Page E1.1 . 27 February 2002                     
ArchitectureWeek - Environment Department
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Airflow on the Beach

by Gregory Marx De Peña

The architecture and culture of the small island nation of the Dominican Republic are 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.

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 air conditioning — and an unreliable electricity infrastructure.

My 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, I am proposing a demonstration project of simple, naturally ventilated cabanas clustered in a staggered pattern to ensure wind access to every unit.

My 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. My goal is to create a definitive primitive hut for the 21st century.

Ironically, my search for appropriate forms for a simple cabana took me 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.   >>>



ArchWeek Image

Gregory Marx De Peña's completed model of a Dominican cabana, a fusion of simple architecture with high-tech analysis.
Photo: Gregory Marx De Peña

ArchWeek Image

The beautiful, remote beaches of the Dominican Republic are endangered without an ecologically sensitive response to the push for tourism.
Photo: Gregory Marx De Peña


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