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The idea to design a fully functioning ecotourism lodge was conceived as a result of two projects, the first being an academically organized team assignment and the second, an actual venture of one of my relatives. The challenges that arise in designing solutions for an environmentally-conscious uniform facility are especially stimulating when they are to be executed abroad. The marketability of such a facility needs to be contemplated carefully, respecting a well established culture. Deliberate attention to a triangle of three components will drive this design as a thesis project: the natives and their culture, construction methods and materials, and sustainable design strategies within the given climate.
In one of my graduate courses, I was part of a team who was asked to construct a fictional firm which marketed a specific product in the design/construction field. Our team, Global Technologies, specialized in the developing of eco-lodge resorts. One of our main tasks was to prepare a response to an RFQ, and therefore, the bulk of our efforts revolved around researching examples of eco-lodge projects which were already completed. Specifically, we looked at a number of examples in Belize. Before this course, I was unfamiliar with this marketing strategy as it relates to tourism, and found it extremely intriguing. Global Technologies was comprised of an Architect, Landscape Architect, Planner, and Interior Designer, so our research was cross-disciplinary, evaluating everything from mammoth passive solar systems to interior finishes from local sources.
The spark of enthusiasm may have ended there if I hadn’t had a conversation with my second cousin over a family holiday dinner. He is currently in the process of developing plans to fabricate a 6-8 unit eco-lodge in Costa Rica. We engaged in a quite lengthy conversation about our views on the topic and found some merit in proceeding with this idea as a thesis design project. We would both benefit greatly from this collaboration. The notion of having someone as accessible as my cousin Thomas to help execute a design problem in a foreign country with traditions unlike most I’ve grown familiar with seems too good to be true.
The weight of my interest in the subject as a design challenge lies in the fabrication of the structure. I possess a strong desire for construction methods and the detail with which they need be applied. Researching these methods along with the materials that accompany them is very appealing to me. Successful design of this project must integrate self-supporting technical features with appropriate local materials and provide a legitimate response to the surrounding culture, while being mindful of the environment. This project is feasible because of the proposed size and considering the resources I have at hand. Challenges reside in its unique ethnic context, unfamiliar pallet of materials and climatic tendencies. At my disposal are a number of precedents located in similar areas of the world, and a well-educated relative on the verge of constructing a development similar in size and scope.
In order for the benefits of an entirely self-sustaining eco-lodge to be fully appreciated by the user, it needs to be designed to the human scale. Users shall become engaged, visually, with the structure’s sustainable components while not having to sacrifice serenity. A successful eco-lodge is one which is designed to mirror the size of its small neighboring community not impose on existing local ecologies.
The southwest shore of Costa Rica is typically less crowded from a tourism standpoint when compared to its counterpart on the northeast Caribbean Sea. The coastline is much more rugged and rocky with a number of gulfs and peninsulas. However, the southwest shoreline of Costa Rica has also been called the hidden jewel of the central Pacific.
Between Playa Palo Seco and Esterillos Oesta lies Parrita, which includes a partially developed offshore island that runs parallel to the shore. It is an accessible site with many ecological opportunities. This proposal is very site specific, and will prove to be everything but a modular design. Located within a short distance of the bustling towns of Jaco and Quepos, Parrita boasts 6 different beaches from Esterillos Oeste to Playa Palo Seco and also has a mountain chain with stunning ocean views, and the famous Palo Seco Estuary. Four National Parks are located within an hour’s drive.