“Achioté” Levitates Guests High Above The Costa Rican Coast


The very first example of “rammed earth” architecture in Costa Rica, Dagmar Štěpánová of Formafatal constructed all perimeter bearing walls of Achioté using clay soil excavated during construction. Located near Uvita, a small town stretched along the South Pacific coast, two small villas, partly levitating above the steep southern slope, were designed for short-term recreational rentals.

“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. No unnecessary extra element, but also nothing to miss,” says Štěpánová. “The architecture of the villas is deliberate with its thin and sharp lines in contrast to lush tropical vegetation, but the chosen materials and colors are perfectly coinciding with the surroundings.”


The design of each villa is based on the genius loci – the orientation of the building plot towards the endless view of the Pacific Ocean and the morphology of the terrain. While architecturally the footprints are mirrored, the color concept of each interior responds to the energies that were perceived in the location of the villas before their construction.

Jaspis Villa (jaspis = jasper, bright villa) is a reflection of yin energy, Štěpánová explains. It is connected to the ocean and sky, with a color concept in sand shades. Nefrit Villa (nefrit = jade, dark villa) is a reflection of yang energy. In the Nefrit villa, you can feel the connection with 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 interior of the house.


“Upon arrival, both villas seem very inconspicuous; humble,” Štěpánová says. “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. [It’s] 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. This method was also applied in the installation of interior lighting rails and the connecting rail for the mosquito net and the curtains around the bed.


Minimalist architecture is also reflected in the interior design, where there is no door except for the large-format sliding panel in the bathing area. It also fulfills the function of a hanger wall with a large mirror. The equipment of the interiors is mostly custom-made, including the kitchen desk, sink, shelves, solitary bedside tables and bench, all made from concrete.

“For some of the concrete solitaires, I was inspired by the work of the Belgian design studio Bram Vander-Beke,” Štěpánová shares. “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.”

Photography by BoysPlayNice.

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