Architect sketches a bright future

Eduardo Bernal has gained a reputation for his striking and intuitive architecture. But, as InsideOut discovers, it is his extraordinary passion that truly defines his designs. ..

As the son of two architects, Eduardo Bernal grew up surrounded by plans and sketches. So it seems only natural that he, too, would spend his life at the drawing board.

“Most of the things I learnt were from my father, who was from Bogota, Colombia,” Eduardo says. “My mother was from Cuba and she was very creative. She was the artistic side, but my father was the management side.”

This childhood education not only provided Eduardo with a fusion of influences, but instilled in him a passion that has continued to define his work. The Cayman-based architect, who originally hails from Uruguay, has become renowned for his unique, contemporary designs, both on island and abroad.

As he relaxes in the quiet ambience of his North Sound home, Eduardo is decidedly humble about his work. He believes good architecture is about listening to the client and creating a harmonious space based on their needs and wants.

“I don’t start designing until I meet with the client and understand what they want,” Eduardo explains. “One of my best qualities is I’m a good listener. I need to understand the site, the breeze, the noise, the culture, the topography before I even draw one line.

“Architecture should be about passion and enthusiasm. It is where you’re going to live. Every client has a dream. [Architects] have the power to understand this dream and make it true.”

Eduardo’s formal education began in Colombia, where he studied architecture at Pontificia Universidad Javeriana in Bogota. Realising he needed more qualifications, Eduardo undertook an MBA at the University of Sarasota in Florida before returning to Colombia to teach at his alma mater, where he stayed for 13 years.

Eduardo describes the architecture in Colombia as “amazing”.

“It’s a hidden secret,” he enthuses, “It’s very modern and ahead of the game.”

In 1996, Eduardo was offered the opportunity to join one of the largest design companies in the world, Stantec, in Toronto, Canada. It was during this time that he honed his skills and discovered his love of a challenge.

“I was in the health care department, so I was building hospitals,” Eduardo says. “It was not my intent, but I enjoyed it. We had a difficult client at the time who wanted to build a small facility in Ontario. My employer decided to throw the ball to the new guy,” he laughs.

“Luckily, I had very good chemistry with the client. I spent two years designing the facility. With hospitals, you have to consult with everyone – the doctors, the nurses, even the cleaners. It was a long learning curve.”

Eduardo moved to Cayman in 2005 and, despite the vast changes in cultures, from Colombia to Canada to Cayman, his adept communications skills and enthusiasm for the job enabled him to ease into the Caribbean way of life.

“I learnt French, Spanish, English and Portuguese [at school in Colombia] so I am fluent in these languages. I communicate easier with so many different cultures,” he says.

“One thing I have learnt from knowing all these cultures and languages is that we’re all the same. It doesn’t matter where you come from, everyone wants the same things in life. To living in a united family, to have time to do the things we like to do, and to work hard to be proud of our achievements.”

As architect at Bronte Development Ltd, the company behind The SeaView Residences and the upcoming Oceana, Eduardo is gaining a reputation in Cayman for his modern architecture and his attention to the surrounding environment. His projects range from commercial buildings to custom homes. When asked to describe his inspirations, Eduardo takes a moment to ponder the question.

“I have seen so much architecture in my life that I don’t admire any certain building,” he explains. “I admire [Colombian architect] Roberto Londoño, but, probably more so, [Colombian architect] Rogelio Salmona. His work is very modern but with movement.”

Eduardo names Rio di Janeiro as one of his favourite cities, for “the very good architecture, topography, climate and very happy people”. He also has a place in his heart for Havana, which he believes “is going to have an amazing future”.

He does not follow a certain style in his work but believes in well-designed buildings.

“I think [architectural] style is like a beautiful dress on a woman. When all the functions are well-organised, in the spaces and the lighting and the connections, the style is in the details. You can make a building look more modern or classic, by using certain building materials. When people ask for a Spanish style house, they don’t actually want a Spanish house, but they want the tiles and the colours. The materials are like the dress of the building.”

Despite his love of environmentally-conscious design, Eduardo has watched the rise of green architecture with skepticism, as he has always followed these practices within his work.

“For me, trained in South America, green architecture is something that has surprised me. What green architecture does is correct the mistakes of architects in the developed world,” he says.
“I design houses that are sensitive to the environment, at a good cost, they’re well-ventilated and don’t need a lot of air conditioning. To me, that’s a good building.

“Every house in South America uses very low consumptions. Green architecture surprises me because South Americans have always been doing that.”

Eduardo’s love for his vocation is both infectious and charming. It is clear he has found his passion in life, a passion that, many years on, shows no sign of fading.

“My favourite day of the week is Monday,” he laughs. “I get to do what I love best every day.” 

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Stephen Clarke