The Achioté Villa, completed in 2022 by Formafatal Architects, is a pioneering project in Costa Rica featuring “rammed earth” construction. The two minimalist villas, available for short-term rentals, sit atop a steep hill surrounded by lush jungle and offer breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean. The design prioritizes sustainability and harmonizes with the surrounding wilderness.
Achioté Villa Technical Information
- Architects: Formafatal
- Location: Playa Hermosa, OSA, Uvita – Bahia Ballena, Puntarenas, Costa Rica
- Client: Dagmar Štěpánová & Karel Vančura
- Topics: Beach House, Concrete
- Area: 190 m² / 95 m2 per villa
- Project Year: 2019 – 2022
- Photographs: © BoysPlayNice
The architectural design is based on the genius loci – on the orientation of the building plot toward the endless view of the Pacific Ocean and the terrain’s morphology. The color concept of interiors responds to the energies that were perceived in the location of the villas before their construction.– Dagmar Štěpánová, founder of Formafatal
Achioté Villa Photographs
Text by the Architects
This project is the first “rammed earth” implementation in Costa Rica.
We ultimately used clay soil from the excavations to construct all perimeter bearing walls.
Near Uvita town, on a plot of 11,000 square meters at 300 m above the sea, I designed two small villas on a hill overgrown with a jungle. Both villas, partly levitating above the steep southern slope, are intended for short-term recreational rentals. The built-up area of each of them is 90 m2.
I intended to design sustainable houses with biophilic interiors, which will be sophisticatedly thought-up. At the same time, their shaping will be strongly minimalist and simple—no unnecessary extra element, but also nothing to miss. The architecture of villas is deliberate with its thin and sharp lines in contrast to lush tropical vegetation, but the chosen materials and colors perfectly coincide with the surroundings.
Both villas are architecturally the same. Materials, floor plan layout, or orientation towards cardinal points are identical. However, it differs in the interior, especially by its color concept, which is partly reflected also in the exteriors.
The architectural design is based on the genius loci – on the orientation of the building plot toward the endless view of the Pacific Ocean and the terrain’s morphology. The color concept of interiors responds to the energies that were perceived in the location of the villas before their construction. Although the villas are only 12 m apart, each has different vibrations that I reflected in the interior design.
- Jaspis Villa (jaspis = jasper, bright villa) is a reflection of yin energy. It is connected to the ocean and sky, not only visually but also with its vibrations. With a color concept in sand shades, I respond to this interconnection.
- Nefrit Villa (nefrit = jade, dark villa) is a reflection of yang energy. In the Nefrit villa, you can feel the connection between the ground and the jungle. Here, too, the chosen color concept is a reaction to these energies, and the red-terracotta color of the concrete floor transmits the shade of local soil to the house’s interior.
Upon arrival, both villas seem very inconspicuous and humble. On the sides, they are lined with newly planted tropical plants. But as soon as you pass through the villa, further towards the levitating terraces, after a few steps, the view of the ocean opens, and you will find yourself in the generous space of the main bedroom with adjacent terraces and an infinity plunge pool. As if you suddenly find yourself in a different villa than you entered.
I put an extreme emphasis on all construction – architectural details and their mutual constraints.
The raw visual materials of rammed earth walls and concrete are complemented by the structural steel H-beams, supporting a concrete monolithic ceiling slab. The girders and ring beam of the house are visible only in the upper face of the roof, which is lined with a pair of steel “U” profiles. They also fulfill the function of the roof attic.
All facades oriented to endless ocean views are designed from frameless glass. The profiles of sliding and solid parts of the glass facades are recessed into the grooves in the concrete ceiling slab. This was also applied to the installation of interior lighting rails and the connecting rail for the mosquito net and the curtains around the bed.
The concrete floor slab is covered with a non-slip structured cement screed, which differs in each villa. The remaining interior walls, including concrete custom-designed solid furniture, are also on the surface of cement screeds but here in a smooth matte finish.
Considering the Costa Rican climate and high humidity, I chose materials that were as durable as possible.
To realize the clay “Rammed Earth” walls, I invited an experienced specialist from Brazil, the owner of Terra Compacta company, because, in Costa Rica, no one had any experience with this construction method. Daniel Mantovani from Terra Compact trained several local artisans, and together they can attribute their first place to realize Rammed Earth architecture in Costa Rica.
Minimalist architecture is also reflected in interiors, where there is no door except for the large-format sliding panel in the section of the shower and toilet. It also fulfills the function of a hanger wall with a large mirror. The equipment of the interiors is primarily custom-made. The kitchen desk, sink, shelves, solitary bedside tables, or bench are made from concrete.
For some of the concrete solitaires, I was inspired by the work of the Belgian design studio Bram Vander-Beke. The creation of this studio is very close to me. Other furniture, luminaires, accessories, and art were carefully selected with regard to originality, often directly from designers across all continents.
Achioté Villa Plans
Achioté Villa Image Gallery
Dagmar Štěpánová is the founder and lead architect of the award-winning architectural firm Formafatal. Established in 2015, the firm has 11 employees and offices in Prague and Costa Rica, where Štěpánová has relocated. In addition to architecture, the firm co-invests in the rental of luxury villas in the Costa Rican jungle.
Formafatal is currently working on various global commercial and residential projects, focusing on architecture, interior design, exhibition installations, and product design. The team is comprised of friends who are architects, designers, and scenographers and aims to create public spaces that are inviting and homes that are tailored to each client’s needs.
Sustainability is a top priority in all projects, and the firm values preserving historical values and addressing environmental issues through their work. They approach each project with individualized care and a focus on clients’ needs and requirements. The studio is committed to providing comprehensive solutions, from creative concepts to detailed execution.