Puntacana, Dominican Republic: The Modern, The Vernacular, The Sustainable

Since its founding in the late 1960\’s by Ted Kheel, Frank Rainieri, Oscar de la Renta and Julio Iglesias, PUNTACANA Resort & Club, on the east coast of the Dominican Republic, has been a leader in ecologically-minded tourism and in sustainable development focused on improvements to the local community. PUNTACANA Resort & Club functions as both short stay resort and as a collection of vacation homes. A new section of PUNTACANA Resort & Club\’s landholding is planned for development as homes, and this studio, sponsored and funded by the Ecological Foundation of PUNTACANA Resort & Club, will use this planned site as its locus of investigation. The studio will focus at the outset on strategies for organization, aggregation and use that can alter the typical ecological (as well as individualistic) footprint of such planned communities. We will then focus on the design of specific, representative projects that arise from these approaches – at the scale of the individual home (or perhaps aggregations of homes) or at the scale of larger buildings that emerge as necessary to serve a new concept of resort community. The architecture of PUNTACANA Resort & Club has historically been a direct response to local building practice, materials and environmental opportunities. \”Breathing homes\” by Oscar Imbert characterize this strand. At the opposite end of the spectrum are Los Angeles-style mansions transplanted to the Caribbean. As the demands of sustainability return the tenets of critical regionalism to the forefront, students in this studio will be challenged to find ways to reinterpret the vernacular through the modern and vice versa, with the sustainable as guide rather than substitute for design. In very different climates, we can see such an approach appear occasionally in the work of a variety of contemporary architects whose designs generally are not considered to be connected to the vernacular. As with the vernacular itself in the distant past, these designs proceed from consideration of particular materials and their possibilities for form. Leaders from PUNTACANA Resort & Club will participate in student reviews, and we will travel to Punta Cana in February (travel will be funded). We will tour a variety of sites, meet with local architects, spend time working on a job site and present ideas to PUNTACANA Resort & Club. Students will be expected to prepare an exhibition at the conclusion of the studio. Limited funds will be available for two students to assist in creating a publication over the summer. The studio is focused on architectural elaboration but is open to all students with strong architectural skills and the ability to work across scales and between overarching principles and particulars.Finally, because this studio is based on a real project in PuntaCana with a real \”client,\” we may find friction between the client\’s expectations and the exploratory goals of a studio. We see this tension as productive. Serious architectural practice is responsive to and inspired by such demands. It is grounded and ambitious and in this way a replicable model. An Options Studio thus becomes dress rehearsal.