When Pedro Theye decided to become an architect he had no idea the profession would be so adventurous.
From being attacked by natives with a bow and arrow, to hurricanes and massive earthquakes, his career has taken him on a roller coaster ride around the world.
Now settled in Grand Cayman for the second time, Pedro is enjoying the serenity of the island he and his family call home.
As the senior architect at DDL Studio in Cayman – a company which provides architecture, interior design and quantity surveying services – he is looking forward to working on many high profile projects including the redevelopment of the former Hyatt resort.
Pedro studied at the University of Miami School of Architecture, which specialises in design techniques for buildings that contribute to their urban context.
“Being born and raised in Miami, with four crazy siblings and parents from Spanish, Cuban and German backgrounds, gave me a good base for the patience and imagination required for a design profession,” he says.
As part of his studies, Pedro undertook a programme in Rome, Italy, in line with a centuries-old tradition for young architects in what is termed the “European Tour”.
“It was in Italy that I got my first taste of the adventures in architecture, from being confronted by a wolf in the eerie streets of Mantova to running from the Italian police after swimming the Roman fountains,” Pedro recalls. “I realised there that architecture is the stage set for life and the more beautiful the setting the more interesting one’s life.
In 1995, Pedro graduated with a Bachelors Degree in Architecture from the University of Miami but continued studying film directing at the institution’s film school until 2007 after being inspired by a work trip to Los Angeles.
“The project in LA was to do designs for the film director Ridley Scott, who had just bought the Beverly Hills mansion from (singer) Neil Diamond,” he says. “The house was down the street from the Playboy mansion and just above Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis’s home. Ridley’s new house was built in 1920s and had secret rooms behind book shelves, perfect for Hollywood parties.”
At around the same time, Pedro became involved with the redesign of an old hotel on Miami Beach that was being converted into a private residence for the fashion designer Gianni Versace.
“We had spent 90-hour weeks slaving away on the drawings to impress Versace, thinking he was going to be blown away,” says Pedro.
“He merely took a minute to look at them and said ‘Ok, do it…ciao’. Later we found out that it was a one of the quickest approvals he had ever given.”
“Sadly, a couple of years later the gates we designed for him were plastered all over the international news with the headlines ‘Versace gunned down in front of his Miami Beach home’. A sobering reminder that good architecture can also be the backdrop to bad moments in history.”
Although many of Pedro’s early projects were residential, Pedro’s interests leaned towards assignments that afforded him the opportunity to travel.
And, in the mid-90s he began work on the designs for guest villas and site works at the Half Moon resort in Montego Bay, Jamaica.
“Those trips solidified my interest for designing beachfront resorts, which is now my architectural speciality,” he says.
“While doing my first projects in the Caribbean I began to better appreciate how the smell of the sea breeze, and the eye candy of her aqua waters, could be framed.”
By 1999, Pedro had worked at top Miami-based firms, with a design spectrum ranging from high-rise towers in Miami Beach to private destination islands for Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines.
“Many of the projects included village planning and golf course communities in the Caribbean where I inserted elements I had learned in Rome, like taking advantage of focal points and the importance of building proportion for aesthetics and human scale,” he says.
It was this experience, combined with ambition, which led to Pedro opening an island design consultancy.
“Ironically, my first and only job for that company was here in Cayman,” he says.
“Since then I’ve been hooked on Cayman’s balance of serene scenery, international residents and First World lifestyle.”
Towards the end of 2002, Pedro opened a small architectural firm in George Town working on luxury homes, condo villages and a few hospitality projects, mentored by the late developer Dan Tibbetts and the late, well-known structural engineer Lloyd Hue.
“As well as undertaking projects with Dan, from West Bay to East End and many in the Sister Islands including the village plan for Uptown and the new Brac Power and Light Building, he taught me that patience equals perseverance,” says Pedro.
“At the same time, Lloyd taught me the basics of building in Cayman. He was one of the Caribbean’s great engineers and many in our industry would agree his legacy in Cayman is evident in nearly all the buildings we still inhabit. He once told me ‘the good life is the balance between reward and effort’.”
In 2007, however, Pedro decided to take a sabbatical to see the world, so merged his work and staff with DDL Studio.
During a stint in London, he finished projects remotely and completed paintings he had started in Cayman, as well as pursuing his other passion of acting.
This was followed by an architecture project in Vietnam, and then a position as the in-house architect for Wyndham Vacation Resorts in Australia, where his wife is from.
“It was a wild ride working closely with the hotel group’s CEO,” says Pedro.
“I designed and project managed resorts in New Zealand, Fiji and throughout Australia. Each country had its own set of challenges and adventures; in New Zealand I had something happen to me every time I was there, including being shot at with a bow and arrow during an evening kayak trip down a trout stream, to a large earthquake which made the ground feel as if we were on a massive waterbed.”
Pedro and his wife missed family in Florida and friends in Cayman so in 2011 they upped sticks and moved back to the States. A year later, with two young children in tow, they returned to Cayman following a phone invitation from Brian Eccles, principal of DDL.
“It was perfect timing as DDL was awarded the project of resuscitating Britannia’s old Hyatt Resort,” says Pedro.
“The hotel holds a lot of great memories for locals and visitors as the setting for many weddings and receptions as well as the pool bar scene in the movie The Firm with Tom Cruise.
“We are keeping the spirit of the old Hyatt by maintaining the building’s shell while creating a new destination which will welcome all to create new memories.”
And Pedro considers it an honour to contribute to Cayman’s architectural landscape especially with all the “green” technologies which are now available.
“I believe the success of the built environment of Cayman is crucial for its future to continue to attract tourists and top offshore companies and talent,” he says.
“As in Rome, architecture is the reflection of its people’s principles and should be practised to the same high standards.”