W Residences: Designing for Coexistence (Interview)

If Ronald Zürcher had to define the concept behind W residence in one word it would be coexistence. That term surfaced on different occasions during an interview in which the acclaimed Costa Rican architect explained how W Residences Costa Rica – Reserva Conchal blends perfectly with nature while offering an action-packed and relaxing place to stay in the tropics.

This is a project that is committed to “blending in” with nature instead of competing with it, he assured, and ownership unlocks many opportunities to get the best out of Costa Rica, a rising destination that always has something impressive to offer.

W Residences Costa Rica – Reserva Conchal spares no expenses: each room has a terrace and each residence has its own pool. But these rules did not prevent the architect from giving each tree house —as he calls them— a bold personality.

“We can’t just grab a house with a helicopter and put it on the next homesite – it just wouldn’t work,” claimed Zürcher, who assured that the design that went into creating this community was challenging, but satisfactory to achieve.

Dive into the architect’s ideas and learn more about the inspiration of W Residences Costa Rica – Reserva Conchal with the videos below.

What was your starting point for the W Residences designs?

Ronald Zürcher: The design of the residences is a sequence, a continuation of what was done at the W Hotel. We initially designed the hotel on a site adjacent to where the residences are being built and we had many opportunities to observe this site – the site is impressive.

So one of the premises when starting these residences was to respect nature instead of competing with it; we had to integrate and make sure that the residences and the dry forest coexisted.

Could it be said that it was inspired by the nature of the place?

RZ: We made sure that each residence is like one more object of nature, one more component. I have always been very intrigued by why as humans we build a house and it has a separate roof, wall and floor, when objects in nature — like a snail — have no differentiated parts. A snail is whole, and it’s exposed to the elements as one; the entire structure of the snail is its home.

”With the residences, we wanted to build something the way nature would do it. So the ceilings are a curved membrane that turns around and becomes the wall — it’s not a wall separate from the ceiling, it is one whole thing. We were trying to imitate the nature of the surroundings. These curved walls give privacy to the windows, so that we can have large and clear windows to appreciate the views without anyone being able to look inside the houses.

Ronald Zürcher calls them “tree houses”. W Residences Costa Rica is adventurous by nature.

”We designed membranes for areas such as bathrooms with perforations inspired by local fauna and flora, especially the flora of the dry forest. Through these perforations comes ventilation, natural lighting and the amazing views. But these membranes also give a lot of privacy to the residences.”

You mentioned snails and dry forest. What other shapes of nature inspired the design of the residences?

RZ: We wanted each house to look like additional trees on the lot. our intention is that they look like houses in the trees, but not an object alien to the tree, but integrated into it. So the trees were definitely an inspiration.”

You’ve called them tree houses, why is that?

RZ: The idea of the tree house has many implications of function, of aesthetics, but it is also a bit playful, of course. I think calling them like that takes us back to childhood when you imagined putting some boards on a tree to create a house. The name is a call back to that enjoyment and those images of childhood that one cherishes.

Each residence has a different identity. How did you manage to achieve a cohesive project while respecting that individuality?

RZ: We did an exhaustive analysis walking the lots one by one and designed them keeping in mind that one house does not interfere with the other. We wanted to achieve coexistence, just like in the forest, where all species coexist and work around each other.

”Each house had a specific design in which we determined how many rooms it could have considering the condition of the topography, to avoid obscuring the view to the house next to it, so we worked on a specific answer for each terrain. Each house is unique − we can’t just grab a house with a helicopter and put it on the next lot, because it wouldn’t work.

Nature-inspired membranes give every house a tree-like look and feel.

”Taking into account the hotel’s amenities program and its terraces and plunge pools, we asked ourselves ‘how to take those ideas and improve them?’ Because in a house, with a bigger budget and much more space, we could go the extra mile, as they say. So we took the opportunity to give more than what had already been given.”

Did you plan a connection between the hotel and the residences?

RZ: People who are interested in acquiring a residence here usually are inclined to do so because they have already experienced the hotel and have become acquainted with all the benefits of those amenities.

”The W residences owners can enter their houses directly, without having to go through the hotel, but there is always a dependency on proximity. So if someone visits a house, for example, they go through the hotel lobby and its reception, which was also designed by us and is full of symbolism and inspiration in Guanacaste trees.”

Ronald Zürcher founded his company in 1978. He has worked on multiple projects at Reserva Conchal ever since.

What kind of community do you envision it will be?

RZ: “It will be a very controlled community, as there is only one street that gives access to all the land, a cul-de-sac with little traffic, and there will be only 14 houses.

”We hope that the owners of the residences walk through the property, along its sidewalks and enjoy its green areas. I hope there is a coexistence through these public areas. Residents will also be able to use the hotel amenities and will be the permanent users of places such as the Living Room or the WET Deck, where they will have priority.”

When are the new neighbors moving in?

RZ: “It is somewhat difficult to determine when we will finish this project, because each house will be built according to demand. At this time we are working on three or four houses whose construction will begin very very soon and each house will take a year to be finished. I envision that at the speed in which they are being sold and that there are actually a few, we could see the first houses being inhabited by 2022. The whole project will finish in about three years, in 2024.”

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