Sandy Bay Eclectic
An eclectic mélange of building styles inspires and amuses tourists and local residents

March 1st, 2008
by

[private] Except for the yellow wall that serves as a seawall, the gateway can hardly be seen from the beach. It disappears behind subsequent layers of green and brown, behind leaves and tree trunks. “Tranquil Seas,” a Sandy Bay retreat resort, abounds with plenty of curious and interesting things to see–a waterfall that drops in on a three-meter step down pool, a dive shop, restaurant, four cabañas all under or surrounded by thatched roof.

Paul Benson, 54, and his son Chris Benson, 25, partnered in 2004 to construct this project–a place where a group of two to eight people could book the entire facility and have the entire resort to themselves. Following in the footsteps of his father, a landscape gardener, Chris studied amenity horticulture at Otley College. Chris has used rescued trees to create a mature, abundant landscape. “[Bringing in of adult trees] brings instant maturity to the landscape,” said Chris.

Some of the inspiration for the building came from a visit to Rio Dulce’s Casa Perico, a small hotel run by a Swiss couple in Guatemala. “Everyone has aspirations to imitate the first-world concrete boxes,” said Chris about trends in Roatan’s development boom.

Chris steered clear of all conventional approaches. Javanese coconut husk canvases depicting marine life decorate the interior space, which is filled with teakwood furniture from Indonesia. Chris was attracted to the herons and iguanas carved in South East Asia and common on the islands. Conch shells placed on top of the yellow seawall serve dually as decoration and as a means of discouraging people from climbing onto the property.

The irregular shaped balustrades, posts and columns of Tranquil Seas create unexpected vistas and hidden corners. The entire place is a mélange of corridors, terraces, spiral stairs and wood trusses. Though the main plan was sketched out on paper, the details are designed on site.

Chris has worked exclusively with construction workers from the mainland: “Many workers here don’t have the patience nor the pride in their work to see the project through.” A dozen unique woods were all brought from the mainland. One of them–Buhuco, a vine whiss–raps round the San Juan wooden handrails of the stairways and porches. The bar is a sliced trunk of a eucalyptus and mango tree, polished and varnished. Orange tree serves for posts, and bamboo found its utilitarian purpose as sconce light fixtures. “All locals said that this is what Roatan needs,” said Chris, who notices that his foreign neighbors are less excited about his project and stress its impracticality and maintenance issues. [/private]

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An eclectic mélange of building styles inspires and amuses tourists and local residents

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