Las Catalinas Beach Town, a master-planned resort town on the Guanacaste coast of Costa Rica, has been awarded the 2020 Urban Guild Award for Design Excellence. The award was presented virtually at the 2020 CNU (Congress for the New Urbanism) annual meeting to the town’s in-house design team led by developer Charles Brewer, TSW, and architect Douglas Duany. The Urban Guild praised the town’s design, calling it “exemplary in its architecture as well as its urbanism”.

Las Catalinas was conceived by Atlanta-based Brewer, the founder of MindSpring and developer of the Atlanta’s mixed-use neighborhood, Glenwood Park, also master planned by TSW along with Dover Kohl & Associates. Brewer and his investors purchased 1,200 acres on Costa Rica’s Pacific coast in 2006, and invited Atlanta’s TSW to coordinate the creation of a master plan for a walkable, sustainable resort town focused on the area’s natural beauty. The firm also designed the town’s hardscapes and public spaces, as well as some of the homes. Douglas Duany, professor of architecture at Notre Dame, was also intimately involved in the creation of the master plan.

“Fifteen years ago when we created the concept for Las Catalinas, we were inspired by traditional Mediterranean hill towns which grew organically over the centuries,” said Brewer. “Streets, paths, and alleyways are designed for walking and cycling, and the structures are created in harmony with nature. The decision to eliminate vehicles from most of Las Catalinas has been really critical. Getting people out of their cars creates an incredible natural sociability in town. The thing that slows down trips in Las Catalinas is not traffic. It is stopping to talk to people! One of our primary goals has always been to create a place where kids have freedom, and that has succeeded in a most gratifying way. No cars also means peace and quiet and intimate beauty. I am grateful the design team embraced this vision from the beginning and it is gratifying to see our work recognized by the Urban Guild today.”

The master plan for Las Catalinas calls for a tight-knit, architecturally rich series of beach and hill neighborhoods that hug the contours of the land and preserve the area’s spectacular ocean and mountain views. The town includes both large and small private homes, hiking and bicycle trails, shops, restaurants, beach clubs, small hotels and inns, parks and recreational facilities, all interwoven with nature. There are no high-rise buildings in Las Catalinas, and the entire development is environmentally friendly in terms of energy and resource efficiency, water usage, water treatment, storm water control and enhancement of wildlife habitats. Over 80 percent of the total acreage will remain in a natural state, further strengthening the ecological principles on which Las Catalinas was designed.

For more information on Las Catalinas, check out TSW’s project page and www.lascatalinascr.com

For more information on the Urban Guild and to see the other 2020 award recipients, go to www.urbanguild.org