This home on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica is nicknamed ‘Casa Flotanta’, because it has been built to stand on sturdy stilts. Even though it chases spectacular ocean views, its intelligent design has ensured that the topography of the location is not affected in any way.
Like that old chicken first or egg first conundrum, one is sometimes forced to wonder – does the location decide the house, or does the house defy the location? There is no simple answer to this dilemma. Because there are times when projects get canned because the most picturesque locations are unwilling to support construction; and then there are times when a home rises up in triumph in spite of its stubborn surroundings.
The Gooden-Nahome Family residence in Puntarenas, Costa Rica, belongs to the latter category, and in fact, it elevates the possibilities of the category itself. Completed in November, 2013, by a team from Benjamin Garcia Saxe Architecture, the Pacific Ocean-facing site was picked by the family, but their hopes for a home at the spot were challenged by the steep slope of the ground. Luckily for them, they had employed an architectural team that was adventurous and open-minded enough to think of sustainable solutions beyond the constraints of convention.
“Originally, we explored possibilities of creating large retaining walls and cutting back the soil in order to place the house; a technique typically employed for nearby buildings,” admits the team. But this idea was quickly scrapped and instead a plan was devised to use and retain the natural slope of the ground as an aesthetic foundation.
The result is a sprawling home that assuredly rests on pilotis and in its seemingly-suspended state, breathes in different strata of air and basks in a different aura of ocean views than what it would have been afforded standing closer to the ground.
Needless to say, the decision to capitalise on the slope not just ensured the best views of the ocean from the upper ends of the slope, but also resulted in significant savings due to the absence of soil retention walls in the scheme.
This aspect is also central to the home’s green character, a remarkable feat considering how the construction of homes so close to the coast more often than not rides on a perilous dichotomy – of wanting to appreciate nature, but having to destroy some parts of it to realise that goal.
By building the stilted foundation for the home, the team ensured not just soil retention, but also the natural movement of vegetation, and possibly even animals and water under the home. Also eschewing the conventionality of an assortment of closed spaces for the interior, open-ended sweeping spaces were created that pay perfect homage to the free-spiritedness of the ocean breeze.
Clad in mostly teak and bamboo, both locally-sourced, the ‘brownness’ of the home never gets boring, due to some impetuous splashes of green, both artificial and natural.
Indeed, the heavy presence of the greenery around can be experienced from all over the house; from the bedrooms to the bathrooms, and of course, from the living areas, with its plush wide seating at the ready to welcome nature-gawkers. The open-scheme of the interiors also significantly reduces the energy demands of the home, with both sunlight and breezes in plentiful supply.
Passage-ways flanked by bamboo curtains also help create some great spots of light-and-shadow display. Illumination is provided by LED structures, and there is rainwater harvesting plus solar heating equipment in place.
The home is in fact the coming together of many prefabricated modules, reinforced with galvanised steel, that were created using similar structural elements and were then craned up into position. These modules were then connected using flying bridges, thus according the home its remarkable identity.
This home, with its apt nickname of ‘Casa Flotanta’, is a 300 sq m study in the possibilities of creative, energy-efficient, and sustainable architecture in locations that are naturally ideal but off the narrow limits of senseless concrete ambitions.
The design team has also spoken of the home’s living modules continuing to ‘grow in time’, hinting at appropriate additions and improvements to the structure as the years roll by. This, then is a green structure that is also highly adaptive to changes in tides. Notice the convenient pun intended.
Text By Shruti Nambiar
Photographs Garcia Lachner