A Forest for a Moon Dazzler

What is it?

A house in Playa Avellanas, Costa Rica, by architect Benjamin Garcia Saxe for his mother. It was presented last week at the World Architecture Festival, deservedly winning its category.

What do we think?

The plan and section are both straightforward and easy to understand, the former shaped by use – living, sleeping and courtyard – and the latter by the tropical climate. The structure is lightweight steel, the exposed bracing at the corners of each roof likely the influence of Saxe’s other job with Richard Rogers Partnership. Small glass-covered oculi at the peak of each roof ventilate hot air gathered between the two roof layers, a masterful example of synergetic design as they also provide glimpses of the moon as it passes through the night sky. But it is the use of bamboo as the predominant cladding that provides an identity for the building, delighting the eye and, according to Saxe, in strong weather also the ear as the individual pieces move around on their pins.

What did we learn?

A Forest for a Moon Dazzler is a powerful reminder that much can be achieved with little. With a construction budget of $40,000, Saxe has crafted a simple yet evocative sanctuary, balancing his mother’s craving for safety with an easy sense of place and connection to the land.

About Warwick Mihaly

Warwick Mihaly is a principal architect of Mihaly Slocombe, teaches design and construction, and writes.
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