A Tribute to the Life and Architecture of Roger Turton

by Gary Turton, AIA, TTIA

Roger TurtonRoger Turton was born (he said), an architect, on July 18, 1955 at Pointe-a-Pierre Hospital. His family lived in San Fernando where he grew up. He went to school at the San Fernando Government Boy's School and Presentation College. He often spoke of the times he had in the Sea Scouts, where he learned boating and became an excellent swimmer, and played in the music band. He had an excellent baritone, and his final year at school, won several awards at the Music Festival.

After A-levels he worked for a year at Newel-Lewis Broadbridge Associates, where he began a close personal and professional association with John Newel-Lewis, which lasted through their respective lifetimes.

Roger then went to Oxford Polytechnic in England, to study architecture. After graduating he completed his studies at the internationally reputed Architectural Association in London, from which he graduated among the top students in his class.

He spent two years doing his internship in London, and worked here in Trinidad with Newel-Lewis Broadbridge and the Ministry of Works before starting his office on Richmond Street on July 27th of that year.

To experience Roger's work was really like experiencing him; he always said he was born an architect. He had the rare ability to truly transpose himself into his work. Like Roger, his spaces and structures possess a sensitivity to the detail of the human-size experience. The work was always about tactile experiences, never about passive pictures.

One of the things he really enjoyed over several years was his Easter-time session of teaching Architecture at CAST in Jamaica.

Two years ago his work was featured in an exhibition at the Architectural Association in London. The painter, Sarah Beckett, has done many paintings featuring Roger's work.

Among the buildings about which he felt the most affinity is the Villa Wheel in Tobago which he designed for Edmund Turton. A friend of mine described the building as a poem.

His mentor and close friend, John Newel-Lewis has this to say about Roger and his work: "The twentieth century has been a time for tidying up. The complex Victorian era gave way to cubic art, fundamentalist abstraction and today closed deductive systems."

This age has become faceless and the young are clamouring to regain their cultures. We need a new era. We need buildings to say something now. Roger Turton, architect, understands this. His architecture creates images of the mind, his walls speak to us and he is not conversing in a foreign tongue

His friends said that as a child he was very gentle, very kind and considerate, sensitive to everything around him. His cousins remember him as this too, but also as he was in later life: gregarious, witty, unpredictable, impulsive, difficult, not always reliable, but real fun to be with.

He was a man of passionate convictions and spirituality, hated poor taste, cruelty, laziness, mediocrity, dishonesty and middle-of-the-roadism. He lived, as he worked, with maximum intensity, always at full throttle, a hurricane, a tornado, a force, exhausting, exasperating, strong-willed, loving, extravagant, generous to a fault and very protective of those he cared for.

He didn't like pain, although much of his best work came from his own pain. Roger had an incredible capacity for love. Roger was a builder of dreams, a provider of colours.

Roger especially asked for Miriam Mikeba's "Click Song" to be played (at his funeral) because it is a marriage song, and he saw death as a reuniting, a remarriage with God.

We thank God for the privilege of the short, intense and wonderful time that we spent with Roger; that Roger was able to leave the legacy that he wished ... a memory of love, of passion, of truth and of beauty.

Excerpt from Eulogy for Roger Turton by Christine Jorsling, 1996.