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The Athletic Centre in Nosara, Costa Rica was designed as a small village nestled amongst the trees. The pre-fabricated and modular buildings were meticulously placed around existing wildlife habitats and mature trees. Architects Studio Saxe decided to break up the building into a series of smaller, interconnected pieces woven through the greenery, in an effort to make the buildings seamlessly coexist with the natural environment.

Timber ceiling and timber cladding on pre-fabricated athletic centre

An add-on to a previous renovation at the Gilded Iguana Hotel in Nosara, the addition, known as The Athletic Center, now houses a surf shop, bike shop, gym, exercise space, studios for classes such as Jiu Jitsu and yoga, and massage rooms that can be used by guests at the resort or by the public. In total, it measures in at 615 square metres and all small buildings are attached via outdoor walkways. The architectural team worked with engineers to place buildings where they didn’t disturb the existing trees and allow them room to grow. After all, the whole idea is to pursue an active lifestyle amongst nature. They added, “Human activity is intended to co-exist in symbiotic relationship with the natural world in order to accentuate the path towards wellbeing.”

Biophilic design planter boxes

These biophilic buildings have plants trailing down every face of the building from large planter boxes, and the large windows provide views of the lush landscaping from almost every corner of the buildings. A particularly nice design detail is the use of timber on the ceilings which extends seamlessly to the eaves so you have an expansive covering of timber overhead while being encased in greenery.

Timber clad building with overhanging eaves

A crucial part of the project was for the construction to have very little impact on the site and the existing businesses. This design challenge was solved by using prefabricated, modular and lightweight steel structures that were built off-site, moved onto location and installed quickly, with minimal disturbance to the property. The steel framework was then clad in reforested teak.

Timber clad building with covered walkways
Blue gym floor mats inside athletic centre

An additional benefit from breaking up the pre-fabricated building into smaller structures was optimizing their access to natural light. This provided the opportunity to orientate each building for optimal solar access and cross flow ventilation. What could’ve potentially be seen as a design setback has been reworked as the buildings strength.

Timber clad modular pre-fabricated athletic centre

Large windows and large roof overhangs help keep the indoors cool by providing shade from the harsh summer sun, minimizing the building’s energy consumption. The long roof overhangs not only protect the building from the weather, but help to collect rainwater that is reused in the building’s mechanical systems and landscape irrigation.

Want to read about more inspiring projects like this? Check out our sustainable architecture posts.

Walkways connecting timber clad pre-fabricated buildings
Large timber eaves with timber slats sunshades

Sustainability specs:
– Pre-fabricated off-site to minimize any disturbance to the landscape
– Oversized eaves help collect rainwater and provide shade
– Rainwater collected to be reused in the building’s mechanical systems and landscape irrigation
– Biophilic design with extensive views to greenery
– An abundance of windows floods the buildings with natural light
– Cross flow ventilation used to cool each space
– Reforested teak was used throughout

Night view throughout The Athletic Centre by Studio Saxe
Ideas for your own project:

– Carefully consider the placement of any built structures to minimise any harm of existing landscaping
– Add rainwater tanks and use it to irrigate your garden, flush your toilets, to do your washing or use it throughout your entire home if possible
– Maximise any views towards plants and landscaping
– Cool your home using cross flow ventilation
– Use lots of certified timbers

Covered walkways connecting timber pre-fabricated buildings
Biophilic modular pre-fabricated building
Blue floor mats and boxing gear inside athletic centre
Raised walkways connecting timber clad buildings
Bathroom with timber privacy screens and timber ceiling

Images courtesy of Studio Saxe. Photography by Andres Garcia Lachner


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