FOR ARCHITECT FRANCISCO FEAUGAS, DESIGNING THE VILLAS IN THE EL BATEY COMPLEX AT CASA DE CAMPO IN THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC WAS ALL ABOUT HIGHLIGHTING THE NATURAL SURROUNDINGS.
By Virginia Moghani | Photography by Bryan David de la CruzArchitecture often boils down to the exteriors, taking stock of what’s outside and finding ways to create synergy with the elements introduced within. However, in the case of Venezuelan architect Francisco Feaugas, the concept for the luxurious El Batey section of Casa de Campo went one step further. “I make sure nature is part of everything I work on. If I have a beautiful golf course in front of me, why am I not going to use it?” It was this matter-of-fact attitude toward the surroundings that prompted the concept for Tina and Victor Levy’s luxurious villa in El Batey.
With nature as his starting point, Feaugas set off to make the Levy’s six-bedroom home unlike the other villas within the Batey complex, which comprises 30 similar properties designed by Feaugas over the span of two years. To distinguish Levy’s property from the lot, which he collectively describes as extraordinarily simple, he devised a modular system to ensure that no two were the same. “It’s what they call in fashion ‘pret-a-porter’,” he explains. “Just like you’d adjust an article of clothing to suit the person, I adjusted my design to accommodate the needs of every homeowner.”
To customize the fluid concept he calls “design on a hinge,” which moves according to the needs of the land, space and occupants, Feaugas collaborated closely with the Levys. Both husband and wife were integral to the process, with Tina serving as interior designer and Victor collaborating on the environmental aspect of the project. “Victor understood the importance of having nature become part of the design as much as I did,” reveals Feaugas of their fortuitous partnership, which resulted in a practical integration of the exterior and interior. Together they ensured the house lived up to its full potential, which means that every architectural innovation the pair set out to include in the project was present in the final product.
The home is a decidedly tropical concept that’s both free-flowing and focused. The passageway, for instance, forms a natural barrier to the outdoors while the picturesque gardens, which serve dual purposes, prove to be far from innocuous. “They provide a natural method to insulate the home, keeping the harsh breeze out and absorbing loud sounds,” says Feaugas. Greenery was also used to establish a sense of calmness in the home’s most private areas. “The bathrooms I design are always in total contact with nature,” says Feaugas, who built a wall out of indigenous coral to simultaneously introduce and shield from the outdoors. “You open a hole anywhere in the Dominican Republic and you’ll find coral—it’s the land of coral,” he muses. Its abundance allowed for an interplay of source materials, layering and mixing textures reaching the soul of each material. “That’s what gives it [the bathroom] its warmth. It’s cozy and inviting. You’re able to relax the moment you step foot inside.”
Something else Feaugas uses in all of his projects, which he freely employed here, was a moat. “It’s part of the fantasy and illusion we create when we use nature in our design work.” Though there’s nothing fictional about the body of water—entirely self-contained and sustainable with real-life plants and fish. “It takes some convincing,” says Feaugas, discussing most homeowner’s hesitation about eschewing the artificial for the natural. But after years of building moats, Feaugas has become an expert in establishing an ecological balance between plants and wildlife. The plants, such as American lilies, provide a natural filtration system without the need for artificial elements, while the fish form part of the moat’s autonomous ecosystem. At less than 2-feet deep, the pond gives the impression of a small, enclosed river. “Seeing it produces a cooling effect,” says Feaugas.
Though it’s nearly impossible to feel anything but refreshed in the Levy’s home. The moat combined with the expansive pool and oceanfront views continually foster a sense of calmness. El Batey, while thoroughly connected to its surroundings, is closed off from the outside world enough to make the property feel like a veritable sanctuary—the perfect combination for an architect always in tune with nature. “El Batey’s setting gave me the freedom to design. it’s a measured yet fully realized version of paradise.”