Stanley Saitowitz | Natoma Architects Inc.

Stanley Saitowitz | Natoma Architects Inc.

Stanley Saitowitz
Natoma Architects Inc.

Costa Rica Residence

Costa Rica

From San Jose, the journey west to Santa Theresa is a long pilgrimage to the edge of civilization. Everywhere is dense scrub jungle. A surfing community inhabits clearings cut along a dirt road that parallels perfect Pacific beaches - this is the town. The house is at the end of the town, above the beach. A dirt driveway climbs up to the clearing. Through the trees the red screens of the façade appear as a forest of pipes.

A stair ascends to the platform of the house. Sunk in the platform is a lap pool of blue water with an infinity edge parallel to the house and ocean. On one end is a small lawn, on the other a shallow sitting pool.

The house is a series of layered screens. First the bi-fold pipe screens which provide security when the owners are in the US, and shade. Then a porch, dappled and filtered. Then a wall of sliding glass below and open mesh above. In this benign climate only shelter from the seasonal rains is necessary. Otherwise it is the movement of air for cooling and to prevent damp that makes habitable shelter. To facilitate this is a double height ceiling with fans that circulate the air. The rear wall is louvered for cross ventilation. Bedrooms are stacked at one end in two stories, two guestrooms below, and the master above. The rear wall thickens to contain the services – pantry and kitchen, storage, stair, and bathrooms behind sliding glass doors.

The construction uses generic local technology, a Mason Domino concrete frame with exposed masonry block infill. Finishes are hand hewn and natural. Much of the furniture is masonry including the kitchen cabinets, counter and beds.

This is a vacation home that encourages the most casual and easy living, where inside and outside, wet and dry, pool and beach all merge in the blur of the jungle. A shower enables salt and sand to be removed before climbing to the plinth. Storage for a Quad and other equipment is under the plinth.

Bananas, mangoes, papaya, coconuts, avocados, guavas, and passion fruit all grow throughout the gardens of this paradise. The trees surrounding the house are inhabited by troops of small monkeys, some with children on their backs, who stealthily prance from branch to branch picking berries in the trees surrounding the clearing where they have more sun and fruit. They show only slight interest in the human inhabitants on the ground. One wonders what they think of the architecture.