It would certainly be an exaggeration to claim that a wealth of information awaits those planning to purchase, build, renovate or decorate in Costa Rica – but a small selection of books and periodicals offer some valuable advice.
Proving that Costa Rican architecture isn’t limited to the National Theater and Post Office in downtown San José, the bilingual “Nuevas Líneas de la Arquitectura Contemporánea Costarricense” (“New Lines in Costa Rican Contemporary Architecture”) provides inspiration for your future abode.
Architect Luis Diego Barahona, editor of the Costa Rican Architects’ Association magazine Habitar, takes the reader inside 24 buildings created here between 2000 and 2005 by Costa Rican architects. The highlighted buildings, all shown in glossy photographs by Oscar Abarca, run the gamut from commercial structures to glorious beach homes, from the metropolitan area to the northwestern province of Guanacaste.
Selections include Casa Holmes in Playas del Coco, on the northern Pacific coast, designed by Victor Cañas and built in 2004; the home sits on a natural rock formation, with a series of infinity pools stretching toward the Pacific. At the Agencia de Publicidad Jotabequ, in San José’s Barrio La California, Jaime Rouillón creates a mindboggling atmosphere that, one imagines, challenges those within its walls not to be creative.And a look inside the concrete Central American Bank of Economic Integration (CABEI) in the eastern suburb of San Pedro reveals a crowned internal dome full of plants and sculptures, courtesy of architect Fausto Calderón. “New Lines” is available for ¢25,000 (about $48) at Librería Internacional (253-9553, www.libreriainternacional.com), with several locations around San José.
Other publications by architectural firms offer a more in-depth look at their work, such as “Arquitecto Daniel Lacayo y Asociados: Nuestras Obras” (“Architect Daniel Lacayo and Associates: Our Work”). Ideal for those contemplating commercial designs, the book shows off the firm’s work on the McDonald’s design for Central and South America, the central offices of Costa Rican ice-cream powerhouse Pops, and the Forum Office Park in Santa Ana, southwest of the capital, among other projects. It’s also available at Librería Internacional, for ¢28,000 (about $54).
“Bruno Stagno, Arquitectura Para Una Latitud” (“Bruno Stagno, Architecture for a Latitude”) provides a biography of the Chilean-Costa Rican architect and a look at his works, including the Country Day School campus in the western suburb of Escazú. Stagno and his wife, fellow architect Jimena Ugarte, co-authored “Arquitectura Rural en el Tropic” (“Rural Architecture in the Tropics”), a look at the architecture of banana-company buildings. The books sell at Librería Internacional for ¢8,500 ($16.30).
Need more information? Stagno and Ugarte’s Tropical Architecture Institute is another resource; its office, located 75 meters north of Kentucky Fried Chicken on Paseo Colón in San José, contains an extensive multilingual library with resources on architecture and landscaping, open to consultation free of charge to any interested party. To contact the institute, visit www.arquitecturatropical.org or call 256-4749.
If you’re looking for some friendly how-to information rather than in-depth studies befitting a true architecture buff,
Books, an English-language bookstore in downtown San José (256-8251), has some useful selections. “How to Buy Costa Rican Real Estate Without Losing Your Camisa,” by real estate agent Scott Oliver (¢12,800/$24.60), offers information on finding a broker, renting, buying, home insurance, protecting your investment from squatters and other practical tips from the founder of www.welovecostarica.com.
In addition, “The New Golden Door to Retirement and Living in Costa Rica,” by longtime resident and Costa Rican citizen Christopher Howard, and “Living Abroad in Costa Rica,” by another longtime resident, Erin Van Rheenen, contain chapters with information on buying, renting and building. Howard’s guide is available at
for ¢13,750 ($26.40), and Rheenen’s for approximately $19.
Finally, on the periodicals front, “Estilos y Casas Costa Rica,” a publication of Estilos y Casas Latinoamericana, is a glossy tome published every two months and available at supermarkets, magazine stands and by subscription. It includes features on Costa Rican art, architecture, interior design, landscaping, travel and investment locales and hotels.
Filling out the magazine are listings of properties for rent or sale and hundreds of pages of ads highlighting new materials, designers, artists and more. For information about the publication, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 234-3179.