Ian Edwards’ Interview

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How did architecture start for you?

It started with construction. I got into construction to escape poverty. I had no formal architectural education. My high school education ended prematurely and l had to fend for myself. I wasn’t a particularly mischievous kid, but sometimes you, or the teachers, don’t quite know your potential or maybe how to deal with certain personalities

I started off working in construction as a labourer; six months later, I called myself a carpenter. By 21, I was a foreman. Within that time I was able to do all the different trades. I learned very quickly, and it was never enough: carpentry, masonry, plumbing, etc. By 23, I started my own company with about 7 guys,

My best friend in Montserrat was an architect by the name of Ken Cassell. To talk his language when l was in his office in the afternoon, I had to get on his wavelength. I started dabbling, doing my own sketches, and started designing ideas for some of the jobs I worked on. He took me under his wings and exposed me to the world of design. He gave me the opportunity to also review his drawings and give him my opinion on design challenges that I foresaw that would be faced during construction

I started doing my own designs. Then I started building what I drew.

How did you get the name Sugar George ?

We lived in a tiny house right on the main road and my dad used to have many bottles of sugar. His name was George. As a child, my friends passing by could see all these bottles of sugar. They started teasing me by calling me “Sugar George”, and I never liked it

That usually makes it stick, doesn’t it

Yes, it stuck. It followed me to Montserrat, and then here in Anguilla.

What came next

I came here in 1995 after the volcanic crisis in Montserrat, bought land and designed and built my first villa..

Which one was that

That was Splash Villa. Spyglass Villa, and our current home, followed after that. I had to figure out a lot of things myself..

Sometimes it is the best way to learn, isn’t it

I call it Hard Knocks University when people ask me which architecture school l went to. The recent awards and accolades achieved, put the icing on the cake and allowed me to really look back at what we’ve done over the years. At the awards ceremony, some of the firms we competed against had 800 architects on staff!

We were up against some really good designs, so to actually win was a great honour. After I get the award, I met some architects from New York who got another award the same night. One of them came up to congratulate me and asked if l studied in London or Yale. As I reached out my hand to shake his, l replied, “I’m sorry I did not have the opportunity to finish high school. “ He laughed and replied that “many of the creative ones were not” [formerly trained].

Well, they do say there’s no original idea. But what really inspires your work

One of my favorite books is the Fountainhead by Ayn Rand, Howard Roark the [lead character] was an ari school, and he dropped out because he felt that the knowledge he was getting was limiting, stifling. I think not having a formal architectural education has probably left me open to ideas. I think of myself as an open box; whatever information I get, I just throw in there and try to sift it out. I get ideas from architects, from tradesmen, from labourers. I respect everyone’s opinion, I feel like a sponge, and I just try to absorb everything,

I never feel satisfied; I always want to learn more… to see more. Whenever I travel, I pick up magazines. I look for ideas; l look at other designs, other work, for design inspiration.