Alyssa-Amor Gibbons, 33, endured hurricanes growing up in Barbados and knows that “everything you have can be taken away in the snap of a finger, in a gust of wind.” But to those who would suggest that climate change is a reason for the island’s residents to give up on their homeland and move away, the architectural designer responds with the promise of technology and the human imagination. “I believe we can design our way out of almost anything,” she says.

Through tech tools, like digital twins that simulate the force of a hurricane on a building, and lessons from Barbadian design traditions that use facades to disperse wind, she builds sanctuaries that reduce the uncertainty people feel during storms. She wants her buildings to help people after the storms pass, too. In her latest prospective project—converting a building in the capital, Bridgetown—she is considering incorporating natural elements, like waterfalls and urban agriculture, that will relieve the tropical heat. Barbados’ small size leads some to dismiss the country’s potential, but Gibbons says it allows her to move quickly and try out new solutions. “We are limited only in size, but not by innovation and ideas.”

Alyssa-Amor Gibbons in Bridgetown, Barbados, on Sept. 25, 2023. (Kyle Babb for TIME)
Alyssa-Amor Gibbons in Bridgetown, Barbados, on Sept. 25, 2023.
Kyle Babb for TIME
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