When a couple of surfers with a passion for sustainability wanted a surf getaway in Costa Rica, they turned to Olson Kundig to bring their dream to life.
"The clients are surfers as well as avid environmentalists, and were seeking a vacation home that would reflect their deep commitment to sustainable land management in Costa Rica," explains the Seattle–based architecture firm, whose commitment to sustainable design and contextual craftsmanship drew the clients’ attention.
"Designed as an open-air surfer hut, the project engages the Costa Rican landscape in various ways, from the vegetation accessible just off the main floor, to the larger weather and surf patterns one can experience on the top level."
The architects dubbed the 2,140-square-foot home the Costa Rica Tree House after its tall and slim three-story structure that rises above the treetops, as well as for its use of locally harvested teak as a primary building and finish material.
Since the clients wanted immersion in nature, the house is set amidst dense jungle on a fairly secluded peninsula near Playa Hermosa beach. Instead of treating the remote location as an obstacle, Olson Kundig saw the property as an "ideal opportunity to source local materials and be inventive with solving design challenges."
In addition to locally felled timber, the architects worked with the contractor to craft fully custom balcony railings out of welded steel instead of rebar, which would have been difficult to import to the site. Many of the furnishings were also locally purchased or fabricated by the contractor.
The clients also wanted the home to operate passively and remain open to the outdoors. "Creating an open, naturally ventilated house in such a wet climate was certainly a challenge," notes Olson Kundig. "The double-layer movable screens help to keep water out, and the large roof overhang and gutter drainage systems are likewise designed to keep the interior of the home protected and dry."
The Costa Rica Tree House is powered with a 3.5-kW photovoltaic array, and it draws water from a rainwater collection system. These systems reduce the home's environmental footprint.
Builder/General Contractor: Dante Medri
Structural Engineer: Ing. Daniel Sancho
Landscape Design Company: Vida Design Studio
Lighting Design: Niteo Lighting
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