Costa Rican architecture firm Studio Saxe has converted a former dilapidated house into a new tropical hotel in Nosara, Costa Rica. The hidden town has long been known by the wider international community of surfers as a hidden gem and off-grid paradise of white sand beaches and constant waves.
The 5,340m2 Gilded Iguana Hotel was entirely transformed using the existing structure to make a tribute to the memory it holds for locals, travellers, and the town at large.
"The Gilded Iguana beach-house historic restoration is also one of very few samples in Costa Rica that acknowledges the importance of preservation of traditional tropical architecture," said the architects.
"Decades ago, the first wooden house in town was built close to the beach-break and in time this simple structure became the perfect resting place for transient surfers as well as a gathering venue for music, food, and interaction. The Gilded Iguana was born!"
"Today, Nosara still attracts avid surfers from around the world; however, it has also become a destination for yogis, the wellness community, and families looking for healthy fun and adventure. Everyone shares a common goal to preserve the natural habitat and the low-key unpretentious essence of the place," they added.
Conceiving the structure as a new destination in this historical context, the new hotel addresses modern comforts and adapts to the new wave of travellers coming to the area whilst preserving the rich historical importance of the location.
The studio tried to complement the existing house with new structures poised around the property amongst the existing trees and in turn create a heart centre framed by a communal area-pool for all guests to enjoy. The new room buildings along with the reception and spa areas combine elements of the old house, such as the simple wooden frames and balconies with typical hand-made palm thatch "palapas" commonly found on the beach for shade.
"In contrast to typical enclosed and hermetic hotel developments in Latin America, the reception area and restaurant at the Gilded Iguana completely open up to the town of Nosara, creating a subtle, relaxed, and unpretentious atmosphere where anyone can come in," the studio added in a press release.
The studio used very simple and unpolished materials in the interior and exterior, for example, by using teak, palm thatch, jute fabric, and concrete tiles with modern tropical furniture made with local materials and craftsmanship, the whole building entirely reflects itself as natural as possible.
Room buildings are arranged to a varied type of traveller depending on their orientation. Pool rooms are designed as ideal spaces for families, jungle rooms create a more private experience, and surfer rooms promote more social interaction amongst travellers.
Each room offers a large outdoor terrace that brings the outside in and allows for bedrooms to be connected strongly to the outside. Private gardens are incorporated into showers and the play of light and shadows constantly fills every space with an acute awareness of the natural environment.
"Walking around the Gilded Iguana is always an opportunity to encounter and mingle. The studio carefully placed seating areas as well as water stations and surfboard racks along the entire property which in turn provoke interaction amongst guests and a more down-to-earth and authentic experience amongst travellers," said the architects.
The pool area is situated at the heart centre for guests at the Gilded Iguana. The pool creates a magic atmosphere where the sun and water come together in a place where adults and children can enjoy the tropical weather, relax, read a book, or play. The simple geometry and natural pool stone tiles combine perfectly with the old house and the new structures around the property.
"The Gilded Iguana Hotel is designed as a harmonious 'dialogue' between the tropical identity of the past and a new toned-down, unpretentious, and timeless tropical modernity that sits softly in the landscape and reflects the relaxed town atmosphere which most wish to preserve," said architect Benjamin Garcia Saxe, principal of Studio Saxe.
For the hotel's sustainability principle, the Gilded Iguana Hotel follows the bioclimatic design approach to take advantage of solar orientation, shade, wind currents, and others to create comfort through passive strategies of temperature control.
Additionally, Studio Saxe used active sustainable technological measures such as water recycling through water treatment systems, solar hot water, and energy harnessing through photovoltaic.
By using locally resourced materials, such as teak from certified sustainable farms, and local manual labour, the hotel creates a positive impact in the town of Nosara and generates new jobs for the community.
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