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Centro de Convenciones de Costa Rica: A Beacon for Sustainability

Costa Rica Convention Center. Image © Andrés García Lachner/Gensler.

On the eve of the official inauguration of the Costa Rica Convention Center in Heredia— 10 kilometers northwest of the country's capital, San José—a state-of-the-art, iconic new building ascends as a new landmark for the city, and the entire country. As the country’s first convention center and a vivid example of Costa Rica’s commitment to sustainability, the Centro de Convenciones de Costa Rica will attract thousands of visitors and locals.

A new landmark

The year 1982 was a milestone for architecture and urban design in Costa Rica. It marked the inauguration of the Gold Museum in the heart of San José, a capital city that had only a handful of great architectural landmarks and was craving for revival. The museum became an iconic archetype of design. Set completely underground, below the Culture Plaza, it truly redefined the concept of making space through void and became one of the must-see experiences in the city.

Unfortunately, over the past 25 years, San José has seen little contribution in the contemporary architectural arena, with the exception of a handful of projects. Today, we are most likely feeling the same excitement as the architects who saw the museum come to life back in 1982 as we celebrate the inauguration of the Convention Center this April.

Embedded in nature

Costa Rica prides itself in pioneering eco-tourism. As such, this 15,000-square-meter facility practices and preaches sustainability in every corner. Our team developed a narrative inspired in creating a place that emerges from the forest. Sitting in a former brownfield, endemic tropical planting and extensive bio-swales subtly manage rain water interlace the parking areas—a critical consideration for site design in any tropical environment. Visitors walk into the main rotunda after being greeted by interpretive gardens that surround the main façade.

Costa Rica Convention Center. Image © Andrés García Lachner/Gensler.

An elliptical, vaulted space marks the highlight of the architectural expression. A white aluminum scrim subtly expresses the tropical rain forest through a perforated pattern. A monumental bronze wonder piece by renowned Costarican-Italian artist Jorge Jimenez Deredia greets visitors in the main lobby. The floor pattern, built with local terrazzo in a colorful array, draws inspiration from the craft of tradition oxcart wheels, which are an intrinsic part of the Costarican peasant culture.

Terracotta louvers protect the south facing pre-function space, with views towards the lush gardens. Seven small executive meeting rooms represent each province in the country. Inside the main 5,000-square-meter event hall, daylight harvesting solar tubes illuminate translucent fabric sails, providing a unique aesthetic that further connects visitors to nature.

Game changer

Creating an aspirational place required careful craft that showcased the best of our welcoming, diverse, lush country to the world. It marks a milestone for San José, a new beacon in our urban landscape, a proud addition to our contemporary expression. It will, by itself, open up the country’s tourism industry to new possibilities.

Samuel Bermúdez is co-managing director and principal of Gensler’s San José, Costa Rica office. Leveraging his local market knowledge and his extensive experience in workplace design, master planning, hospitality, education, non-for-profit, and residential, Sam assists our global clients who are new to the Latin America region in making informed decisions. Sam has been instrumental in growing the Costa Rica office into one of the largest and most respected design practices in the region. Contact him at Samuel_Bermudez@gensler.com.