In the aftermath of Hurricane Irma in 2017, which left more than 80% of the buildings on Sint Maarten damaged, a dedicated group of 65 architecture master students from TU Delft initiated Xtreme Architecture field trip. This organized research team is committed to providing innovative building and design solutions for areas prone to climatic disasters such as hurricanes and earthquakes, focusing on the Sint Maarten and Saba regions.
Recognizing the urgent need for resilient structures in the face of regular climatic challenges, the Xtreme Architecture project aims to strengthen communities and explore unconventional approaches to enhance earthquake and hurricane resilience. In November 2022, 25 students embarked on a week-long research trip to Sint Maarten and Saba to conduct on-site analyses and engage with the local communities.
During the research trip, the group visited various plots, conducted small-scale practical testing, and gathered crucial data. This information was later taken back to the Netherlands to inform the design process, ensuring that the solutions are not only innovative but also tailored to the specific climate conditions of the region. The overarching goal is to create circular and sustainable designs that address the unique challenges faced by these communities. One distinctive aspect of the Xtreme Architecture project is its commitment to collaboration with the locals. Instead of imposing solutions from afar, the project seeks to understand and work together with the community. By exchanging knowledge and ideas with local residents and government agencies, the students gain valuable insights into the lifestyles and challenges faced by those living in areas prone to extreme climate conditions.
In addition to their research efforts, the students took part in volunteering activities during their stay in Sint Maarten. They chose to contribute to the renovation of Vicky’s Keys, a volunteering center that also serves as a warm and friendly eco hostel. Vicky’s Keys, which had faced damage from Hurricane Irma, has the ambitious goal of becoming self-sufficient and sustainable. The students’ involvement in the renovation not only contributed to the center’s recovery but also provided them with a firsthand understanding of the impact of extreme weather events on local infrastructure.
Xtreme Architecture’s approach reflects a holistic understanding of resilience, blending innovative design with community engagement and sustainable practices. By fostering collaboration and learning from the locals, the project endeavors to create lasting solutions that empower communities to withstand and recover from the challenges posed by extreme climate conditions.
Stichting Marlin Yardsupports and leads the national Love Your Local Marketcampaign. This campaign aims to attract (young) market traders and also aims to highlight the importance that markets play in the heart of the local community. Not only for retail but as valuable community assets that provide the focal point of our village centres. Love Your Local Market fortnights are going to be held in The Keys.
Why The Keys Market came to be
On the Dutch side of Sint Maarten in the village The Keys there is an initiative called The Keys Market.
Natural disasters such as hurricanes Luis (1995), Lenny (1999) and Irma (2017) and the Covid-19 pandemic caused a huge economic shock on Sint Maarten. Natural disasters caused for businesses and schools to shut down, island borders to close and putting humanity under lockdown during 2020. Traveling and conducting business as how we used to has changed. Unfortunately this new era is not over, with pandemic cases continuing to mount to date in 2022. The successive crisis aftermath not only shows a negative economic impact. It caused the rebuild and recovery of Sint Maarten to slow down and even stop in 2020. Sint Maarten is fighting for her position to sustain herself as before the crisis, all the while the island culture is diminishing.
For years Sint Maarten nature and inhabitants proved to be resilient in gaining back that Caribbean relaxed atmosphere accompanied by the calculated hustle and bustle to support the daily sufficient living. The crucial part is that the Sint Maarten community is forced to apply a new style of living because of the Covid-19 pandemic. The Keys Market concept is developed to primarily match the local way of sufficient living but its main focus is combining local economy with green-tourism. Sustainability, and the application of the circular economy concept is of paramount importance at The Keys Market.
Marlin Yard Foundationnot only envisions a strong revival of the Sint Maarten community but made it a mission to accelerate the movement towards a green economy at The Keys Market by putting Sint Maartens advantages to use. A few advantages are that Sint Maartens has a rich history being an island with a Dutch and French border which is the foundation to its current multikulti society. Sint Maarten community exists because of the 100+ nationalities living on this island. This is also the reason why it is proclaimed Cuisine Capital in the Caribbean for its many foods and beverage and hospitality businesses. Its Savanna climate, 37 beaches and bays combined with lushly landscaped hills of vulcanic fertile soil, its flora and fauna, and natural tranquillity displays a paradise like atmosphere year-round. Sint Maarten is a place that offers island city and night life options for many people of all walks of life to find a connection with. To describe Sint Maarten one will have to experience it one self.
Besides organizing events and hosting the generic market at the premises, The Keys Market aims to become a food market and urban area for start-ups, innovation, and creativity. This local market location built out of recycled materials will offer workshop activities, jobs and business opportunities in reducing and upcycling waste. These creative workshops and start-ups provide cultural experiences and innovative projects that attracts and inspires both locals and island visitors.
The plan is to create a food court department, a food market melting pot that serves authentic prepared food dishes from different nationalities residing on Sint Maarten. Where each food stall must follow the sustainable dogmas “Reduce and Reuse“ by implementing the use of compostable food service, reduce food waste, use organic, free-range and local ingredients wherever possible. Food vendors also must sort their waste so it can be reused as far as possible.
This food court department will have its own aquaponic and hydroponic garden providing own grown vegetables, fruit, herbs, fish and crustaceans. Linking it to the agricultural projects in The Keys hills, where an ancient 17th century plantation will be reinstated to execute Community Gardening and Community Supported Agriculture. Because of these agricultural activities The Keys Market will organize Food and Farmer market events on a frequent basis so that members of the Community Garden can sell their harvests at market events.
To join The Keys Market is an opportunity for local and international based entrepreneurs, as they look at new ways to innovate to attract Agritourism and Ecotourism besides the generic Holiday tourism. The difference between both Agritourism and Ecotourism is that Agritourism brings tourists to a farm or ranch to teach them about the local culture and increase income. While ecotourism promotes sustainable and responsible travel to areas with the intention of conserving and protecting the environment.
The Keys Market stalls will be built out of modified shipping containers making them sustainable being Hurricane and Earthquake challenged and Fire resistant. It will provide own renewable energies, biogas and have its own waste-(water)-management system. These stalls are called Eco Business Unit (EBU).
These EBU’s are divided over a ground floor and 1st level to accommodate a total of 26 spots:
8 x 10ft spots with service hatch
4 x 20ft – ground floor short side service hatch
4 x 20ft – ground floor long side service hatch
4 x 20ft – 1st floor with sliding door
4 x 20ft – 1st floor with terrace
2 x 20ft – Work & Live EBU
To start your next business adventure at The Keys Market you need to fill out the application form HERE. Once submitted you will be contacted to discuss your application.
It has become old news about the hospitality sector and other business sectors that got hit hard all over the world due to Covid-19.
We have accepted the fact that infection by this virus is possible and that this virus is here to stay. So we will have to find a way how to live with this virus and deal with it. Life as how we knew it changed! It became a must to adjust our views on doing business and become more creative in spending leisure time. But the world hasn’t stopped spinning… right? All the more reason for us to reflect on how life was in 2019 and how to move forward in 2020 and onwards. This brings us to the next subject concerning Vicky’s Keys which has been developed and managed by the Marlin Yard Foundation. Cause as of 18 September 2020 Marlin Yard Foundation has set a new course for Vicky’s Keys.
About Marlin Yard Foundation
With the intention to empower locals to become more self-sufficient Marlin Yard Foundation is responsible of creating several initiatives in Sint Maarten Dutch West Indies. Marlin Yard’s mission is to stimulate and contribute to self-reliance and to strengthen human resilience in affected areas. Their focus is on the Hurricane Belt in the Caribbean region, with special focus on people who are most vulnerable, people who have little or no access to healthy food, who would not survive or survive poorly without help, or whose living situation would be miserable and without health assistance would be endangered due to natural disasters. Marlin Yard’s mission has only been accomplished by helping to build and teach people to build ecologically responsible homes that are hurricane, earthquake and fire resistant, to set up efficient and effective agricultural activities, to promote sustainable entrepreneurship so that profit-sharing opportunities (crowd profits sharing) are created among communities. More info can be found at www.marlinyard.org.
The few initiatives that are in operation and or are being developed on Sint Maarten are:
Vicky’s Keys created in 2006, reopened 2013
The Keys Market – Events since 2018
Agricultural Project (pending)
Eco Housing project (pending)
Health & Wellness project (pending)
The Year 2020
Since 2006 Marlin Yard has recruited volunteers to manage Vicky’s Keys and to organise several events at The Keys Market. Since 22 March 2020 both initiatives came to a screeching halt. Management was forced to come up with a different strategy. Although Covid-19 happened plans to continue developing Vicky’s Keys together with The Keys Market remains. After accessing the situation of several “Lock-Down” methods applied internationally it has become prominent that communities were thrown back into a status where the need for Basic Necessities and Prime Commodities prominently increased. Unfortunately both subjects increased in value as well. In other words purchasing food and items became more and more annoyingly expensive.
To be clear ‘Basic necessities’ are goods vital to the needs of consumers for their sustenance and existence at all times. Examples are oxygen, water, food, protection against diseases, cold and heat (such as clothing and shelter), and mutual contact such as communication and intimacy. Due to Covid-19 we can not hug a loved one so easily for we have to consider the fact we can infect that person.
‘Prime Commodities‘ are goods not considered as basic necessities but are essential to consumers in times of any of the cases such as a pandemic and hurricane season. Examples are education, recreation, long-distance travel, transportation, or obtaining certain processed foods like being able to order in your favourite Pizza, or even having access to WiFi. It is a fact Covid-19 forced us to change perspective on our lifestyles and the way how we were conducting business. Covid-19 caused a negative chain reaction where lots of people have either gone bankrupt and or have closed their businesses. People have lost their jobs and are most likely spiralling towards poverty. This is not a pretty picture…
Continue Development Course but different
To anticipate more global economic damage Management has decided to continue developments by applying a different strategy for Vicky’s Keys. Vicky’s Keys prime business concept as the only Eco Hostel on Sint Maarten will become a Volunteers Center where local and international based volunteers can participate the Marlin Yard Foundation initiatives that are planned in Sint Maarten. Local volunteers can choose to help work at several initiatives in return they get free meals and can make use of several initiatives facilities. International based volunteers that are willing to participate the initiatives will stay at Vicky’s Keys and get free accommodation, get free meals and can make use of several initiatives facilities.
What is a Volunteers Center? It’s a place where volunteers work and or live together as a community. The Volunteers Center – a.k.a. VC – operates under the premise that all income generated via several initiatives and its members goes into a common pool. This income is used to run all initiatives, make investments, and guarantee mutual and reciprocal aid and responsibility between members. VC members receive the same budget regardless of their job or position. In terms of education, all volunteers start equally and are given equal opportunity. The VC is governed by a system of direct participatory democracy, where the individual can directly influence issues and events in the community. In this mostly self sufficient community, the collective as well as the work ethic plays a major role.
Hostel a sub-department
We will continue our hostel concept. What is a hostel? A hostel is a budget-oriented dormitory accommodation that accepts individual travellers (typically backpackers) for short-term stays, and that provides common areas and communal facilities. This means the majority of our guests shares the sleeping area, bathroom and kitchen. Except guests who sleep in the private dorm rooms and or studios, they wouldn’t have to share everything with other guests. Vicky’s Keys premises is approximately 1.400m2 / 15.000 square feet. The concept is “Stay among the locals” which is popular among the backpackers market. Yet we are the only one on St. Maarten to anticipate those who would like to experience staying among the locals but with an Eco twist to it. There are 4 buildings on the property. Guests can arrange lodging for a single bed, a room, an apartment or our family apartment. The premises has several gardens cultivated with herbs, vegetables, fruit and fish (Aquaponics-system). Besides the usual luxury amenities you have the choice to experience pure Caribbean self-sufficient living. On the premises you will find a Café, Terrace (ground and roof) with barbecue area, Gardens, 3 Mixed Dormitories and 2 Private Dorm Rooms and two Luxury Studios.
As mentioned earlier there are several initiatives for which volunteers are needed. Currently our focus is on development of: The Keys Market and the Agricultural Project in The Keys village.
The Keys Market (TKM)
This location turns into an outdoor bazaar built out of recycled materials, which will sustain itself by reusing, repurposing and recycling waste while becoming self-sufficient. It’s a location where the occasional and or frequent vendor can set up their mobile shop. There is room for 40+ flexible market stalls and up to 14+ Food stalls for the Food Court section at this outdoor bazaar. A Food Court will be built out of modified shipping containers where locals can sell their culture signature dishes.
Furthermore workshop activities in eco awareness will be made available to the public. Jobs and business opportunities in waste processing and upcycling will be created. TKM will have its own food source (aquaponics system and permaculture gardens) and own renewable energy sources providing own electricity, cooking gas, harvested rainwater. The market will also be supplied with island grown fruit, veggies, fish, meat cultivated from different districts and zones e.g. Sucker Garden, St. Peters, Betty’s Estate and more.
Volunteers are needed to help with:
the continuation of the build up of the Market location
setting up the markets aquaponic system and market selling booth
aquaponic system maintenance
landscaping and gardening
setting up the Food Court section
marketing activities for market theme events and for the Food Court
Marlin Yard Foundation has started the following Agricultural Projects in our little village called The Keys:
Black Berry Vine
It is our belief to preserve historical relics. Relics in The Keys are ruins of slave walls and the old black berry vine which the village inhabitants in the late 1800’s early 1900’s planted. This black berry was used to make jam and wine. It will be our honour to reinstate this black berry vine and assist with the production of various national products made from this vine.
Community Supported Agriculture
Community gardens are common spaces where people of different demographics come together to create, develop and sustain a gardening space in their locality. Through community gardening, the gardening culture and a greater sense of civic ownership is manifested among the public. Not only does it beautify the village with blooming flowers, vegetables, spices and fruits, it is an opportunistic platform for neighbours, peers and colleagues to come together for bonding and sharing of knowledge and experiences. Especially in the St. Maarten multi-ethnic society, community gardens nurture the values of cooperation, volunteering, respecting diversity and creating ecological awareness.
Volunteers are needed to help with:
maintenance of the current aquaponic system and gardens at Vicky’s Keys
selection of seeds and plants for nursery department at Vicky’s Keys
allotment preparations and landscaping for the black berry vine and garden plots
planting of selected future crops
marketing activities to sell Workshops in aquaponics
constructing aquaponic garden kits for potential buyers
networking with locals to start the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) initiative.
We are looking forward to meeting you and to welcome you at Vicky’s Keys – Volunteer Center. Cause small efforts makes a BIG change!
COMPLIANCE NOTICE: We have build our properties in accordance with world-wide standards and received a number of awards, which prove our high level of service. Never-stopping development is the key factor of our company.