Friday, 23 December 2011

Renders of our first Jungle Villa - by FCB Arquitectura

One of the first renders has just been delivered, you'll have to wait to the New Year to see the others...The one above shows the open plan 'living space' which we have designed in such a way so as to essentially 'break boundaries' between what is conventionally 'inside' and 'outside'. With the whole of the open plan kitchen Y lounge area being surrounded by teak and bamboo sliding doors, the idea is that the spaces can be converted, according to their usage, and that guests really feel that their 'Jungle Villa' is part of the lush green jungle that surrounds the retreat.

The outside lateral deck (from where the render/photograph is taken) will of course be complete with a nature plunge pool for those hot sunny days and will be equally as appetizing by night, allowing guests to bathe under the jungle canopy and stars...

Enjoy and as always, Pura Vida!!!

Friday, 9 December 2011

Construction Begins!!!

...Primer dia de construccion, o talvez mejor dicho definirlo como el primer dia del movimiento de la tierra. Todos estamos bien animados, parece que por fin ha llegado el veranito - que la falta de lluvia nos siga ayudando un monton!!!

First day of construction or maybe thats getting ahead of ourselves! Well, let's call it day 1 of having the digger and its expert operator Hirardo up at the project. Work starts at the crack of dawn on the off chance that we still get caught by a stubborn afternoon rainshower (which would mean all digging would stop and shelter would have to be sought - I'm sure you've gathered by now that when it rains here it really does 'tirar boldazos'!

In the end what was previously estimated a costly 18-20 hours work was done on a very productive & speedy 7am-5pm 10 hour day. Let's hope this is a sign of whats to come and its not the only thing that comes in under budget!

The job in hand was essentially moving whats called a 'pedazo de tierra' or a large mound of hard clay earth and then depositing it on the corner of our existing plantel, layer by layer, compacting at each stage so that when the rains do eventually return (hopefully not until atleast May now) there is no danger of a landslide! By the end of the day I'd say iur existing plantel is a good 10 metres bigger which will be great for phase 2 of PuraVidaEcolodge.

Hirardo our 'operario' made it all look very easy but there really was an art to the 'digging and depositing' process, taking into account that the area he was cutting into had the be left flat and solid as it will be our plantel or 'building pad' for our first jungle villa.

By mid afternoon the intense sun was already effectively baking the fresh cut of earth now exposed to the elements, a couple of hours later thedigger had completed its last task of leveling out the 'servidumbre' and access road so that access to the project is that little bit easier and flatter, then it was time to shut down the digger and head for home. The 10 minute ride back down to the sea at sunset time is truly amazing. After the days digging, scraping, beeping and flattening it was so still and quiet, tucans and other colourful macaws flying round in pairs apparently looking for a nice tree in which to rest there wings for the night, meanwhile the air drew lighter and the sky filled with the magical colours of the pacific 'atardecer' or sunset. A perfect finish to a very productive day.

The next day we were all up early and waiting for Roberto, the engineer coming down from San Jose and the contractor to meet us up at the project. They eventually rocked up mid morning all very typical 'mas o menos' time keeping. I guess I should know by now that 'ahorita' (literally translating as 'right now') in context here in Costa Rica, can mean anything from now to the next hour and a half, likewise 8.30am doesnt really mean 8.30am, but rather anytine between 8am and maybe 10am!!!

Anyway, once on site all ran smootly, re-marking where the foundations will go now we had the details of the new ground floor plans. Essentially the size and orientation of the jungle villa won't really change but the ground floor has moved about 2.5metres to the right and the 1st floor between 1 & 1.5metres. All this in an effort to not have as much of the house hanging scarily over the steep jungle canopy. The engineers final verdict was that the quality of the earth where the cut has been made (where the retaining wall will go) and where the plantel begins are sufficiently hard enough, again confirming the 'estudio de suelos' (land study) that we got done a few months ago.

While disappointing that we won't actually be starting construction till January 2nd, it is comforting to hear from all involved that with the re-design and the 'first cut' complete, the construction phase should carry few surprises and complications and if all runs to plan could be complete by mid april.

The next few days will be taken up with chasing Raphael and Jorge, two local carpenters, for their quotes for all the teak and bambu sluding doors as well as a few visits to both Palmar & Cortes where we hope to get the insurance policy forbuilding and pick up the permits!!!

Monday, 5 December 2011

Bamboo inspirations - From Bali to Costa Rica!

Even though they are on completely opposite sides of the world, Bali and Costa Rica have one very important thing in common when it comes to the design and construction of PuraVidaEcolodge. The sub-tropical climate is perfect for the rapid growth of one of the worlds most sustainable construction materials - namely Bamboo.

After speaking with a fantastic project that is going strong in Bali, The Green School really is a wonderful source of inspiration. Environmentalists and designers John and Cynthia Hardy, who lead the initiative, wanted to motivate communities to live sustainably. Part of that effort was to show people how to build with sustainable materials, namely bamboo. They established the Green School, and its affiliates: the Meranggi Foundation, which develops plantations of bamboo plants through presenting bamboo seedlings to local rice farmers. With an incredibly quick growth rate, PT Bambu (the construction arm behind the concept)  promotes the use of bamboo as a primary building material, in an effort to avoid the further depletion of rainforests.

We hope to transport this type of idealogy to our beautiful retreat in Costa Rica. There is no reason why PuraVidaEcolodge and its surrounding communities cannot become a holistic green community with a strong educational mandate that seeks to inspire people to be more curious, more engaged and more passionate about the environment and the planet.

At PuraVidaEcolodge we hope to be able to take advantage of the versatility of this wonderful raw material. With various 'design consultations' with our design team and architects scheduled for the coming weeks, we will be planning what wonderful things we can do. Watch this space!! In the meantime check out the website for some more photos (under the inspirations) page. Fivelements (another exquisitly designed 'holistic retreat' offers some fantastic design inspirations too!

Pura Vida!

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Waking up 'a la madrugada' in Costa Rica

Living in 'el pueblito' de Coronado was always going to be an 'off the beaten track' experience. A small dusty village located just off the recently finished CostaNera 'Highway' which don't worry, sounds far uglier & noisier than it actually is. In reality it is the 'main road' which winds from the Panamanian border going all the way up to Jaco and beyond, generally lined on its right side by dense green jungle & the sound of waterfalls and rivers flowing down from the hills and on it's left a wild Pacific ocean, the home of the local fishermen and the occadional surfer.

Chatting to one of Don Justo's (our ever so smiley 'landlord') old amigos at daybreak he proudly shows me his last construction 'project' the oldest 'casita habitable' in the village (essentially a colourfully painted, albeit faded from many decades of sunshine, rickety but very charming wooden house). Don Juan, a well weathered but friendly looking Tico, born in the first quarter of last century told me tales of how our village came to be. Just a stones throw from where 'se desembocan Rio Sierrpe, Rio Terraba y Rio Ojachal' (where the three main rivers meander and eventually spill out into a wild Pacific Ocean), the village started as a fishing hamlet with just three families living near one of the many tributaries of the village. For centuries the men and boys of the village would wait for high tide to be able to drift down stream in dug out canoes, through 'las manglas' (mangroves) known for their extreme bio-diversity and rich fish populations. Their working days would often take them as far as Rio Terraba and beyond the peninsula of land that protects the bay where miles and miles of deserted beach (still to this day) are lined with coconut palms, mystical sounds of the jungle and playful monkeys howling in the distance, who many generations ago were stranded on this Isthmus as it ceased to connect with the mainland.

As the settlement got bigger, self-sufficient villagers started to trade 'tinta y carbon' (dye and coal) the two main products from the saltwater mangroves which embraced the seaward side of the village.

Nowadays, Coronado retains its charm with what is essentially three lines of single story wooden or sometimes concrete block houses scattered along a red clay bumpy track or 'camino'. The village lights normally go off by 8pm with the dogs of the village running wild (depending on how heavy the rains are) until well after midnight. The first (overly eager in my opinion) rooster recognizes daybreak sometimes as early as 3.30am and by 4.30/5am I would say most of the village has awoken and is drinking strong black coffee with their gallo pinto breakfast. I think we are the only bleary eyed bad sleepers in the village - lets see how quickly we adapt!

Depending on the day and what's the PuraVidaEcolodge 'game plan' (in terms of finalizing our construction team, site meetings with architects & engineers, getting quotes and requotes for materials and starting to make logistical plans however much the elements don't seem to be helping). I often find myself on our front 'terraza' (actually Gersan's & Lliana's front porch as they are in Tres Rios 'house-sitting' a Gringos house called Bill). My day stars here, sitting on a larfe pieve of driftwood recently lugged home from Playa Tortuga, sipping hot home-brewed cafe con canela and plenty of sugar, munching on whatever fruit was bought from the passing fruit cart yesterday or picked from one of the many fruit trees behind our house. Todays favourites include papaya and the best pineapple I have ever tasted! Don Juan says, I will have to wait until the dry season is well under way until he brings the 'guanabanas'!!!

That famous word 'Verano' (SUMMER) When will the rains cease and the hot sunshine blast though those heavy looming clouds?!? 'ya casi viene' the young kids walking to school assure me. Heads always turn as the shy locals walk past out house - We are definitely the only Europeans in the village...standing out at first, but this villages 'open door culture' it wont be long until we are Ingles-Tico....