A HILLTOP HAVEN: AN INTERVIEW WITH THE ARCHITECT

As the newest addition to the Geejam Private Collection, Cocosan is where bespoke living and cool culture go hand in hand.  Cloistered between the lush surrounds of San San Estates and the Caribbean Sea, the private hilltop oasis achieves the perfect balance of upscale contemporary design housed within nature’s sanctuary. Led by Kingston-based architecture firm Atelier Vidal, this newly built three-level home is a must-visit property not only in Port Antonio but throughout the entire Caribbean.

We spoke with Vidal Dowding, the architectural mind behind Cocosan, about his design process and creative vision.

When was Atelier Vidal formed and what is the vision behind the company?

Atelier-Vidal Ltd. is a young design oriented firm founded by myself in early 2012. We are focused on openness of thought and collaborative design that lead to the generation of new creative ideas that are the result of critical, responsive thinking.

What was the original inspiration for the construction of Cocosan?

The Cocosan property had an existing house in an unfinished L-shape around a large outdoor deck. We saw an opportunity to reassign the zoning of the house, so that all public spaces would be on the ground floor, oriented towards an enlarged pool deck. The upper floor was zoned as all bedrooms oriented towards the incredible view, with the two master bedrooms at the end of the completed L, and a double height atrium at the corner, visually connecting the ground floor.

What state was it in when you first began working on it?

The house was in a fairly unfinished state, with a lot of concrete walls blocking views and creating small spaces, small window openings and poor circulation throughout.

What were some of the architectural references that informed the design?

The best tropical architecture has always had a strong focus on our climate – to create a connection between the indoor and outdoor spaces, and utilizing that interstitial space, the veranda, as a place for social gatherings. We try to use these traditional ideas in new ways to create tropical contemporary architecture.

Can you talk about the importance of interior to exterior connectivity in terms of island lifestyle?

Island life is about outdoor living. While it is great to be in the sun if you’re at the beach or pool, it can become unbearably hot and humid, making the outdoors less pleasant. The consistent sunshine, and relatively constant breeze is one of the great things about living in the tropics, so we try to create spaces that bridge the outdoors with an indoor lifestyle. Enlarged covered patios that flow to internal spaces, like the dining terrace, balconies and pool deck stairs at Cocosan, are used quite often in our designs.

Your design approach blends functionality with personally and an emotional resonance. How do you achieve that balance?

Our goal is always to give a sense of enjoyment within the spaces we create. Good design is emotionally uplifting as well as functional, so we hope the people using the space feel that way.

Can you talk about some of the interior details and motifs, for example the specially sourced woods and the signature circular windows?

The materials chosen were contextually specific. The Jatoba hardwood used throughout the property was sourced for its beauty as well as its hardiness, to withstand the salt spray from the Caribbean Sea. Our client for Cocosan had nautical influences in his life, and we tried to use the circular windows to frame unique views of the coconut trees on the property, similar to being on a yacht.

How important is location and setting for your design?

Each site offers its own challenges, but we really enjoy sites that give us an opportunity to connect with the external spaces. Whether it’s a space that looks out to an incredible view, or a space that looks into a private courtyard.