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Designing the future

Ibiza design firm Terravita take architecture, landscaping and green technologies beyond the ordinary.

Designing the future

Ibiza design firm Terravita take architecture, landscaping and green technologies beyond the ordinary.

Innovation and creativity are the driving forces behind the architectural and landscape design studio at Terravita. The team at this venerated and forward-thinking firm have a collective experience of over 20 years and an unrivalled passion for their calling. Form and function are always the foundations of any successful design, and Terravita take these concepts to their limits, adding technological and environmental advancement as complementary principles. Each project, whether a new build, an apartment, a freestanding renovation or a landscape design, starts with a group session of intensive creative brainstorming in the studio.

Depending on the type of project, one member of the team is given the reins to manage it from start to finish, matching the best person for the job to the needs of the client. This creativity and brainstorming is definitely a family affair, with every person on the team involved in throwing ideas into the mix. “We are wildly creative,” says Terravita founder Jason Watson Todd. “In those first stages when we design, we don’t limit ourselves. Later we bring it back to reality.” The depth of the creative freedom afforded to the team in the early stages of a project is evidenced in the finished homes and gardens on the Terravita books. “We don’t have a signature style,” explains Watson Todd. “I find sticking to one particular aesthetic very limiting. Our approach is quite different. We let the landscape, the clients’ needs and our imaginations dictate style. In the end, you can always tell a Terravita project but we don’t have a formula.”

The Terravita ethos crosses disciplines beyond the remit of most architectural firms. Design is at the forefront, of course, but concepts are viewed through the lens of innovation, technology and the environment. At the outset of a new project, the process is very organic, involving whiteboards, sketches, the throwing out of ideas and the reeling them back in. From the intellectual and creative rush, the bones of the project come to the fore. Throughout the planning stages, the project is refined. Technical architects ensure the soundness of the plans, licenses are processed and the final designs are drawn up.

All projects have two design ideals in common – creating beauty and reducing environmental impact. There are standard elements that most Terravita designs possess, such as solar power, water recycling, energy efficiency, wildlife protection and water-wise landscaping. Each of these elements is designed and implemented around the needs and commitments of the client. While lawns are not overly water-wise, some clients can’t live without them and Terravita find solutions to make it as efficient as possible by choosing the best grass and installing water recycling systems for irrigation. “When used wisely, technology can be a real lifesaver for the modern world,” says Watson Todd. “The revolution of domestic renewables hasn’t even started yet. It’s about to really kick off.” Technology is one of the areas where the Terravita team get very excited. “We are constantly sharing information between us both about design and new technologies,” says art director and contemporary artist Antonio Gázguez. “We are always putting it into the context of the project.”

Terravita’s on-staff biologist adds design elements created to promote the natural landscapes and habitats of Ibiza’s wildlife. “For example, if a particular bird is living in that area, we look at what it needs to thrive and add those elements to the final design,” says Watson Todd. This way of thinking helps safeguard native species of plant and wildlife while also protecting the health of the human inhabitants. Especially in the guise of the native Ibiza bat, which eat up to 2000 mosquitoes each per night – adding bat homes to the quieter spots of your garden should really be a no-brainer. Bioclimatic design uses plants to provide heat and cooling; the best example being a pergola attached to the house which is abundantly green. Its leaves in the summer keep the interior space cool however losing those leaves in the winter means the sunlight is let in exactly when it’s needed the most.

Transparent solar panels can now be used as windows, meaning your beautiful glass sliding doors leading to the poolside patio, or the skylight illuminating your living room, can be generating free electricity. A plethora of consumer technology is employed as second nature in Terravita designs, but few people may be aware of the products invented, designed and developed by the firm. There are a lot of trade secrets within the Terravita intellectual property vault. One of the team’s most recent inventions is circular solar panels that can be seamlessly incorporated into a home or garden design. Gone are the days of those ugly black sheets installed on rooftops or behind the garage. Solar energy has become chic and as the team continue to develop their ideas, these green technologies will emerge beyond the do-gooder ethic into the designer’s hall of fame.

The Terravita team’s passion for new technology extends to the client experience too. Ideas are developed after an in-depth conversation and questionnaire with the client, followed up by a site visit. “Everything we do has to reflect the client,” says Watson Todd. “We might go back to the plot 20 or 30 times before we even put pen to paper.” Every aspect is considered in detail – the style of the home, the lifestyle of the client, the ability of the client to incorporate green technologies, the landscape and much more.

Even at this point, Terravita differentiates itself from other firms by producing a beautiful hard-back book of renders, plus creating a virtual reality tour of the project. Clients don VR goggles and take a walk around their new home before a single brick is laid. Some elements may even be 3D printed to fully grasp their design scope. “We’ve streamlined our processes so that the client is informed and supported throughout the whole project,” says Gázquez. Watson Todd adds: “But we’ve never lost our creativity and that’s what sets us apart – not just as designers but as partners in a project. Actually, we are creative lunatics addicted to innovation!” Lunacy aside, the mix of creative chaos matched with a meticulous approach and technological innovation forms the foundation of an multi-disciplinary design firm at the cutting edge of design. In Ibiza, Terravita’s outlook is unique and it won’t be long before the company’s ideas and ideals go global.