Guyana was under European rule since the end of the 15th century with Spain as its first Colonizer. The Dutch settled in the colony around 1580 and it eventually fell under French and British rule as ownership of the colony changed often due to the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars. Due to its colonization history, the architecture in Guyana in the mid 18th century and beyond would have aligned with European style and in some cases a hybrid design style was created in order to accommodate the climate. As a means to a cool solution to the hot environment of Guyana, Demerara Windows were built in the 18th-19th century period as a forerunner to air conditioning. The style eventually spread across to other Caribbean islands as a popular design to include on houses owned by various classes
Usually made of imported Pitch Pine wood, the type of wood deemed most suitable for the heat and humidity compared to the local supply, the Demerara Window was created to cool the internal temperature of a house. Its design was composed of perforated sides and louvres to prevent direct sunlight from entering. Shuttered sash windows line the window with the shutter hinged at the top so it could be propped open in an outward sloping fashion. The cooling effect of the window would be enhanced when blocks of ice, a vessel of water or plants were placed by the sill at the base of the window in a cooler to cool down the warm heavy air that would pass through. It was believed that this cooler was originally only available to the wealthy, however, it soon was adopted by the lower classes.
This style of window was usually installed on the upper floors of homes to cool the bedrooms or living spaces. Nowadays, with most modern homes being outfitted with internal air-conditioning systems, there is no need for this style of window, other than for aesthetic reasons. Beautiful windows such as these are usually found in older homes where the houses would have retained features of colonial architecture.
Take a look below at some heritage sites across Trinidad within our heritage asset inventory which possess demerara windows.
The Demerara Window – the Colonial Air Conditioner, By Murtland Haley. Guyanese Online.2017