Those in creative industries understand the importance of inspiration. Travel can tap into creative energy and lead to new directions. Here, Cayman designers and architects dish on the cities that captivate them.


Lori McRae
Interior Designer
Frederick + McRae Ltd.

Toronto, my hometown, inspired me to become a designer. As a young child, I witnessed the construction of the Toronto Dominion Centre designed by architect Mies van der Rohe. The simplicity of these glass-and-steel structures juxtaposed with the historic buildings in the downtown area marked the beginning of new era of growth and architectural design in the city.

The Royal Ontario Museum is one of my favorite Toronto buildings. Built in 1914, the Neo-Romanesque structure houses a unique collection of art, world culture and natural history. This historic structure was transformed in 2007 with the controversial addition of “The Crystal”, a deconstructivist crystalline form created by architect Daniel Libeskind.

Whatever your thoughts are (I happen to find it intriguing) this structure is certainly worth a visit to the ROM.

In addition to the rich architectural offerings, I have always loved Toronto’s ethnic diversity.

As a “foodie” it’s always a treat for me to return to Little Italy, China Town or the Danforth for Greek food. As much as I look forward to trying out new restaurants (this past summer it was Luckee by Susur Lee) I always make time for a visit to the St. Lawrence Market to have an iconic peameal bacon sandwich. I love the buzz you experience walking through the market, particularly on a Saturday morning.

Be it sailing on Lake Ontario or strolling through High Park in the summertime, skating at the City Hall ice rink or watching the Maple Leafs play hockey in the winter, Toronto is a city that is alive no matter what the season. I personally find it so culturally uplifting and feel very fortunate to have been shaped by this inspiring city.


Brian Macdonald
Design Cayman

Chicago is home to some of the most inventive and stunning architecture – buildings, structures and materials that stretch the limit, and the imagination.

Fused with history, rebuilding, tradition and innovation, it’s why the Windy City has inspired me – and continues to inspire me – as an architect.

In 1990, I had the good fortune of being selected to travel from Scotland to Chicago to attend its famous architectural school.

Centrally located on the campus of the Illinois Institute of Technology, two miles south of downtown Chicago, the building houses IIT’s College of Architecture. My daily classes were held in the famous “Crown Hall” designed by Ludwig Mies Van der Rohe in 1953, regarded as one of his masterpieces.

Working day-to-day in a world-famous architect’s building was a real privilege and provided daily inspiration. The building is on two levels and is configured as a pure rectangular form (220 ft. by 120 ft. by 18 ft. tall). The enclosed space is column-free, which is spectacular.

Upon its opening, Mies van der Rohe declared it: “The clearest structure we have done, the best to express our philosophy.” One critic called it “the Parthenon of the 20th Century.”
Our monthly school tours took us to many amazing architectural wonders in Chicago: The tallest brick building in the world and, at one point, the tallest building in the world. Such famous architects as Louis Sullivan, known as the “father of skyscrapers” and “father of modernism,” and the prolific and pioneering Frank Lloyd Wright lived there. It was simply a melting pot for the top architects in the world to show off. Even now this architectural experimentation continues.

Working in the Loop in Chicago, the city’s central business district, for five months, I got a great sense of fast-paced city life. But the suburbs are only a short distance away, like villages surrounding the city, each with its own gritty character.

San Gimignano

John Doak
John Doak Architecture

One my favorite places on the planet is San Gimignano, a medieval hilltop town in Tuscany, Italy.

Its stunning profile appears as a series of high-rise stone towers against the skyline.

Set in the heart of Tuscan wine country, the town commands views over the surrounding vineyards, which produce the local Vernaccia wines.

Famous also for the saffron that grows there, San Gimignano is a classic hill town with various squares and piazzas opening up along the winding, narrow streets to celebrate its churches and town halls.

The town is perhaps most renowned for its towers – it is said there were up to 72 towers in medieval times. During the 13th and 14th centuries, family rivalries resulted in the building of towers of an ever-increasing height.

Emerging as a town around 300 B.C., San Gimignano’s Romanesque and Gothic architecture has been recognized as a World Heritage Site.

I first discovered San Gimignano as a student of the Glasgow School of Art some 40 years ago. As an architectural student, I sketched, measured and analyzed many of the buildings and studied the townscape and development history.

More recently, I visited the city and found that its popularity now prohibits cars on the streets so it has once again become a pedestrian-paced town.

Being somewhat akin to the scale and size of George Town, there is considerable affinity to San Gimignano with its tourism challenges.

Thankfully, the hilltop town is not overcrowded and I would highly recommend this place to anyone visiting Florence, Siena or the countryside of Tuscany.

San Gimignano is simply stunning with many moments and celebrations along its narrow, winding, stone-paved streets.

Being a hill town, visitors get a good workout walking from the parking areas at the bottom of the hill. However, the plazas and resting points along the way to the top are refreshingly welcoming with hole-in-the-wall craft stores, small cafes, bars and restaurants serving local wines and fresh produce from the surrounding farms and fields.