Dagmar Štěpánová of Formafatal builds the very first “rammed earth” structures in Costa Rica, using clay soil from the construction excavations to the fullest. Two minimalist-shaped villas, designed for short-term rent, partially levitate above the steep hill of the lush jungle and open up to the endless views of the Pacific Ocean. Jaspis, the bright villa, a reflection of yin energy, connects to the ocean and the sky, while Nefrit, the dark villa, a reflection of yang energy, connects to the ground and the jungle.
“My intention was to design sustainable houses with biophilic interiors, which will be sophisticatedly thought-up and at the same time their shaping will be strongly minimalist and simple,” explains Dagmar Štěpánová. “No unnecessary extra element, but also nothing to miss.”
The architecture of villas is deliberately with its thin and sharp lines in contrast to lush tropical vegetation, but the chosen materials and colors are perfectly coinciding with the surroundings.
Both villas are architecturally the same. Materials, floor plan layout, or orientation towards cardinal points are also 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 morphology of the terrain. 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 of them has clearly different vibrations that the architect reflected in the interior design.
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 is opening, and you will find yourself in the generous space of the main bedroom with adjacent terraces and infinity plunge pool. As if you suddenly find yourself in a different villa other than you entered.
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 views of the ocean 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. In this way was also applied 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 is different in each villa. The remaining interior walls including concrete custom-designed solid furniture, are also on the surface of cement screeds, but here in smooth matte finish.
“I chose the materials as durable as possible considering the Costa Rican climate and high humidity,” continues the architect. “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 craftsmen 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 mostly custom-made. The kitchen desk, sink, shelves, solitary bedside tables, or benche are made from concrete. “For some of the concrete solitaires, I was inspired by the work of the Belgian design studio Bram Vander-Beke,” concludes Dagmar. “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.”