Travel is a key element in an architect’s journey. For normal coursework, a student is provided with the necessary study materials in the form of textbooks or E-books, whereas in Architecture our sense of intrigue and observations act as a key tool in learning the craft. Travelling gives experiential learning which helps us in understanding the ecology, history, background, and architecture of a place. Aruba Island, a constituent country in the Netherlands is one such location which is a must for architects to explore. Located near the southern Caribbean Sea it is a rather small island that is only 10 km wide across its widest point. The tropical climate has helped in making this island one of the most touristic centers. Apart from the desert landscapes and fauna, this island is also famous for its rich colonial heritage and architecture. It is a blend of its Spanish and Dutch history with many heritage buildings re-adapted as per the current needs.
Here’s a peek of the 15 places an Architect must visit in Aruba: –
1. National Archaeological Museum
The downtown Oranjestad has many Dutch colonial buildings from the 19th to the 20th century. In the year 2006, the restoration and construction work for these buildings had begun. In the former property of the ‘Ecury Family, the ‘Ecury complex’ was to be converted into an Archaeological Museum. This complex with 1 to 2 storeys each hosts this museum which gives an insight into the origin and culture of Aruba. It showcases artwork from the prehistoric and early historic times. Apart from this, the museum arranges several lectures, workshops, exhibits, etc.
The location of this archaeological museum in a Dutch colonial building makes it an intriguing place for Architects to visit with history in and around it.
2. Fort Zoutman
Built-in 1796, it is the oldest remnant of the Dutch architecture. The fort is named after the Dutch Rear Admiral who had won over a British convoy during the fourth British war. It served as a fort in the initial stages, later from 1816 it was used to house Government offices, Police departments, and prisons. Today it is a museum that showcases artifacts from the colonial era.
3. Willem III Tower
In the precincts of Fort Zoutman, the Willem III Tower was constructed in 1796. For many years, it served as a lighthouse which had a spire and a petrol lamp. The colonial architecture with its peculiar elements makes this tower a must-visit.
4. ‘Art District’ at San Nicolas
San Nicolas has been developing itself as an art district over the years. It is a hub for its yearly Aruba Art Fair (AAF) which showcases artworks from local and international artists. Another attractive feature is the Mosaic benches that adorn the entire street, these benches are intricately detailed with designs showcasing the Aruban lifestyle and culture.
Many artists visit to make their wall art on the Aruban streets. These installations make the streets lively and celebratory in spirit. These thought-provoking designs add a sense of dynamicity to the streets.
5. Biblioteca Nacional Aruba
The Aruban National Library is an artistic looking structure which has been renovated to house art and history centric books. The bright coloured façade is a modern take on libraries. It breaks the stereotype of an institutional building. The façade is a reflection of the dynamic fabric of Aruba. Apart from a library, it also houses a separate study space for students.
6. Wilhelmina Park
The park is a waterfront development that is scenic and well-maintained. Surrounded by Palm trees and manicured green spaces, this place is an ideal location to have an evening stroll. Another highlight is the Iguanas on the water edge which are a regular in this park.
7. Guadirikiri Caves
Natural skylight entering from the openings of these caves is what makes this location a must-visit. The angled light rays beautified the interior spaces naturally.
8. Renaissance Shopping mall and marketplace
This two-storey mall has been designed as per the colonial fabric with a contemporary approach. With its peculiar colonial roof styles and arched pathways, it blends itself within the Aruban fabric. The marketplace offers a culinary experience of local and international cuisines. The semi-open spaces with scenic views of the Caribbean Sea is an ideal location to explore the local culture. The centric communal spaces are used for festivities.
Hooiberg is located in the central most of the island. It is a volcanic mountain of over 160 meters above sea level. A stepped stairway of 900 steps allows you to reach the topmost part of the mountain which offers scenic views of the entire island. Due to its central location, it gives a wide view of the island. The steps also have halt areas with Gazebos located at various distances.
10. Arikok National Park
This National park covers almost 20 percent of the island spread. It is a storehouse of various cacti-based landscapes with many caves, rock formation, and even sand dunes. It houses the flora and fauna of Aruba with many unique species. The Park also has a natural bridge at Anicouri which is formed through wave erosion. It showcases the diverse pre-historic times of Aruba in an open space which adds to the experiential value.
11. California Lighthouse and California Dunes
This location is an ideal visit during the sunsets. This rugged lighthouse dates back to the historic colonial era, with its white stoned façade surrounded by dunes, cacti, and grazing animals. It offers scenic views during the sunsets with the sky turning into a purplish orange palette adorned by this white lighthouse.
12. Alto Vista Chapel
This chapel is a landmark location that houses the Spanish colonial history in Aruba. Dated back to 1750, it was built by a Spanish missionary, Domingo Antonia Silvestre. It was again rebuilt in 1954. Surrounded by the cacti landscape with dunes, this chapel is located at a higher altitude in a rather isolated surrounding. The location allows the visitor to have a space for contemplation and reflection.
It also marks the Spanish colonial history of the island with elements that date back to the time.
13. Aruba’s Dive sites
Creativity is absorbed better when it is gained through exploration and insightful experiences. The Aruba Dive sites are a storehouse of its ancient sunken history and its magnificent coral reefs. The waters even have sunken cargo ships, boats, and plane fuselages in them. Antilia, one of the Caribbean’s largest shipwrecks, is a part of these dive sites.
14. The Butterfly Farm
This tropical garden has an abundance of hosting the local flora of Aruba. With green landscapes and nature trails, this farm has rare species of butterflies. They have various workshops that showcase the cycle of the metamorphosis of a butterfly which is an intriguing experience for the visitors.
15. Oranjestad-Street walks
Being the capital of the island, Oranjestad with its quaint colonial-style buildings with colorful façade is a dynamic experience in itself. These buildings are colored in lemon, sky blue, and even pink facades!
The streets have maintained their original character over the years, a walk through these streets allows a visitor to transition back in time through a diverse history of Aruba.
With a historic and contemporary blend of architecture and activities, Aruba is the most sought after destination, worth exploring. This island’s economy is mainly run by its tourism. With a variety of experiences right from its Dutch and Spanish heritage to its scenic views and vistas, Aruba is a must-visit place for architects who seek to learn through exploration.