01 June 2010

Ciao Dominicanos!

Earlier today I went to see a huge super luxurious gated community of Casa de Campo near the city of La Romana some 210 kms from Canto Domingo.

The drive there like most others leading out of the city of Santo Domingo is amazing. This one is almost entirely along the magical Caribbean sea.
Casa de campo in a strange way reminded me of Dubai and the recent gated developments there..
With stupidly large designer villas set in the most amazing golf coursed landscape, a place where the super rich can live in hedonistic bliss cut off the worries of a troubled planet.

But this is not what I was really here to see.. I had come for an even more surreal place -
Altos de Chavón
.
This art school (the best in the country I've been told) was designed by Hollywood set designer Roberto Copa, back in 1982 and is modeled on a medieval European village.
The architect in me immediately wanted to dismiss this place as a fake.. another Disneyland.. But once I was able to ignore it's kitschy-ness it's actually a very interesting place which sits on an amazing site on top of the cliff with a spectacular view of the Chavón river.
And when i think of it a bit deeper the architect was given quiet a challenging task of creating a place (in what was then possibly a middle of nowhere) which could inspire the artists of tomorrow. There's actually only two ways to approach this sort of design brief either you built something completely new (which comes at a risk of possibly also making a huge blunder) or you go for a safer bet and bow down to the weight of history and surrender to what has worked in the past. (actually this is not completely true as there is no architecture that doesn't have a past - even the most radical design have there genesis in earlier ideas or existing structures) The only real criticism of Altos de Chavón I have is why does have to mimic the medieval European village here in the beautiful tropics soo faithfully? Could it not have been adapted much more to the cultural and geographic landscape of the Dominican republic?
The only real criticism of Altos de Chavón I have is why does have to mimic the medieval European village here in the beautiful tropics soo faithfully? Could it not have been adapted much more to the cultural and geographic landscape of the Dominican republic?
While we drove back I wondered if it was the architect or the client who lacked the ability or will to think beyond the cliche of an artist settlement as a romantic idea?
We were coming to end of yet another exciting day and even though I had hardly been here a few days it is was easy for me to guess that we were now approaching the city limits of Santo Domingo from the rising frequency of love hotels that lined the highway.
These hotels are actually motels which can be rented out on hourly basis by space crunched young couples from the city or as it seems more often by married people having affairs as alternate spaces for love making. In some cases you can even drive your car into a closed garage which also is the only access to the motel room, further you could also make your room payment thru a small window in the garage door without ever making any eye contact with anyone including the motel staff hence safeguarding your privacy!

Given the space crunch in many major cities around the world like Mumbai were anywhere from 4 to 8 adult family members share a tiny room within which their entire life is played out, I wonder why these sort of hotels haven't caught up? Is it better to coordinate a coding system or timetable of who gets to use the room when and for how long that to face the social stigma of use facilities like a love hotel? Or is it too wasteful an option in terms of both money and effort?

I guess today I've asked too many questions!

Sadly my trip to this amazing little country is coming to an end. All i can do is hope I'll be back here sometime soon to once again enjoy it's amazing natural beauty and the company of some fabulous people!

If you ever thought a place is not worth visiting because it seems small on Google Earth then it quiet obvious you haven't visited this beautiful little country!

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