Characteristics of Guyana’s vernacular architecture
Guyana Chronicle
August 4, 2002

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THROUGHOUT Guyana, unique manifestations of craftsmanship are evident in a domestic architecture that is overwhelmingly wooden and elaborate. Our built heritage comprises historical documents representative not only of the architectural heritage, but also a testimony of the technological, economical and even the philosophical influences of a particular era on our society.

Many of Georgetown’s historic buildings were constructed in the 19th century and their styles reflect the thought and creativity of the Guyanese builders. Many of these buildings have similar characteristics that allow for them to be easily identified as a part of our built heritage.

Metal cresting work
Many of our public buildings, for example, the High Court, the Philatelic Museum, and the City Hall are graced with metal crestings along the roofs. They are quite ornamental and are a common characteristic of Gothic architecture. They were used not only to decorate a building, but also to prevent birds (vultures) from resting and contaminating the roofs of the edifice.

Fretwork and decorative spandrels
The origins of the decorative woodwork that grace many of our historic buildings were most likely a result of the Moors who invaded Spain in 760 AD. Geometrical forms and patterns in pierced stonework and intricate surface decoration were common characteristics of their architecture. In other cases, the decorative spandrels were an interpretation in timber of the cast iron details of the Victorian era. Professor Rory Westmass attributes this characteristic of our built heritage to the Portuguese indentured servants.

The finial
Many of the roofs of the historic buildings are decorated with finials, which were designed similar to an urn with a flame or a spike coming out of it. An element used especially in Gothic architecture, finial is the crowning ornament or detail located at the top of a gable, spire, or similar forms. Traditionally, finial is a stylised fleur-de-lis or detached foliated form, but many other styles and designs do exist … from simple decorative balls to elaborately carved figures.

The Demerara Window
This top-hung louvered shutter set at an angle in front of Georgian style sash windows supported by two ornamental brackets with decorative slotted bottom and side boards was used as a cooler, in which blocks of ice were placed thus cooling the air flow into the room of the house.

Exterior mouldings
Exterior areas below windows were broken up into panels in line with studs. Traditionally of white pine, these rectangular areas have various styles of mouldings. One example of exterior moulding includes the octagonal panels, which are completed with a centrally placed boss.