Is the clichéd saying, ‘Aruba is a perfect getaway’ lacking a vital spark? Aruba is a beautiful Caribbean island about 15 miles off the coast of Venezuela. It is just 20 miles long and six miles wide. The population is around 100,000, with 33,000 residing in the capital city, Oranjestad. The Arawak tribes first inhabited the island. It was later colonized by Spain and has been under Dutch administration since 1636. The economy is mainly based on tourism. It has the best Caribbean beaches with high and low rise hotels and resorts stretching from the Eagle beach to Palm beach.
The island offers alluring resorts, restaurants, bars, casinos, boutiques, amenities and water activities for people of all ages. California lighthouse, Natural Bridge, Old rock cavern, Alto Vista Church and Archeological museum are popular tourist destinations. There is definitely Dutch influence in the buildings especially in the downtown . However, there is no rich history and architecture to depict the Aruban culture. Though Dutch architecture prevails, the Caribbean colors dominate the buildings. There are variety of shops,restaurants, malls and local boutiques in the downtown. Huge modern shopping malls like Renaissance and market place and Royal Plaza with luxury brands and local tourist Flea Market and petite platform shops are all found in the same locality. Oranjestad is not well connected to the port and there is no adequate facilities for fishing and boating. There is no proper access for visitors to the port.
Aruba is a windy island with no rich vegetation. Cactus is the only main desert flora found in the region. Most products are imported which is the main reason for the exorbitant prices of the goods. The island is off the hurricane belt and the place receives very little rain. There is no natural water source for agriculture. There is a desalination plant on the east side of the island, a few minutes drive from the downtown. The Dutch Dialogue started the cross- cultural interactions to study where and how the Dutch approaches to water management, architecture, planning and urban design. The second Dutch Dialogues initiated the Dutch – American interactions in New York, Tampa, San Francisco and internationally in Taipei, Taiwan and Oranjestand in Aruba. Based on the Dutch Dialogue model, in June 2010, the Government of Aruba in partnership with American Planning Association, Waggonner & Ball Architects and Royal Netherlands Embassy hosted the Renobacion Urbano conference and workshop.
The task was to redesign and repurpose the downtown Oranjestad and San Nicolas, a town developed in Aruba in 1930s around an oil refinery. The workshops were also accompanied with a studio project of University of Pennsylvania. The main focus of the Aruban government funded project was on transportation planning, green economic and community development. One of the key issues identified during the workshop for the San Nicolas region is the town’s dependency on the oil refinery as the main economic engine.
Aruba is slowly progressing to stay away from its total reliance on the imported fossil fuels and is leaning towards solar, wind and green energy. In 2009, the Danish Company invested on 10 giant wind turbines in the eastern part of the island. The project generates a total of 30 megawatts of renewable energy. In 2011, the Aruban Government hosted a conference, ‘Our future with Green Energy’ where international experts delivered state of art sustainable energy technologies, trends and visions for the public and the government. Will all the endeavors to revitalize Aruba be fruitful? Will the island be just more than a tourist destination? With its excellent wind, sun and sea conditions will the ‘One Happy Island’ have a sustainable development?
- Energy and Climate Partnership of the Americas Urban Planning Initiative, Activities 2010- 2011.
- Siegler, Jeff, 2010. ‘Main Street in Aruba’. National Trust for Historic Preservation.
- Energy and Climate Partnership of the Americas Urban Planning Initiative. American Planning Association.
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