The house that’s neither in nor out

Gail Taylor
Wednesday 24 Aug 2016

Ocean Eye – A Terrace House nestles on the shores of Costa Rica and incorporates traditional common sense techniques to create cool modern comfort

Designed for the Holdener family by Benjamin Garcia Saxe, this inviting property on the Costa Rican coast enjoys breath-taking views towards the ocean and into the jungle. 

The house, which is of approximately 300 m sq, has been rested against the back of a steep hill in order to stabilize the soil and protect the house from falling debris. Thus, the house transitions from a more solid and intimate construction at the back that accommodates bedrooms and bathrooms, towards a light-weight and ephemeral structure that points to the visual collapse of the ocean and jungle views. 

The result is a series of interwoven terraces that relate to each other in all dimensions creating not only an internal dynamic interaction between levels, but also varied and sometimes unexpected relationships between the inhabitants and the natural landscape. 

In these interstitial terrace spaces, which are never truly inside or out, architecture comes to foster the relationship, enjoyment, and appreciation of the natural world by the inhabitants.  

The architects believe in using technology to predict and design structures that will consume the least amount of resources possible. With this project, they carefully analysed local wind patterns to create a comfortable cross ventilation that would cool the spaces without the use of air conditioning. Solar trajectories were also studied to create large overhangs in the right places and the ability to open and close the house at the right moments. 

The owners have now been using the house and have confirmed that the comfort goal has been successfully achieved in what is a very humid and hot climate. 

The project is composed in great proportion out of locally resourced reforested and certified Melina wood. Most sinks were hand crafted and created on site, as well as doors, kitchen cabinetry, and bathroom furniture. This house, even though it might resemble an idea of modernity, is actually a carefully handcrafted object built by local workers under extreme and remote tropical conditions with limited resources and tools using local materials.

Due to the remote location of the property, the main structure of the house was designed to be of semi-prefabricated steel members that were as light-weight as possible and brought to site preassembled. This reduced the construction process impact on the topography as well as helped bring costs down by allowing a quicker and more efficient construction process.  The result is a house that combines gracefully contemporary materials and techniques with local handcrafted construction.

WAN House of the Year Award 2016 now open. For more information contact:


+44(0)1273 201 123

Gail Taylor

Key Facts:

Costa Rica

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