Ocean Eye is an off-the-grid, tropical family home located between the jungle and the beach in Puntarenas, Costa Rica. Designed by Benjamin Garcia Saxe, the home features a series of interwoven terraces on multiple levels which open the home to the outdoors. These openings which are based on a careful analysis of the local wind patterns help maximise cross-ventilation within the home to the point where air conditioning isn’t required.
The home scores sustainability points by making use of local materials implemented by local artisans under extreme and remote tropical conditions with limited resources and tools. For this reason a number of elements of the home are handcrafted, from the sinks, to the doors, the kitchen cabinetry and even bathroom furniture. Solar panels are also used to provide energy, with solar thermal technology providing hot water, while the entire lighting system within the home uses high efficiency LEDs.
“We feel that sometimes contemporary tropical design is either too clinical, too rustic, or simply unoriginal and bucolic. We are trying to find ways of interfering within the natural landscape responsibly and looking forward, whilst learning from the past on how to use common sense to reduce energy consumption through natural ventilation.”
–Benjamin Garcia Saxe
Ocean Eye is a Terrace House where walls fold away to reveal breath-taking views out to the sea on one side and the jungle on the other. Studio Saxe is dedicated to sustainable architecture and so the design, materials selected and construction methods are all part of a larger strategy to work with the environment. Ocean Eye harnesses modern technology, local knowledge and handcrafted techniques to create a bespoke property that is entirely a product of its place.
Resting against the back of a steep hillside, Ocean Eye transitions from solid private rooms at the rear of the lightweight and ephemeral structure that gives way to stunning views. A series of terraces break down barriers between the different spaces contained within, both vertically and horizontally, while simultaneously connecting the family to the surrounding landscape. These openings in Ocean Eye have been carefully arranged to allow for the flow of air to move through the house, cooling it naturally in the humid environment. The terraces project out over the property, protecting the occupants from the sun as it moves across the sky.
The Terrace House then transitions from a more solid and intimate construction at the back that holds bedrooms and bathrooms, towards a light-weight 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.