Danish Students Work on Design Plans for Historic V.I. Buildings

A group of Danish architecture students ended their three-week visit to the territory Friday with the thanks of the V.I. Government and the Centennial Commission and promised to send design plans for renovating several historic buildings for a Centennial project – “In Search of Identity.”

On St. Croix, a group from the Aarhus School of Architecture of Denmark conducted predesign work and learned about the history of the old Christiansted military barracks. They measured, photographed and sketched the grounds with the goal of renovating the ruins.

According to local architect Gerville Larsen’s 2013 Christiansted town plan, the barracks are to be converted into a university level school of architecture and vocational school and the students will provide their renditions in the next few months.

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Likewise, a group of students from the Royal Academy of Fine Arts School of Architecture in Copenhagen spent the last three weeks sketching, measuring, photographing and learning about the historic J. Antonio Jarvis Elementary School in Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas.

When they return to Denmark, they will draw plans and put together an exhibit to rebuild the school complex into a museum and school of arts and culture, according to Sen. Myron Jackson, who has worked on the project since the beginning.

Jackson said Danes and Virgin Islanders have been working together for decades to develop a plan to preserve and restore historic buildings.

In1964, the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts published “Three Towns: Conservation and Renewal of Charlotte Amalie, Christiansted and Frederiksted” that included sketches, measurements and information on the conditions of the buildings in the towns.

In 2006, a friendship program was begun between the two countries and, in 2014, a group of Danes visited the territory and talked about raising funds for projects, according to Larsen.

In 2015, Jackson and others visited Denmark and introduced “In Search of Identity” projects as part of the centennial celebration in 2017.

Both projects will constitute community revitalization because of the educational aspects, Jackson said. 

The project will cost $20 million and includes renovations to a St. John’s historic site. The V.I. government will be responsible for $10 from private and public funding and hopefully, the Danish government will take on half of the debt.

Jackson said a 2017 ground breaking is planned.

Before boarding their flight to Denmark, the St. Croix students were presented certificates by Jackson and Public Works Commissioner Gustav James, who thanked the students and their teacher, Maj Dalsgaard.

James expressed his commitment and acknowledged the high cost of the project

“If we look at the historic value, we know we are not able to destroy such treasures. We will do whatever it takes to preserve the buildings we have,” he said.

Dalsgaard said the “fantastic experience of this island” was an opportunity for her students to “understand the past and create the future.”

The students’ design projects will be completed in the fall and the exhibit will be displayed in Denmark and sent to the Virgin Islands.

The exhibit will “realize the potential of these buildings” while educating a new generation on how to preserve the past working together, Dalsgaard said.

Representatives from the V.I. Police Department, the Centennial Commission and the Economic Development Authority also thanked the Danish travelers and invited them to return.

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