I have been terrified at times to witness the power of the Western Atlantic. As a young windsurfer growing up by the ocean, I would drag my board—face numb and arms aching—back up the swirling sands that mixed with the salty air disappearing inland. I’d be at once exhausted and full of life.
At sunset, orange light would transform the sand and illuminate the cliffs, and the wind would drop. The destructive force of the ocean would transition into a serene haven of wildlife and elicit peaceful thoughts in a matter of hours.
Storms would leave the banks strewn with pieces of plastic and driftwood. Labels from distant countries smeared with oils would capture my imagination. Why did this indestructible waste have to end its journey on my beach? What had happened to its contents? What impact was this having on the water and the wildlife?
Pembrokeshire County Wales in the United Kingdom, James Andrews hometown, is accustomed to massive waves and big high tides due to its coastal location.
I was constantly reminded that we cannot tame the ocean’s environs. My architectural thesis was based on the relevance of the vernacular buildings in a globalizing world where materials, details, and colors were becoming invasive. I found myself constantly asking questions about the built environment, like, “Why was a roof pitch 37.5 degrees? Why was there no roof overhang?” I discovered that the ocean and its climate influenced hundreds of years of trial and error.
As builders came west, they watched their buildings deteriorate in the extreme exposure over a matter of months, not years. The influence of the coastal climate and corrosive salt water is felt several miles inland. The ocean does not end at the high tide mark.
When I immigrated to the US, ironically one of my first design opportunities was on the Pacific Coast of Mexico. The great ocean shaped and crushed rocks indiscriminately while providing habitat for some of the most robust creatures on earth.
As our design team discovered the 250-acre coastal project site for Imanta Resort and Spa, our host informed us of the daily and seasonal events and rhythms influenced by the moon and the waves, the winds and the rains. In awe we wondered what, if anything, should be built in this majestic environment.
The more we listened, the more we realized our response must address the shapes and beauty of the rocks as they related to the Pacific. We carefully sited the buildings for minimal impact on vegetation and ground erosion. We worked with the topography to maximize aspect and prospect while ensuring no trees would be cut down. We minimized Imanta’s footprint along the shore, opting to develop inland which enhanced the sense of discovering and preserved the beach for nature—it would only claim it back anyway in time.
Imanta offers more than a view; it offers an immersive experience.— James Andrews, RIBA, Int'l. Assoc. AIA, LEED APImanta’s unmatched visitor experience is informed by its design. Guests encounter their surroundings rather than observing from a hotel room with a balcony perched over the ocean. Imanta offers more than a view; it offers an immersive experience. Here, patrons wander to the water’s edge or retreat to the jungle, and cannot leave behind either even when entering a building. The environment is celebrated while the ocean’s power is recognized; building designs expect and embrace the destructive qualities of the sea: hurricanes, enveloping swells of ocean tides, biting winds, lashing rain. The very nature of the place invites equilibrium between the temperament of the ocean, fragility of the land, and curiosity and wonder of man.
Oceans do not live by our rules, but they are affected by our decisions. Let us live and design with respect, recognizing the consequences that we will have to live with if we do not steward our seas wisely. They were here before us, and will remain long after we are gone.
Imanta Resorts was named one of 124 Best Hotels in the World by Condé Nast Traveler in 2011. To read more about the resort, visit our website.