The town of Nosara in Costa Rica’s Nicoya Peninsula is renowned as a yoga centre and for its surf beaches. Located 200 metres away from Nosara’s famous Playa Guiones beach, The Gilded Iguana Hotel wanted to extend its facility by adding a new athletic centre. Costa Rica-based practice, Studio Saxe and the client wanted to create a complex intersperse between the existing trees on the site.
Conceived as a small village, the large programmatic requirement of the athletic centre is broken down into smaller volumes, creating narrow shaded pedestrian streets. Surrounded by existing trees on the site, the building creates a diverse programme celebrating Nature and local wildlife of Costa Rica.
“Human activity is intended to co-exist in symbiotic relationship with the natural world in order to accentuate the path towards wellbeing,” Studio Saxe told Design City.
The 2-storey volumes are arranged within the voids of existing trees and interconnected by bridges on upper levels. This public complex is meant to provide facilities for training to the visitors of the area and host a surf shop, bike shop, studio for Jiu-Jitsu and yoga and a gym. The interior spaces are designed to heighten the feeling of being in Nature while the cantilevered roof provides respite from heat and rain.
One remarkable feature of the project is that Studio Saxe managed to coordinate foundations and services around tree roots in such a way that the trees will keep growing while allowing the building to sit within the existing vegetation.
The building was constructed using prefabricated light-weight steel structure, built off-site in a controlled environment and assembled quickly to create minimum impact on the natural habitat and maximum efficiency of construction. The exterior is clad in restored teak wood and large floor-to-ceiling windows letting ample daylight inside. Costa Rica’s tropical climate is suitable for creating spaces not depending on air conditioning for large part of the year. Long roof overhangs, apart from providing protection from the natural elements, act as large surfaces to collect water in order to reuse it in the building’s mechanical systems and for landscape irrigations. The overhangs of the roof also serve an important purpose of shading the streets, improving the overall comfort of the visitors.
The studio explains, “At Studio Saxe, we believe that the process of construction should be as light and as unobtrusive as possible when dealing with a complex and diverse ecological environment.”
Studio Saxe’s attempt to reduce the overall energy consumption of the building is done through bioclimatic strategies where solar orientation, wind patterns, noise, dust, and other factors are considered in order to create efficient structures through passive design principles. To fuse the human-built with the environment is a worthy effort, potentially scalable and replicable, and has far-reaching consequences for Costa Rica’s architecture discourse.
Benjamin’s belief in the positive role architecture can play in society around the world stems from his studies in Costa Rica and the USA, as well as his work in Europe on a number of large international projects. This experience is combined with a long-held desire to use design to “do more with less” and ensure that craft and technology work seamlessly together to create buildings and spaces for all. Architecture should not be reserved as a luxury but instead provide a platform for experimentation and unbridled creativity. While studying at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), Benjamin explored how different materials could be used in construction in new and exciting ways. He began his search to find a balance between natural and recycled materials with contemporary durable building techniques. In 2007, Benjamin moved to London to work for the world-renowned Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners, drawn in part by their commitment to sustainable and socially-aware design. During his time working at RSHP, Benjamin was responsible for the design and delivery of major projects, such as World Trade Center Tower 3 in New York, a high-end development for the Prince of Monaco in Montecarlo, and a range of residential and office towers across the Middle East and Asia. During his time at RSHP, he was allowed to develop his private practice in parallel; and in 2010 the house he designed and self-built for his mother – Forest for Moon Dazzler – won the award for “Best Private House in the World” at the World Architecture Festival held in Barcelona, as well as a prestigious Design Museum of the Year prize. This helped establish Benjamin on the international scene for innovative, sustainable design using materials in unusual ways. The work of the studio has been exhibited at the Venice Architecture Biennale and Benjamin was personally awarded the Alpha Rho Qui medal for leadership in architecture and is often invited to lecture around the world.