Sturdy design Architectural design team still going strong on 40th anniversary

Just like the requirements for any well-designed and built house, Westport Architecture is still standing firm 40 years to the day it was founded.

The company specialises in architecture, restoration and landscape design and is based on the waterfront on North Shore Road at Flatts.

It was set up by F. Stephen West on November 12 1967 and is now run by Mr. West and his son Tripp.

  • Father and son Stephen and Tripp West of Westport Architecture, celebrate their 40th anniversary.

    Father and son Stephen and Tripp West of Westport Architecture, celebrate their 40th anniversary.


Just like the requirements for any well-designed and built house, Westport Architecture is still standing firm 40 years to the day it was founded.

The company specialises in architecture, restoration and landscape design and is based on the waterfront on North Shore Road at Flatts.

It was set up by F. Stephen West on November 12 1967 and is now run by Mr. West and his son Tripp.

And like any fine old historic house, Stephen has a good tale to tell.

The 64-year-old started out in architecture at the age of 17 working for John Kaufmann's architectural firm before going to study a course in architecture at night school in Boston, while holding down a day job at Shepley, Bulfinch, Richardson and Abbott at the same time.

He returned to Bermuda to work for Mr. Kaufmann again and then set up his own company in an hay loft in an old stable at his parents' home in Shelly Bay.

A move to a tank in Shelly Bay followed before upping sticks again to relocate to Atlas House (now Wessex House) in Reid Street.

But more was still to come. Mr. West took on a building (now being renovated for sale as office space) in Spurling's Hill, in the mid 1980s and then finally settled in the company's current location in Flatts seven years ago.

Moving into their new offices was an architectural job in itself, as the premises, which had previously been a house, warehouse, music and bicycle shop, had to be turned into an architect's studio.

Tripp, 33, who joined the family business eight years ago, said: "We like to be based out of town - it's three minutes by car or bike and ten by boat."

The offices have been lovingly restored to their former glory in the old colonial style.

But the real beauty of the company is the service it offers - a straightforward architectural design or the full package from drawing up the initial design to handing over the keys to the new property, according to Tripp.

"About 20 years ago dad started a construction company which is unique to other firms in Bermuda in that it is the whole package of design to handing over the key," he said.

"It is the whole process of building the house - the building firm which we work with today and is run by Michael Carvalho and his son, we have worked with for 25 years and they know how to build a Westport design."

Stephen reckons the best thing about working in architecture is doing a job he loves.

Son Tripp said: "It has been interesting following behind him in more recent projects with people saying to me 'I know your father and he likes things done this way' and it is a high standard of building - he doesn't let people get away with anything, but they appreciate it when they see the final product in the end."

Among some of the largest projects Stephen has undertaken during his career are the complete refurbishment and additions to former Premier John Swan's house in Paget and the design and construction of Church Hall at the site of Holy Trinity Church in Hamilton Parish.

"One of the things I always say is that good architecture is good collaboration - it is not just some image or design that you come up with, it is working with the clients themselves to get what they want," said Stephen.

"A lot of it is their own idea and you massage it and put it into practice.

"The human touch is vital - you are holding the clients' hands for a long time and it all comes together in the culmination of a finishing product in the end."

Tripp concurs: "Dealing with someone's home is a big responsibility and people get really sensitive about their homes.

"It can be expensive and it usually takes a long time, but they usually forget all the headaches they have been through in getting there to achieve it when they are finally in it and living there.

"It is an extremely emotional process all in all."

One of Stephen's biggest achievements was saving Samaritan College in St. George's from the scrap heap.

"I was working with the National trust as a consul at the time and the college was set to be bulldozed to the ground, but we managed to save it and that was an education in itself for me because the engineers had said it couldn't be saved," he said.

"Today it is a beautiful building that is simple and clean lined and the most important thing is it has survived and it is an old resident living in our present time and to be able to rescue it was a great achievement for me."

Despite only being in the business a relatively short period of time, Tripp has seen a number of changes.

"The level of these houses being built has changed so much," he said.

"Nowadays we have got some great vendors and suppliers in Bermuda who do some fantastic plumbing and tilework materials, for example, and the skill and craftsmanship has improved dramatically.

"I just think the standard of living in Bermuda has increased so much in the last 20 years and the clients are much more sophisticated and they know what they want now."

The company has five full-time office-based staff including two designers, a technician, office manager and accountant, 12 full-time crew and eight to 10 architectural sub-contractors, electricians and plumbers.

"I love the profession, but sometimes you have to think outside of the box," said Stephen.

"Bermuda is growing and I believe we have to have sustainable development and we have to get into the producing more 'green' buildings.

"There are some big changes in front of us and we have to think of the future of today's youth and we have to save and maintain open spaces, for example places like Southlands as a national park.

"One of my favourite sayings is that I live in a building - I will design a new house or renovation and I will actually mentally live in that building - I sleep in it, I walk through it and I know about every detail of it, so I am really taking clients' requirements and making those work around them."

On the sporting front, Stephen represented Bermuda in sailing at the 1968 and 1972 Olympics, came third in the World Championship Force 5 in 1979 and won the Laser Championship Nationals in the same year.

Now his love of cricket has taken over though. He umpired the 100th anniversary of Cup Match in 2001 and has umpired around the world from England and Scotland to the US, India, New Zealand and Argentina. To this day he still opens the batting for his own side West XI in the Evening Cricket League, a league he also pioneered.

In fact his career and sporting interests play such a big part of his life that they go hand-in-hand with everything he does.

"Cricket is a game of life and architecture is a love of life," he concluded.

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