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Casa Kike by Gianni Botsford Architects

Cahuita, Costa Rica

Casa Kike is a small scheme punching way above its weight. Too many schemes get lost in second thoughts. Here success is dependent on the absolute simplicity of the initial diagram and a refusal by the architect to over-complicate it. Two buildings, each a parallelogram, are orientated so their sides are parallel to the boundaries of the site, the glazed ends (and here’s the clever bit) are then twisted away from the meridian so as to catch the northerly sea breezes.

The house is built on 1.2 metre piles of the hardest of hard woods, Cachà, which is so dense that it sinks in water. As a result it is also termite proof, an important factor in these parts. The point about the house is books (17,000 of them) so the fact that the books and the structure are brought together in what are in effect structural bookcases is highly appropriate. The two pavilions are linked by a raised walkway which is long enough so that the smaller building is not in the wind shadow of the bigger one.

Issues of sustainability are impossible to ignore in Costa Rica, which has one of the best track records in this regard in the world. You cannot so much as take out a dead pine without government permission. So sourcing the three hardwoods needed for the house’s construction was problematic. At one point work stopped for three weeks while they awaited another delivery of the raw timber for the 10 metre long main roofbeam.

For all the timber pyrotechnics of the roof structure and the irregularity of its shape, it is a calm and comfortable place to be. The project shows what can be achieved with a modest building type and a simple brief when placed in the hands of an imaginative and assured architect.

Architect: Gianni Botsford Architects
Client: Keith Botsford
Structural Engineer Tall Engineers
Contractor: Lechenne Construction
Contract value: £55,000
Date of completion: April 2007
Gross internal area: 120 sq m

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