Over the break, a small group of Art Center students traveled to Costa Rica to conduct field research for the Designmatters Summer TDS course, Eco Retreat Lab: Costa Rica. The students were accompanied by faculty members James Meraz and Stella Hernandez. Stella was given the task of documenting this 10 day field research trip. The following is a short reflection of the Costa Rica field research trip and a preview of what’s to come from this exciting TDS course.
Stella Hernandez holds a B.S., from Art center college of design and a B.A., from Xavier University Bogota, Colombia. She is an industrial and environmental Designer and the owner of StellaH Design.
Traveling to Costa Rica is to step into a close experience with nature and to get immersed into a beautiful and magical landscape. Costa Rica is set apart not only by its biodiversity but also for the efforts to preserve its wonders.
10 days in this country gave us the opportunity to travel across from its capital city to the more isolated town of Uvita and experience nature at its best. We had the good fortune to appreciate the richness of this area of the country; we hiked through the rainforest, swam in the warm ocean, rode horses to hidden waterfalls in the jungle, kayaked through Mangroves and walked along the beautiful beaches where the rainforest and marine ecosystems collide, creating a magical landscape.
Our educational tours not only included expert guides that help us to spot and learn about all kind of exotic animals and plant life (monkeys, sloths, toucans, walking trees…to name a few) but also local builders and developers that helped us to understand how their sustainable models empower the development of the country (where tourism is the fastest growing sector) without compromising their natural resources.
Not only do they preserve for the future but also they have worked to recover large areas of land. This is the case of Hacienda Baru which has been recovered back from farming activities in the 70‘s to its original rainforest landscape allowing all kind of natural life to return to the region. In this place, we spent one of the most exciting nights of the trip walking at night with our flash lights and observing all kind of nocturnal creatures. We slept there in a rudimentary camp site surrounded by tall trees and woke up next day in the middle of this wonderful setting with blue Morpho butterflies flying around us.
A description of experiencing Costa Rica is not only about its sights and colors but also about its sounds. Water, monkeys, birds, frogs, insects, wind and trees make all together a magical background that invites you to enjoy true nature with all your senses.
Coming back from Costa Rica and seeing the contrast at home makes me realize how hard we try to fight the conditions of the environment and how life could be more gentle when we learn to accept the conditions and work to maintain the balance between social / economic development and natural resources preservation.
This is the kind of harmony that people in Costa Rica live with and for me it is what they mean when they greet you everywhere with a smile and say: “Pura Vida”.