Las Terrenas, Dominican Republic







The architecture and culture of the small island nation of the Dominican Republic is endangered by large hotel complexes that are encroaching on formerly remote beaches. In their rush to capitalize on this big business, Dominicans seem to be forgetting how to design low-energy structures for their tropical environment.

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Our concern for the erosion of a traditional way of life of the Dominican people focuses on the small native village of Las Terrenas, on a peninsula off the northeastern coast. There, we are proposing a demonstration project of simple, naturally ventilated cabanas clustered in a staggered pattern to ensure wind access to every unit. Our hope is that the local people of this still isolated village will use this cabana design instead of the large hotels as a standard for future development.

In a climate where the constant breezes are key to thermal comfort, “modern” buildings are closing themselves off to the natural forces and relying instead on an unreliable electricity infrastructure.

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The Foundation

Due to its geographical location, the Dominican Republic is subject to constant flooding due to the overflowing of local rivers during heavy rain seasons. Over 500 homes and businesses are damaged per season, mostly affecting the lower class. We decided to elevate the floor plan, in order to keep the erosion caused from the rising waters at a minimum, preserving the cabana from the heavy flooding.

Our search for appropriate forms for a simple cabana also took us through a series of experiments using complex computational fluid dynamics (CFD) analysis software.

The result was an optimum design for airflow, efficiency, quality, and durability — a fusion of traditional design-with-nature and 21st century science.

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