GSA Architecture & Interior Design
Movers and shakers
Business View Caribbean interviews Christian Marshall, Managing Director of GSA Architecture & Interior Design as part of our focus on Caribbean builders.
GSA Architecture & Interior Design, formerly Gillespie and Steel Associates, is a Barbados-based, award-winning, multi disciplinary, architectural, interior design, and master planning design firm with a varied portfolio of successfully completed projects in Barbados and the Caribbean, including luxury villas, hotels and condominiums, commercial and institutional buildings. For over 40 years, GSA has led the industry, expertly combining traditional elements and contemporary design to deliver innovative solutions that continue to redefine Caribbean architecture.
“The firm was founded by Andrew Steel in 1969, a time when there were few architects on the island,” recounts GSA Architecture & Interior Design’s Managing Director, Christian Marshall. “In 1975 he partnered with John Gillespie to respond to opportunities in the wider Caribbean. By the early eighties, Andrew and John had gone their separate ways and, shortly after, David Spink joined Andrew as a shareholder and Director.” Marshall joined the firm in 1989 and, together with David, expanded the operations of the company.
According to Marshall, Steel retired in 1994, as did Spink in 2014. Marshall, himself, joined the firm in 1989, followed by architect, Bruce Jardine, who joined in 1990. Michelle Sambrano, who offered specialized interior design services for a previously untapped market, came onboard in 1995, and in 2014, Jeremy Gunn joined GSA, bringing with him his experience in hospitality interior architecture. Today, the company has a staff complement made up of ten local and regional professional architectural and interior designers, who operate out of its offices in Prior Park, St. James, Barbados.
GSA Architecture & Interior Design services include: Architectural Design, Interior Design, Planning, Project Management, Residential Decor, Site Inspection, Contract Administration, Design Team Management, Product Sourcing, and Installation. As of this year, the company now offers residential décor services to provide a one-stop shop in response to client demand. “We work across all sectors,” says Marshall, “residential, commercial, hospitality, and institutional. Our clients range from private individuals, to local corporate entities, multinational corporations, governments, and international financial institutions. We cover all the bases, and we pride ourselves on our all-around professional services.” Of particular note is the company’s commitment to the environment and the application of sustainable design principles in its projects. GSA is a member of the U.S. Green Building Council and a number of its design professionals are LEED-accredited.
“We are also committed to embracing the latest technologies in design software to stay ahead of the competition,” Marshall adds. “Here in Barbados, GSA Architecture & Interior Design is more technologically advanced than some international design firms in the utilization of BIM design workflows and IFC file transfer protocols to facilitate seamless design team collaboration.” (BIM is an acronym for Building Information Modeling, a process of designing a building collaboratively using one coherent system of computer models rather than separate sets of drawings. IFC is an acronym for Industry Foundation Classes, a global standard for data exchange in the building industries.)
Regarding GSA Architecture & Interior Design’s other competitive advantages, Marshall says that the company has “built a great reputation over the years for professionalism, integrity, and quality service. Contractors are always happy to work on our projects because we produce complete and detailed project information,” he states. “Our success is borne out by the comments of clients, contractors, and suppliers, alike. The clients primarily come to us because of our reputation – directly or by recommendation from past clients, real estate agents, contractors, and project managers. It’s a major factor that separates us from the rest.”
Marshall admits that the Barbadian economy has been challenging for GSA Architecture & Interior Design over the last several years, and the company has kept active with projects on other islands to supplement local work. “The economy started declining in 2008, and hit rock bottom last year,” he notes. “There are still a lot of hurdles to get over before things really get moving again, but I’m confident that the economy will improve and we’ll have a bright future. There has already been an uptick in projects, now, going forward.”
“Recognizing and grasping an opportunity when it arises is key to the development of any business,” he continues. “The firm has recently set up a new practice in Toronto, Canada with a new partner. This decision was not taken lightly and has been the culmination of discussions and relationship building over the last eighteen months. GSA Studio Inc. will provide architectural and interior design services for clients in Canada, focusing on high-rise residential projects and will be supported by the firm in Barbados. We have worked extensively throughout the Caribbean and look forward to working in the Canadian market. This activity should assist in the recovery of the island by generating foreign income, and we anticipate that this venture will provide cross border benefits for our operations in Barbados and in Canada. As a result of this new development we have rebranded our Barbados operations: GSA Architecture & Interior Design.”
“The future is all important,” Marshall says, in conclusion. “The goal for 2022 and beyond is to develop the next generation of movers and shakers in the firm. We often take on select students on internships and we continue to work arduously in identifying and developing the right personnel to take the reins over from the current executive team to transition smoothly into the future. It has always been our goal to develop the firm into a timeless entity that will be handed down from generation to generation and still be a viable firm 100 years from now.”
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AT A GLANCE
WHO: GSA Architecture & Interior Design
WHAT: An architectural, interior design, and master planning design firm
WHERE: Bridgetown, Barbados
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