In reflecting on the experiences and situations we felt, both collectively and individually, during the course of our stay in Costa Rica, I realized that there was an underlying notion of community and collaboration. As a group we did everything communally, such as having our meals together everyday. Additionally, the work we were doing was in collaboration with the community of El Cocal which further promoted this idea of interactivity between all of us. In thinking about the spaces where these situations unfolded, I realized that there was an inherent openness that would facilitate these interactions.
Many of the spaces and structures we came across were characterized by being large and open, with a free-plan and with a sense of permeability. They were often accessible from multiple sides, with the lack of walls to allow for movement and air-flow. While surely these spaces resulted from a response to the climate, I do not doubt that they foster the type of interactions and encounters that we experienced. This sense of sociability was indicative of one of the main differences in culture between Costa Rica and back home.
In an attempt to encapsulate and recreate the social spaces and places we witnessed, my piece is a gazebo that frames an a small, intimate space that attempts to foster social interaction and invites users to stand together in underneath the structure.
The structure, drawing inspiration from locally observed shelters and their form, is comprised of a triangular truss-like frame. The triangular portals invite the users to stand underneath the central joint, creating a quasi-ribbed vault construction. The resulting space underneath could be used as a meeting place or a junction in between other spaces, ideally leading to users to stop for a while and interact with other users. The form is directly inspired from a particular bamboo structure encountered on an excursion. The tall ceiling heights where possible due to the qualities of the material. The space is further enclosed by horizontally placed PVC cords that run from the structural elements framing the portals to the central structural elements framing the central space. The cords will both further demarcate the space as an enclosure, but it also acts as a brise soleil, which recalls the need for shelter from the sun in the tropical Costa Rican climate.
When our group arrived to Dona Aneida’s house, we were put to work right away. We were told to start making the corn-flour dough for the empanadas and to cut down a big block of queso fresco into little thin strips for its filling. The rest of use began chopping away at the onions and tomatoes for the salad. While our workspace was hot an cramped, it was not unlike any other kitchen job I’ve had in the past – except for the occasional chick chirping away as they sauntered around our heels. The making of the empanadas was a fun and humbling experience, in particular when her sun, Moises, had to break out the tortilla press to help us flatten out the dough since we did not have the same coordination or speed to make them quickly by hand.
After lunch we had the opportunity to conduct a few more interviews to get a better perspective of what locals of El Cocal think might work and what might not work when it comes to waste management. We presented a few rough proposals to them and heard what they had to say with respect to every one. What we found is that a few of our proposals was presupposing adequate waste sorting as a given, whereas the feedback we received informed us that proper disposal of materials is still a something that needs to be communicated to much of the community. It became evident that whatever system we may be attempting to establish, there needs to be an education campaign on waste disposal. Luckily, our insightful interviews allowed us to gain a better understanding of the situation.
The day began with a hurried walk over to the central bus terminal in Quepos, where we could catch the bus that would take us to the beach. While there some last-minute scares of potentially forgotten beach paraphernalia, everyone eagerly climbed aboard the bus and took a seat. The beach visit had already been postponed once due to torrential downpour, and the day’s forecast was not all that different from then but we took our chances.
As the bus meandered up a steep, serpentine road, I thought to myself how interesting it was to see the other side of Quepos. This side was characterised by large English-language billboards advertising adventure activities such as zip-lining or catamaran rides, restaurants with a specified cuisine such as sushi, and of course the several lodging establishments ranging from backpacker’s hostels to high-end villas and surely everything in between. This side was drastically different from what we had seen so far in the town but it was especially different from our experiences in El Cocal. I could not help but think of the contrast just a few kilometres down the road. After what seemed like a ten-minute bus ride we arrived at our stop.
My initial thoughts on the contrast of the town, for better or for worse, were entirely suspended once I caught my first glance of the water. As the ocean revealed itself in between coconut trees as we approached the beach from the bus stop, it was difficult to be focused on anything else. Luckily the weather had cooperated, as the sun was shining brightly with only a handful of clouds. Once there, no time was spared in going in the water.
After having cooked in the heat of the Costa Rican sun, we all grabbed a seat in what looked like the council chambers at Quepos City Hall. It was in this air-conditioned room that we had a very informative presentation by Warren, who is directly involved with waste management for the municipality. Despite having to use an interpreter for translating the information, he was able to clarify several of the things we had still been unclear of with regards to garbage collection and disposal in the town. However, with respect to El Cocal, and the way in which the municipality regards that community and its members as a part of Quepos while simultaneously declaring them illegitimate thus freeing themselves of any responsibility to provide them anything let alone garbage removal certainly left me with more questions than answers.