Sustainable Luxury in Costa Rica and Beyond

We’re pleased to announce that SARCO Architects Costa Rica won the 5-Star Best Architecture Single Residence Costa Rica (2019-20) award for its Casa Aramara in the Peninsula Papagayo luxury resort, a spectacular example of modern sustainable living

Fairmont Royal York Hotel in Toronto hosted the USA & Americas Property Awards where we competed with the best property professionals. At the gala, the judges announced SARCO Architects as one of the three nominees for “America’s Best” in the Architecture Single Residence category.

This marks our firm’s fifth winning project in the International Property Awards. Previously our Cap Limon Luxury Club Residences Resort in the Dominican Republic received three Best Leisure awards (2017-2018). Renowned Casa Magayon, pictured above, was also awarded the 5-Star, Best Architecture Single Residence Costa Rica (2016-17). For 2012-2013, the Bartlett Residence also won the 5-Star, Best Architecture Single Residence Costa Rica and the Cielo Mar received the Highly Commended, Architecture Single Residence Costa Rica (2012-2013).

What do all our award winners have in common?

We design and build with the environment, not against it, flowing with the land in an organic form. While other architects encourage indoor-outdoor connections, we do this and more. The weather is so beautiful in Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic. Our homes encourage the inhabitants to spend time outdoors. Making the most of every outdoor space, every pool, patio and porch becomes an experience. A courtyard can be a circulation space, where inhabitants pass through daily and drink their morning coffee. Paired with environmentally friendly materials and energy efficient systems, we create both sustainability and luxury in all our residences. Read on to find out which of these homes has a 100-foot long pool and another that travels straight into the main living space. 

Casa Aramara

Built on a slope, the building flows along the terrain. We embraced this challenge as an opportunity for indoor-outdoor connection. Establishing different levels for the home, there are two main modules. As you come down the steps from the master bedroom, you effortlessly flow through the seating area by the pool — the main social space. Why have a hallway in paradise? Instead, the design intermingles the indoor spaces and outdoor spaces. 

All balconies are right off the bedrooms, and not just for show. They are very wide and extensive because they double as a sitting area on top and provide sufficient shade for the other balconies below. Duality. Every living space and sleeping space features an outdoor area through glass doors. So anybody from any point in the house can easily access the outside, enjoy privacy, a glass of wine, and dip into the pool whenever they like. The glass doors for this house are so minimalistic, so clear, you almost don’t see the doors — achieving our main goal, to draw you to the natural wonders of Costa Rica. 

The lap pool is the core of the home. What makes this pool design so unique to other projects is it’s tucked between the living/social and sleeping modules, just a step away through any pair of glass doors. The pool is, in essence, its own room. Depending on the time of day, the buildings provide shade. This way, it doesn’t need to be covered. Around one o’clock in the afternoon it’ll get some direct sunlight, but the rest of the day it’s nice and cool, a real accomplishment in a tropical environment. 

Solar orientation gives Casa Aramara a natural energy efficiency. Both the social and the sleeping module have screens that catch the afternoon sun, as to not let the hot temperatures inside. The roof surfaces contribute to the efficiency, too, fitted with polyiso insulation, which has a very high R value, and an additional layer of fiberglass. In addition, the high end window systems from the Spain based Cor Vision product line allows us to use very efficient insulated glass. All come together to tremendously reduce energy waste. 

Casa Magayon

Like Casa Aramara, our Casa Magayon is highly energy efficient and the home itself shades the pool from our tropical afternoon heat. Another aspect that sets our projects apart is using technology for communication. When the clients Ruediger and Maryann came to Costa Rica, they didn’t want to leave. Ruediger is from Austria, Maryann from the Philippines. Yet they are very much New Yorkers. Always on the move, they wanted a special vacation home where they could take a break from time to time. He’s very busy in the financial sector. We worked together through live interactive 3D BIM models as they traveled to New York, Shanghai, and London … and built this tropical modern luxury home in Costa Rica with only four in-person visits from the clients. 

The property’s sharp 20-meter drop between the road front and a small linear ridge in an east-west direction was selected as the location for the main social spaces and private master suite wing. The rest of the house was laid out to follow the natural shape of the land as it turned into a hillside at about 45 degrees to the ridge.

Our approach has a strong sustainability element: the modular glass cubes of the home work beautifully with their request, as they wanted this house to be flexible for when family visits. When it’s just the two of them, the entire guest wing is in shut down mode; they only enjoy the master suite, the outdoor space and pool. We also added a media room on top of the garage, which includes an overflow sleeping space. In one guest bathroom, tiles reflect in the mirror and in the tempered glass sliding door; the high gloss white tile becomes a mirror as well and reflects the outdoors in. It’s completely open to the view of this jungle. Whereas a typical bathroom would be tucked away at the back of the house, this bathroom becomes one with nature.

The exterior features natural grey lava stone walls, echoing the natural surroundings, with a two-tone palette of cool grey and olive-grey stucco walls. This contrasts with the large glass cubes’ green framing and burnt-ochre exposed steel structure … a material palette that blends beautifully with the jungle around it. Staying in constant communication with the clients, our collective vision really sprang to life.

Cap Limon Luxury Club in Dominican Republic 

Being on the north coast of the Dominican Republic, all outdoor spaces were oriented north for the Cap Limón Luxury Club Carey Residences. We designed six different structures on the resort. Focused on the outdoor spaces, each level of the building is an independent 3-bedroom luxury residence — including its own private swimming pool.

Carey Residences are a unique kind of luxury resort residence. They are designed to break the mold of the typical apartment building, and the usual boxy-looking results. Carey Residences have been designed as a 3-story building intended to adapt to hillside conditions. Each level is slid back from the story below it, allowing the building to adapt naturally to the slope with minimal earth moving and intervention. In addition, all outdoor spaces face north, always in the shade, harnessing the gentle ocean breezes. As with Casa Aramara, vertical screens shade the side of the home where there is more direct exposure to the sun. This adds comfort throughout the day and night. 

Aesthetically, we continued the consistent thread in all our projects of indoor-outdoor connection. Expansive floor to ceiling glass surfaces reveal gorgeous jungle views and soothing ocean views. Earthy materials alongside modern ones — stone and glass, wood and exposed steel — lend to a modern yet tropical feel.

Barlett Residence 

To make the Barlett Residence more energy efficient, inclined steel columns extend the roof to protect glazed surfaces from the hot sun. Slanted columns really create the spirit of the home. This feature creates a unique connection to the outdoors. Due to the extended roof and lower roofline, it feels protected — like living in a tree house. 

Extensive outdoor spaces all around enhance this feeling. You are up so high and so close to the trees, seated there it’s as if you’re perched upon the tree canopy yourself. Under the main living area is the pool, with a swim lane that travels inside the house. 

Cielo Mar

Collaborating with a New York firm, we designed this spectacular residence. The most striking features are the steel bridge and the pool. Able to extend and retract the attached orange boat sails, like pulleys, it can be left tensioned to provide shade on the dining table below. When I stay with the owner, we enjoy breakfast there. From the large wood deck, you can sit outside and listen to music, read a book … or, the most popular activity, take a dip in the 100-foot long pool. 

SARCO Architects is a small-sized boutique architectural firm located in San Jose, Costa Rica.  The firm works exclusively with international clients, providing high-end custom architectural design services for luxury vacation homes and investment properties in Costa Rica, Panama and the Caribbean. “All of our award winners over the years make a global impact. Our vacation oceanside homes encourage occupants to enjoy natural wonders.” More at

About the author

Roderick Anderson

SARCO Architects is a small-sized boutique architectural firm located in San Jose, Costa Rica. It is a family business owned by Roderick and his wife, both of whom are architects. The firm works exclusively with international clients, providing high-end custom architectural design services for luxury vacation homes and investment properties in Costa Rica, Panama and the Caribbean.