Wednesday, 16 October 2013

MASTER BUILDER: Prize-winning Jamaican architect Gordon Gill making his mark on the global stage

ON REFLECTION: "I'm finally at the point where I can understand what it is that I don't know."

A proud Jamaican by birth, Gordon Gill is regarded as one of the world's preeminent exponents of performance-based architecture. His remarkable work, which ranges from sustainable communities to the world's largest buildings, also includes the design of the planet's first net zero-energy skyscraper (China's Pearl River Tower) and the world's first large-scale positive energy building (the Masdar Headquarters in Abu Dhabi). This past weekend, TALLAWAH caught up with the accomplished master builder at the TedEx Jamaica conference in New Kingston to talk design and personal destiny: 

TALLAWAH: It's great to learn that a son of Jamaica has contributed to the construction of some of the most stunning buildings on Earth. 
Gill: I have always been proud of my Jamaican heritage, but we left Jamaica when I was 11 for Toronto. So I got my undergrad at Toronto[University]. I then did two degrees, at the University of Texas and at Harvard. I live in Chicago now. 

How have you seen your work in architecture evolve over the years? 
I think the work has evolved in several ways, mainly through research and the expanse of the work that my company is doing. A part of the early days was about overcoming that which we didn't know. So a big part of our work is in research in getting answers to a lot of the questions that we ask ourselves. 

Being based in Chicago, how do you stay connected to your Jamaican roots? 
I have a big family. I have three sisters and a brother, and we talk to each other constantly, which is always good. Jamaica is just something that you can't get out of your system; it's not something you can walk away from. It's a part of me. 

What do you love most about coming home? 
Coming back home I look forward to a lot of things. I am thrilled by just the idea of the experiences that I can have here. I love Jamaican people and Jamaican food. I love to travel around and see all the new developments that are happening. Last time I was here was last summer. 

You recently scored your first half-century. What's life like at 50? 
It's good. I think I'm finally at the point where I can understand, or mature enough to understand, what it is that I don't know. I'm more comfortable with saying that I don't know something. I don't worry about being right all the time. As my father used to say, it is better to be wise than to be right. And now I know what he means.

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