Erskine Rose, BIA; Tony Selby, BIA 

For as many of the great architects whose names we know and revere, there are so many more of us who get to proudly call ourselves – ARCHITECT.  


As architects, we come from different walks of life, and have had different journeys leading us to where we are today. For Camille Douglas-Stephenson, Immediate Past President of the Jamaica Institute of Architects (JIA), it seemed inevitable from a young age that she would be a registered architect. Her family was involved in many aspects of the industry, from land development to planning and architecture. She recalls thinking, “It seemed like I was going to get to do some cool inventions, some cool stuff designing buildings, and I was excited.”  That excitement never went away as Camille completed her higher education; enthralled with history, precedence, art and culture. She followed her studies with a dynamic work experience over 7+ years both abroad and in Jamaica, ultimately leading to her registration and current career as a practicing architect.  What does this achievement mean to Camille? “Now I can say that I didn’t just go to architecture school, but I am registered,” she says. “A body of my peers has seen me as having the competence to perform the works of architecture and that to me is a pretty significant moment in your life.”  She has also recognized that she is now regarded differently by her peers and is interacted with as an equal.  


For Curisa Smith, President of the Antigua and Barbuda Institute of Architects (ABIA), the journey was one of practicality and choice.  She too had some industry influence growing up and thought she would try architecture school. Curisa recalls thinking, “At one point I second-guessed whether or not I wanted to become an architect because the journey was a lot of work… a turning point for me was when I had to take loans for school. This was a decision-making point.”  She prides herself on having an attitude of, “Why not go a little further? Why stop here?” In going further, she found her interest grew through engagement in conferences and interactions with other people in the field. Getting registered was a natural progression and while there have been challenges, especially with being a woman in this industry, Curisa has found that there is a great deal of support from her fellow registered architects at this level. Continued purpose comes from being in a space where she can understand and appreciate the many issues surrounding the profession and industry creating avenues for action to address them. 


Barbadian Senior Architect Tony Selby notes that his first thought of what it means to be a registered architect is of “the responsibility that people should take seriously.” Wanting the title should mean more than just being able “to use the designation.”  For him, ultimate success within the profession is marked by “being able to satisfy in a very large way the clients we serve.”  


Tony’s professional partner of over 35 years, registered architect Erskine Rose, finds his joy in feeling a sense of positive contribution to the community and to the country, no matter the size of the project. He notes that with every design he asks himself, “What contribution did I make?” He explains that there is a sense of achievement in enjoying just being in a space that you designed, and recognizing the joy that it also brings to other people. Erskine says, “Watching that activity at play is special.”  


In every case, as was my own experience, the growth and development of self from that initial desire to take on the challenge of architecture school; the required mentorship to prove oneself by achieving registration; and continued practice is the fulfillment of a life’s goal which brings understanding beyond measure to the many aspects of this field. Learning through mentorship, leadership, collaboration, and practice never ends. Our claim is the acceptance of the immense responsibility which is the basis for this profession; not for fame and fortune, but to make meaningful contributions. Hence, the use of the title “ARCHITECT” has great merit in the enactment of our training, expertise and resolution. 


In our societies, circumstances and choices drive many things; and sometimes we sacrifice our goals to meet our immediate personal needs. When Erskine Rose received a scholarship to study architecture - through the vision of the Hon. Errol Walton Barrow, Past Prime Minister of Barbados - it was a time when there was a need to ensure the development of people and specific industries in Barbados as part of a bigger picture.  When Erskine and others returned to Barbados after their studies, they fought along with local architects for over 30 years before the Registration Act was ultimately passed, granting all registered architects the legal right to practice, and outlining the responsibilities of the professional.  It mattered then and should matter now who can call themselves an architect; taking on not only the prestige but the ultimate responsibility for public safety and thoughtful development of the built environment within our nations. For the many who claim to truly love this profession and want to be part of positive development that is greater than yourself, I challenge you to see your goal fulfilled and become a Registered Architect, helping to define the future of the profession. 

bottom of page