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Interview with Tobias Holler, Architect and Professor of NYIT
New York Students Competed in a Design Contest for the New Nosara Recycling Center

By Emiliana García

A group of 50 students at the New York Institute of Technology (NYIT) participated in a competition to design a building in the middle of a dry tropical forest: a recycling and educational center for Nosara. Their challenge was to create a sustainable building that would stand up to extreme climate conditions. 

The idea for this project started back in 2009 when German architect and NYIT professor, Tobias Holler, 37, visited friends living in Nosara. He wanted to have a group of students come to this coastal community to work on a small a project that could make a difference in the community.

Heeding local advice, Holler sat down with community leaders on a rainy day of July, 2011. He asked for their ideas for a project and they all agreed that a recycling center was very needed. The Minister of Health had threatened to close the local dump due to unhealthy conditions, land was available and an experienced Costa Rican architect, Lucca Spendlingwimmer, was willing to help. In addition, unlike most communities in Costa Rica, Nosara knew its volume of recyclables and trash because a study had been done here in 2007 by Earth University.

Tobias Holler went back to New York to organize a design competition for his students at NYIT to develop ideas for a Nosara recycling center. On Wednesday December 7, three winning student teams were announced. A jury chose two of them and 3146 people from 19 different countries voted through a campaign on facebook to choose the third one. The three student teams will visit Nosara in January and present their designs to the community.


Tobias Holler

New York Institute of Technology (NYIT)

VON met with Tobias Holler on a cold fall day in New York to interview the architect, but also the surfer and nature lover that is Holler. Below is an extract of that interview.

Why did you choose Nosara for you project?
I first went to Costa Rica in 2007, I love the country because of its nature, its environmentally mindedness, and then I went to Nosara in 2009 for a research project on the dry tropical forest, to visit some friends and to surf. The ecosystem of Guanacaste is very interesting because of the extreme conditions it has. In my research and design practice I’m very interested in environmental performance as a generator for architectural form, the dry tropical forest ecosystem is very interesting in this regard because the extreme environmental conditions require a very specific architectural responses.

The Jury’s Winning Team – Project Duality
Good access and site planning, successful integration of topography into the building floor plan, simple building structure, effective cross and stack ventilation, elegant building volume, good use of passive strategies, easy expansion potential, and simple and elegant ideas for wall construction

Why a recycling center?
First of all I met with some community leaders like the Nosara Civic Association, the Nosara Development Association, the Nosara water board, Chamber of Tourism and other leaders, I said, “I have this idea, I want to bring students here and do this project” and I describe (to them) that the project shouldn’t be too big so that students can be actively involved in the construction of the project in the future. And this group of people said that they need a recycling center, it wasn’t my idea but I really liked it. Recycling is a very important process and creating a building to house this process is a wonderful design problem for architecture students. In order to properly design this facility they will have to become “recycling experts”. It’s also a building that has the potential to educate and inspire the community about the importance of recycling, which is probably the most important contribution to Nosara that we can make as designers.

What were the requirements that the students needed to work with?
There were pragmatic requirements, such as truck access and loading, a big enough area for delivering, sorting, and storing the recyclables. I also asked them to include showers, toilets and a room for a 24 hr security guard. I also wanted them to use passive tropical architectural strategies, such as cross and stack ventilation, big roofs for sun shading and protection from the rains, etc.

Very importantly, I encouraged them to come up with creative ways to engage the public, by incorporating an educational area as part of the complex, and to come up with ways to express the concept of reuse and recycling in the actual building.

However it is important to remember that one recycling center building won’t be able to make a difference, it can only support efforts that are already underway in Nosara to improve and optimize the separation and collection process of waste and recyclable materials in Nosara. I am very much looking forward to further discuss the details of the process with the community when we are coming to present our ideas in January.
Team Poroso – From left to right: Vincenzo Ciaramella (25) US, Alfonzo Rodriguez (29) Ecuador, Wagdy Moussa (23) Egypt

The Facebook Campaign‘s Winning Team – Project Poroso
“We were inspired by the problem of the dump” said team members of project Poroso and added they “not only (wanted to) solve it but to make it better.” The biggest challenges for this team were to preserve the trees on the property when incorporating a public road, and to keep the original conditions of the land. All three team members are thankful to everyone who voted for their project and also very exited to visit Nosara.

How much will it cost and where is the money coming from?
One of the next steps is to use some of the student ideas as a basis for a cost estimate, and Lucca (Spendlingwimmer) will be helping us with his local experience. In order to keep the building cost down I have asked the students to use only locally available materials and construction methods. My understanding is that the money will be coming from a variety of sources, including from local fundraising efforts that are already ongoing. We hope that the design competition and the resulting ideas will be a helpful tool, both for raising awareness, but also for fundraising purposes.

The Jury’s Winning Team – Project MCD
This project was chosen because of its simplicity, minimal topography intervention interesting relationship between recycling facility and education area, water collection and because they presented the idea of having satellites collection kiosks in Nosara and Guiones

When will the final recycling center design be ready?
In January we hope to discuss our ideas with the local community, and also develop a realistic timeline. From our perspective he hope to finish the design and construction drawings for the project as part of a class next semester, between February and May. If the timing works out and we get all the required permits in place, we could start construction in June, if not, we will come back during the dry season next year.


More Regional News

Efforts of Samara Community to Improve their Security have Paid Off

In the meeting last night, Dec. 14th at 6pm in Intercultura, the Costa Rican Police Commissioner Juan José Andrade presented his official plan 2012 for a "Sámara Seguro" (Safe Samara) with a power point presentation given to an audience of approximately 25 police officers and 65 community members.

Attorney Who Conducted Study for City Hall is under Investigation for Plagiarism
• Report focused on illegally occupied properties on the MLZ
• City Hall paid $8000 for study

Nicoya's City Hall is investigating an attorney, whose last name is Bravo and who was hired by them last year, in order to determine if he plagiarized a report issued by the National Comptroller's Office (Contraloría General de la República) in regards to the Maritime Land Zone (MLZ), which he presented as his own work.

Samara ASADA Will Continue Without Fiscal 

On Saturday, November 26th, Samara's ASADA hosted its annual assembly in the community hall to elect members of the board of directors, but no one wanted to take on the role of fiscal, a post which has been vacant since early 2011 when Ronny Briceño resigned.

Multi-force operatives focus on Samara and Nicoya

On Sunday, November 20th, an operative was conducted in Nicoya canton by officials of immigration, the municipality, MINAE, Incopesca, transit and the public force, including 15 officials and two vehicles, according to Nicoya Public Force chief Adriana Cordoba. "We're going to be doing more operatives," she promised.

Donated Police Patrol Cars Require Funds to Be Repaired and Start Patrolling the Streets

On August 27th, Mario Zamora, Minister of Public Safety, signed a cooperation agreement with the Nosara Development Association (Asociación de Desarrollo Integral de Nosara - ADIN), establishing that the police would receive two vehicles to patrol the area.

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