I Guana

In this research, we look at the situation that tourism is creating in Costa Rica.

By the year 2000, every potentially exploitable location on the coast of Guanacaste in the North West of the country was brought into a map of potential development for tourist purposes. In a sort of domino effect, two different realities were put together, producing a shrill cacophony of spontaneous development: the poor and the luxurious, the sprawled and the dense, urban typologies superimposed on rural settlements, all mixed up.

The boom of real estate had started as well as the deep concern of local authorities for the lack of planning and control mechanisms. In a period of one year between 2005 and 2006, the construction sector had a growth rate of 70%. The dark side of this growth is powerful. Everything related to public interest is left behind: the region has the highest rate of unemployment that reached almost 18% in 1999, compared to 6,6% for all of Costa Rica within the same time span. Furthermore, public investment in infrastructure is extremely low and water is nowadays the most critical resource due to the overexploitation of water-bearings. Outside resorts and gated communities, the poor image of the built environment reflects the social exclusion of local guanacastecos facing the global economy.

Immersed in this overview, we take a fragment of the territory that has enough complexity in its social, economic, cultural and environmental conditions, all of them related to the forces of touristic development and real estate. The case study area is called Tamarindo / Playa Grande. Tamarindo is a small town on the beach where very poor conditions of infrastructure and rich gated communities encounter. It has a regional airport with daily flights to the central international airport of Costa Rica and it is located next to Las Baulas Marine National Park, one of the very rare locations of spawning for the giant turtles along the Pacific Coast of the Americas. Tamarindo is experiencing the highest growth of urbanization in Guanacaste and it is already facing basic problems of water supply, road accessibility, culturally conflicting floating population, drug dealing, minor criminality and prostitution.

The general goal of this research is to identify the underlying processes that are producing the radical growth of urbanization on the coast. We aim to understand the role of the different urban and architectural fragments in order to introduce a consistent organizational structure to the region. The study proposes to rethink and rearrange those factors, and to create a better development for nationals and internationals alike. We envision an "Intelligent Guanacaste" where its citizens can live, work and enjoy themselves in harmony with their primary natural resources.


A Foundation (Oliver Schütte, Marije van Lidth de Jeude, Jean Paul Garnier, Laura Jiménez) with the University of Costa Rica (Federico Rodríguez, Henry Liu Marquez)

Location: Guanacaste, Costa Rica

Status: Completed

Year: 2005–2007