After more than 20 years of business, Jason Watson Todd of multi-disciplinary architecture, landscape, maintenance and construction firm Terravita is getting back to his roots. A major operational restructuring is refocusing his passion for the environment and cutting edge design. “I came up with the name Terravita in 1996,” says Watson Todd. “It’s Latin, meaning Earth and Life. The company has grown a lot over the years but now it’s time to get back to the original meaning behind the name. We’re metamorphosing.”
The architectural and design studio delivers beautiful, liveable homes and the team see themselves as a gateway for clients to achieve their dreams through the lens of environmental protection, without forgoing style and beauty. A Terravita home is contemporary and chic; its environmental aspects are basically invisible whether it’s a refurbishment or new build. Terravita’s five sectors – renewables, gardens, construction, design and maintenance – are being brought back under the umbrella of the main company, allowing processes to be refined and concentrated. “We want to make sure the client is centred in every aspect of the business,” says Watson Todd. “Bringing everything back under one roof means the flow of information is contained.”
The Terravita team consists of architects, technical architects, landscape designers and biologists, all connected by a passion for environmental design. “We go all the way to the edge on the design side and then pull it back into reality,” explains Watson Todd. “It’s a lot of fun and gives us an opportunity to think outside of the mainstream before reining it back in.” The enthusiasm of his team is one of the things that inspires Watson-Todd to keep pursuing his dreams. “There is so much new information out there every day. I can’t keep up by myself,” he says. “What it boils down to is the team’s passion. Each of us has our own areas of interest. We meet once a week to brainstorm new ideas and find action points. Sometimes it might take six months to develop an idea and sometimes it might be five years.”
Every architectural endeavour requires compromise. When it comes to tallying the needs of the environment with the desires of clients, Watson Todd’s attitude is about mitigating the circumstances. “If a client is really keen on having a lawn we’ll explain the alternatives available and then if that doesn’t fit with their vision we’ll look at it from an environmental perspective,” he says. “We’ll put in a recycled water system that’s irrigated from underground, we’ll choose a water-wise species of grass and put in a reed bed.” Gardens are where Terravita started and landscaping remains a passionate part of the company, with an in-house biologist working to create wildlife-friendly outdoor spaces. Along with bird and hedgehog houses, the company has started to install bat homes as a deterrent to mosquitos. “One native bat eats about 2000 mosquitos a night,” says Watson Todd. “It’s much better than spraying.”
After 20 years at the vanguard of Ibiza’s environmental architecture scene, Watson-Todd is pleased with the way the island has evolved. As technology has improved and awareness of climate change has increased, clients are starting to see green architectural solutions as completely viable. “People are a lot more interested in energy efficiency and water recycling. There’s been a big shift in the last five years.” Watson Todd uses the analogy of buying a new car, citing that the first thing you ask is how much will this car cost to run? “Unfortunately people forget to ask that of their homes. I’ve seen clients who are spending up to 6000€ per month through inefficiency, just from the kind of taps they use, or the cooling and heating they have. It’s unnecessary, and we can reduce that by 80 to 90-percent.” Terravita loves a challenge and doing a refurb can be just as exciting as building from scratch. For the owner, satisfaction comes with a reduction in monthly bills and a sense of pride in helping to protect the environment.
Watson-Todd has cultivated a network of professionals each with their own speciality, preferring to collaborate with people who are dedicated to perfection in their chosen field. “We’ve built a big pool of people to work with,” says Watson Todd. “It all comes back to providing that excellence to the client.” Terravita’s clients are split 50/50 between people who come to them for the environmental aspects and those who love the sleek, modern style the company is known for. Watson Todd approaches each project with the same excitement, whether Terravita goes on to manage the build or just does the design. “Our objective is to deliver an environmentally aware design and to keep getting better and better at it.”
Watson Todd is considered in his approach – there’s no dogma or demands, just a gentle respect for the environment and a desire to push the boundaries of architecture. “I’m not a puritan. I don’t think we should go backwards in terms of lifestyle,” he says. “We try to find the middle ground, to create a lifestyle that is conscious and look at ways to compensate certain choices.” Watson Todd’s own family home is a testament to his dedication and passion. It’s a quintessential Ibiza style villa, with the added Terravita bonus of being energetically self-sufficient and easy to run. The Watson Todds have not had to make any compromises in the way they live while staying true to their principles.
There’s a new urgency to Terravita’s mission. In the last few years’ climate change has become the defining issue of our times. Despite the grim outlook, Watson Todd remains optimistic. “Things are bad but I think we’ll pull through it,” he says. “There’s a shift in consciousness and people are starting to take responsibility and not waiting for governments.” Ibiza is the ideal place for a quiet revolution, especially when it comes to architecture and garden design, and Terravita is leading the way. “Doing my best is what gets me up in the morning,” Watson Todd says. “We keep striving and evolving and always keep the environment in mind. It’s about doing your best within your means.” The restructure lets the team flourish and redefine their purpose while also providing clients with a streamlined service and a way to live their best Ibiza lives in harmony with nature.