NICARAGUA PART ONE: TEN DAYS IN JINOTEPE

HANG OUT WITH PETS ON THE BED

IN 1999 ROGER LEWITES, A FORMER STUDENT OF MINE AT SCI-ARC CALLS FROM NICARAGUA STATING HE IS INVOLVED WITH A GROUP TO PURCHASE LARGE LAND HOLDINGS ON THE PACIFIC COAST OCEAN FRONT.

ALSO, HERTY LEWITES, HIS UNCLE THE FORMER MINISTER OF TOURISM, HAD LAND ON THE PACIFIC COAST THAT HE WANTED TO DEVELOPMENT, STARTING WITH A HOTEL. I HAD WORKED WITH ROGER’S UNCLE IN 1985-1987 ON A PROJECT TO DO A CONVENTION CENTER, SHOPPING MALL, PLAZA, AND SUITES ADDED TO THE EXISTING INTERCONTINENTAL HOTEL IN DOWNTOWN MANAGUA FOR THE SANDINISTAS, ANOTHER BLOG…

CONSEQUENTLY I KNEW NICARAGUA DURING THE SANDINISTA ERA, BUT THINGS HAD CHANGED SINCE ORTEGA HAD LOST THE ELECTION AND NOW THE US-BACKED CAPITALISTS WERE RUNNING THE SHOW AND EVERYBODY WAS AFTER A BUCK.

ROGER FLYS ME TO NICARAGUA FOR TEN DAYS TO SURVEY THE PROJECTS.

WHEN I LEAVE TEN DAYS LATER I HAVE DESIGNED:

  1. TWO HOTELS
  2. A VILLAGE FOR CASARES
  3. TWO SUBDIVISIONS AND A MODEL HOME
  4. A MONUMENT FOR JIONTEPE
  5. A MONUMENT TO POPE PAUL FOR JINOTEPE
  6. A PRIVATE BEACH RESIDENCE

BED FULL OF PROJECTS

ROGER AND ME

HERTY WAS A MAN WHO WANTED THINGS IMMEDIATELY, AND I COULD DO THAT FOR HIM. BEING IN THE GOVERNMENT AS A SENATOR AND KNOWING EVERYONE ,HERTY HAD TONS OF CONNECTIONS AND POWER. HE WAS CHARISMATIC AND AMBITIOUS AND LIVED IN THE HERE AND NOW AND UNDERSTOOD THE FUTURE.

ROGER WAS AN EXCELLENT HANDLER FOR ME TO GET JOBS AND NURSE THEM FORWARD, HIS UNCLE SQUEEZED US ON ARCHITECTURAL FEES. THE LOCAL ARCHITECTS WITH LIMITED TALENT CHARGED NEXT TO NOTHING FOR THEIR SERVICES. HIS UNCLE WAS A WHEELER DEALER AND CRIED POOR, WHEN HE WAS JUST WORKING A DEAL.

IN JINOTEPE, HERTY’S CHILDHOOD COMMUNITY —  A BUSTLING AGRICULTURAL COFFEE AND AGRICULTURAL TOWN, THE ALTITUDE WAS RIGHT FOR COFFEE WHICH MEANT THE WEATHER WAS COOL AND PLEASANT MOST OF THE TIME. A BIG PLUS IN NICARAGUA COMPARED TO SWELTERING HOT MANAGUA, THE CAPITAL AND ONLY HAPPENING CITY IN THE COUNTRY.

HERE IN JINOTEPE HERTY AND ROGER BUILT A MINI DISNEY LAND, THAT WAS INNOCENT AND NAÏVE IN COMPARISON TO DISNEYLAND IN THE STATES, CALLED HERTY LAND.
HERTY WANTED A SUB DIVISION ON SOME ADJACENT LAND. THE BULLDOZERS HAD ALREADY STARTED LAYING OUT SOME MUNDANE GRIDDED STREET PATTERN WHEN I ARRIVED. I TOLD THEM TO STOP. I DID A WATERMELON-SHAPED SITE PLAN THAT HAD REAR LOT OPEN SPACES THAT BACKED UP TO PUBLIC SPACE IN THE MIDDLE THAT LED AND DRAINED TO A CLUMP OF LARGE TREES. THE BULLDOZERS STOPPED, BUT WERE BACK LAYING OUT MY NEW PLAN BEFORE I LEFT FOR THE UNITED STATES. THE BEAUTY OF POWER AND MINIMUM GOVERNMENT CONTROL. IN THE STATES IT WOULD HAVE TAKEN YEARS TO GET THE PROJECT APPROVED.

A HOTEL WAS THE ANCHOR FOR A SUBDIVISION IN MASAPA ON THE PACIFIC OCEAN. AN HOUR AWAY FROM THE CAPITAL MANAGUA. HERTY OWNED A LARGE PARCEL OF LAND FROM THE COAST HILLS TO THE OCEAN THAT WAS AN AGRICULTURAL AREA. I STARTED OFF DEVELOPING FROM THE FOOTHILLS A MILE AWAY FROM THE OCEAN AND ON DOWN TO THE BEACH. A RESORT DEVELOPMENT THAT WOULD BE A WORKING RANCH THAT THE GUESTS AND OWNERS COULD INTERACT WITH. HERTY HAD AN ITALIAN PARTNER THAT HAD STRIP CLUBS IN MIAMI AND MANAGUA, A FORMER MINISTER IN THE ITALIAN GOVERNMENT. HE INSTANTLY LABELED ME A PRACTICAL ROMANTIC. AND BONGED THE IDEA OF A HOLISTIC RESORT. BUT HE DID PUT UP SOME EARNEST MONEY FOR DESIGN DEVELOPMENT ON THE HOTEL. THE HOTEL WAS LIKE A BULLS HEAD WITH HORNS SPIRALING OUT WITH LIVING SUITES. THE PUBLIC SPACES WERE IN THE HEAD AND SERVICES BELOW.

HERTY HOTEL ENTRY SIDE

HERTY HOTEL OCEAN SIDE

BETWEEN 1999 AND 2001 I WAS IN THE STOCK MARKET WITH THE HIGH TECH RALLY. SOMEDAYS I WOULD BE UP AS MUCH AS $10,000 FOR THE DAY AND FELT I DID NOT HAVE TO GET OUT OF BED. MONEY IS A STRANGE THING. WHEN YOU DO NOT HAVE IT, YOU ARE LIMITED TO WHAT YOU CAN DO. WHEN I HAD MONEY IT TWISTED MY MIND, I THOUGH IT WOULD LAST FOREVER. WELL, 2001 CAUGHT UP WITH ME AND I LOST ALL MY GAINS AND MORE. I WAS POOR AGAIN. THERE IS A SAYING IN THE STOCK MARKET THAT PIGS GET SLAUGHTERED. BEING A GAMBLER I SAW GAINS OF DOUBLE TO TEN TIMES MY INVESTMENT, AND YET I WANTED MORE, AND HAD NO PLAN TO PROTECT MYSELF. I GOT SLAUGHTERED.

IN 1998 MY 93 YEAR OLD MOTHER FELL AND TWISTED HER ANKLE, IN A RETIREMENT FACILITY IN HER SMALL COTTAGE IN LA JOLLA CALIFORNIA. I MOVED HER TO A CONVALESCENT HOME TO RECOVER. HER DOCTOR HAD DIAGNOSED HER PROBLEM AS MENTAL. I WAS CLOSE TO THE WHOLE SCENE AND GOT HER ON HER FEET TO EXERCISE, BUT SHE JUST GOT WORSE. AFTER A MONTH, IN DESPERATION I DEMANDED SHE GO TO THE HOSPITAL. THE DIAGNOSIS WHEN SHE GOT IN THE HOSPITAL WAS SHE HAD A CANCER LUMP ON HER BREAST THE SIZE OF A GRAPEFRUIT, AND EXTREME BOWEL PROBLEMS. SHE DIED A PAINFUL DEATH A COUPLE DAYS LATER. IT WAS A BLATANT CASE OF NOT GIVING HER AN ADEQUATE PHYSICAL. I SUED AND RECOVERED SOME MONEY WHICH I SHARED WITH MY KIDS, INVESTED IN MY HOUSE AND BLEW ON THE STOCK MARKET. THE DOCTOR LOST HIS LICENSE TO PRACTICE MEDICINE. BUT IN NO WAY DID THIS MAKE UP FOR THE UNCONDITIONAL LOVE SHE HAD GIVEN ME THROUGHOUT HER LIFE. SHE WAS MY FAN CLUB, I COULD DO NO WRONG, OTHER THAN NOT STANDING UP STRAIGHT OR LETTING MY HAIR GROW TOO LONG. SHE ALWAYS LOVED TO SEE ME AND BACKED ME IN ALL MY DECISIONS. HERE IS TO MY MOM! ANOTHER BLOG.

INITIALLY IN NICARAGUA I FELT SECURE THAT I DID NOT HAVE TO RELY ON THE FEES THEY WERE PAYING ME. BUT THAT CHANGED WHEN THE STOCK MARKET CRASHED.

ON THE SAME INTIAL TRIP ROGER CONNECTED ME UP WITH PETER HOLSTEAD THAT LIVED IN JINOTEPE. PETER HAD EARNED HIS MONEY BY REPAIRING IRAN OIL TANKERS IN SINGAPORE AFTER IRAQ DAMAGED THEM. HE WAS FILLED WITH STORIES OF INTRIGUE ON THE HIGH SEAS. PETER LOOKED LIKE SANTA CLAUS AND HAD A BEAUTIFUL PIECE OF LAND ON THE PACIFIC OCEAN AND RIVER INLET HE WANTED TO DEVELOP WITH A HOTEL AND SMALL VILLAGE. PETER PUT UP A PIECE OF HIS LAND HE OWNED ON AN OCEAN CLIFF AS PAYMENT TO DO THE PRELIMINARIES. THIS ALL WAS A WINDFALL, BECAUSE PETER HAD A DUMPY OFFICE, DRESSED LIKE A BEACH BUM AND GAVE NO HINT OF HAVING THE SENSITIVITY TO RELATE TO MY DESIGNS. TO THIS DAY IT IS A MYSTERY HOW WE GOT AS FAR WITH HIM AS WE DID.

VIEW FROM OUR PRELIMINARY COMPENSATION LOT

PETER AND ROGER

MY OFFICE WAS A SMALL TABLE IN THE ROGERS’  BEDROOM. I HAD ARCHITECTURAL PENCILS, MAGIC MARKERS , FLIMSY DRAFTING PAPER, GLUE GUN, , SCISSORS, ERASER, FRENCH CURVE, AND A SMALL PORTABLE DRAFTING BOARD WITH PARALLEL BAR THAT I CARRIED IN MY SUITCASE. FOR MODEL BUILDING, I FOUND DEAD STEMS FROM FERNS FOR FINE STICKS AND COCONUT PALM TREES WEB BARK MADE TROPICAL FLEXIBLE ROOF MATERIAL. MY TECHNIQUE FOR COLLECTING MODEL MATERIALS IS TO TAKE A WALK AROUND WHERE I AM STAYING AND LOOK AT THE ROCKS, GRASSES, BUSHES AND TREES. ROGER WAS UPSET WHEN I DISCOVERED HOW TO USE THESE ABUNDANT NATURAL MATERIALS TO BUILD MODELS. CLAIMING IT TOOK A DAMN GRINGO TO POINT OUT THE OBVIOUS.

THE DESIGN APPROACH OF BOTH PETER’S AND HERTY’S HOTELS WAS TO USE LOCAL MATERIALS OF THATCH OR SPANISH TILE ROOFS, TREE POLES FOR COLUMNS AND TRUSSES AND NATIVE CERAMIC TILE FLOORS WITH INTERIOR STUCCO WALLS.

THATCH CONSTRUCTION

TILE FACTORY

THE UNDULATING SINGLE LOADED CORRIDOR GUEST ROOM WINGS WERE CREATED WITH A SLIGHT VARIATION OF WIDENING OR NARROWING THE OCEAN VIEW OPENING. PETER’S HOTEL USED A SIMPLE CURVED  PARTY WALL WITH THE SAME RADIUS AND IN HERTY’S HOTEL AN “S” CURVE. IN MY PERSONAL RESIDENCE IN OREGON I USED A SIMILAR SYSTEM, THE ROOMS WERE TALL WITH CROSS VENTILATION AND TROPICAL CIRCULATING FANS IN THE CEILINGS. THE 80 ROOM PETER HOTEL CULMINATED WITH A SPIRAL THAT CONTAINED ALL THE PUBLIC FUNCTIONS OF LOBBY , DINNING, CONFERENCE , BANQUET ROOMS ETC. THE DECKS CASCADED DOWN TO THE SWIMMING POOLS, BEACH SAND AND OCEAN CULMINATING WITH HORIZON SUNSET VISTAS. THE VEHICLE DROP OFF, KITCHEN AND BACK ROOM STUFF INTERLOCKED FROM THE BACK SIDE.

THE SWIMMING POOLS WERE ON THE OCEAN SIDE WITH UNDULATING SHAPES ECHOING SAND PATTERNS AND THE BREAKING SURF. OCEAN BREEZES SWEPT ACROSS THE POOLS TO COOL THE ROOMS.

PETER'S HOTEL ENTRY SIDE

PETER'S HOTEL OCEAN SIDE WITH RIVER ON LEFT

WE PROPOSED LOCAL LABOR FOR CONSTRUCTION AND OPERATING THE HOTELS. THE COUNTRY IS EXTREMELY POOR BUT CAN BUILD IN A NATIVE MANNER EASILY ADAPTING TO RADICAL SHAPES WITH THE NATIVE MATERIALS. THE ARCHITECT JUST HAS TO STUDY THE METHODS THE LOCALS USE AND APPLY THEM TO THE DESIGN DIRECTIONS HE DESIRES. .

THAT WAS MY PITCH, AND BOTH PETER AND HERTY FELT THIS WAS THE RIGHT WAY TO GO.

EVERYTHING ALREADY EXISTS TO BUILD THIS WAY, BUT DEVELOPERS DO NOT RECOGNIZE THAT MANY TOURIST WANT A ROMANTIC SENSUOUS DESIGN BUILT CRUDELY IN A TROPICAL MANNER WITH THE LOCAL MATERIALS AND CRAFTSMANSHIP. NICARAGUA FOR SOME REASON CAN NOT SEE THIS AS A DIRECTION TO DEVELOP. THEY PUSH THE GRAND WESTERN HOTELS TO GET THE EXTRAVAGANT ROOM RATES. TO ME TOTALLY OUT OF PLACE AND UGLY. THERE ARE PLENTY OF THOSE BIG EXTRAVAGANZA PLACES IN THE WORLD.

THE INTERNATIONAL STYLE SEEMS TO BE THE STYLE OF CHOICE OF THE LOCAL ARCHITECTS. AND THAT WAS DONE MUCH BETTER 50 YEARS AGO THAN WHAT IS BEING BUILT NOW. I CANNOT UNDERSTAND THE RELUCTANCE TO BUILD WITH THE NATIVE LABOR METHODS AND MATERIALS. THERE IS A DESPERATION TO EMULATE THE SLICK AMERICAN LIFE STYLE.

PETER’S VILLAGE

PETER'S NEW TOWN

THE VILLAGE FOR PETER WAS A GRID STREET PLAN TWISTED TO CREATE A DIAMOND PATTERN THAT LOOKED LIKE A PINE CONE . THE ORTHOGONAL GRID IS RETAINED FOR ORIENTATION, BUT THE STREETS ARE CONSTANTLY TWISTING IN THE SAME DIRECTION TO DRAW ONE FORWARD TO EXPLORE. IT WAS ALL SO SIMPLE AND YET EXCITING. THE VILLAGE WAS TO HAVE LOCAL ARTISTS AND CRAFTSMEN DOING THEIR THING AS A TOURIST DRAW AND WAY OF LIFE. OFFERING FREE HOUSING TO ATTRACT ARTIST TO WORK IN THE VILLAGE. A SMALL DIVERTED CREEK FROM THE ADJOINING RIVER WOULD RUN THROUGH THE TOWN AND USED FOR VARIOUS NATURAL COOLING SYSTEMS. A PLAZA IN THE MIDDLE OF VILLAGE WAS SURROUNDED BY A CHURCH, YOUTH HOSTEL HOTEL, SHOPS, AND OPEN AIR MARKETS. THE MATERIALS, LOCAL THATCH, STONES AND TREES.

PETER'S VILLAGE: TYPICAL CONSTRUCTION

BETWEEN THE TOWN AND BEACH HOTEL I DESIGNED A LARGE TENSILE NETTING FOR AN AVIARY, BUTTERFLY SANCTUARY AND FISH HATCHERY. THE CONCEPT WAS TO BE A TOURIST DESTINATION POINT FROM MANAGUA AN HOUR AWAY.

AVIARY, BUTTERFLY SANCTUARY AND FISH HATCHERY

MONUMENT

AS A MONUMENT TO JINOTEPE I DESIGNED A GIGANTIC THRUST OF TWISTED TUBULAR STEEL REACHING SKYWARD THE BASE RISING OUT OF LOCAL MINED STONE BLOCKS AND CLUMPS OF COFFEE PLANTS. THE MAYOR WAS HESITANT, BUT SHOULD HAVE MOVED FAST, BECAUSE HE WAS VOTED OUT OF OFFICE THE NEXT ELECTION WITH NO MONUMENT BUILT. SEIZE THE MOMENT, BECAUSE ALL SORTS OF THINGS CAN HAPPEN IN THE FUTURE.

I DID A MONUMENT TO THE POPE FOR THE LOCAL CHURCH WITH CROSSES SPIRALING UP. A BIT TOO DIFFERENT FOR THE CLERGY.

ON THE MASAPA SUBDIVISION PROPERTY ROGER AND I RAN INTO A GENTLEMAN WHO WAS GOING TO BUILD ON THE WATER’S EDGE. I DID A DESIGN FOR HIS BEACH HOUSE FOR NOTHING TO ENTRAP HIM. HE ENDED UP BUILDING A PIECE OF JUNK. WILL I EVER LEARN? WHEN SOMEBODY DOES NOT ASK YOU TO DO ANYTHING, BE VERY CAREFUL ABOUT PROJECTING IDEAS. I JUST GET SO EXCITED ABOUT DOING A DESIGN WHEN THERE IS A POSSIBILITY TO BUILT. I CAN NOT HELP MYSELF, IT IS LIKE SEEING A DELICIOUS CHEESECAKE. I HAVE TO HAVE IT.

I REMEMBER ROGER CALLING ME A LIVING DESIGN MACHINE THAT HE COULD MAKE A LOT OF MONEY OFF. THE BEAUTY OF OUR RELATIONSHIP WAS THAT ROGER UNDERSTOOD THE DESIGNS AND URGED ME ON TO DO THE BEST AND OFTEN OFFERED DESIGN SUGGESTIONS. ALL EXTREMELY HELPFUL TO OUR CAUSE. HE HAD THAT STRONG QUIET DELIVERY THAT CENSORED ANYTHING FROM MY LIPS THAT WAS OUTRAGEOUS. CLIENTS WERE REASSURED WITH HIS VERBAL DELIVERY AND CONNECTION TO POWER.

ONE ENCHANTING EVENING , I GASPED AT A MOVIE STAR BEAUTY, MEN WERE TRIPPING OVER EACH OTHER TO BE AROUND HER AT ASCAPA MIRADOR , A RESTAURANT/ BAR/ NIGHT CLUB WITH SALA BAND ON THE EDGE OF A VOLCANIC CRATER.LAKE. THE PERFECT HOLLYWOOD SET. I SENT THE WAITER TO BUY HER DRINKS AND SHE ENDED UP AT OUR TABLE. HER ENGLISH WAS PERFECT. FROM THE BIT OF DIALOGUE WE HAD, IT WAS OBVIOUS SHE WAS EXTREMELY INTELLIGENT. I ASKED HER IF SHE WAS INTERESTED IN THE UNITED STATES? SHE SHRUGGED AND SAID NOT PARTICULARLY, BUT BRITAIN YES. I BACKED OFF, SHE WAS TOO TOO YOUNG . IT DID WONDERS FOR MY EGO. A FLEETING IMAGE LOST, LOCKED IN MY MEMORY.

AFTER TEN DAYS I JETTED BACK TO OREGON ALL EXCITED AND EMPOWERED TO DEVELOP THE PRELIMINARIES FOR THE HOTELS AND TOWN.

NICARAGUA TO BE CONTINUED.

WISHING YOU THE BEST,

GLEN

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8 comments

  1. glen you are a living organic architectuaral machine that runs on a prestigious previliged

    emotional journey life

    keep it rolling your desing footprints are exotic

    they are a sunami to all the traditional corporate architecs in the world

    Glen small is an architectural revolution

    Roger Lewites 19 oct 2010 Nicaragua

    • ROGER,

      THANKS FOR THE KIND WORDS. YOUR ENCOURAGEMENT AND HELP OVER THE YEARS IN NICARAGUA IS A TESTAMENT TO FRIENDSHIP . I HOPE THE FUTURE WILL LET US DO SOME GREAT ARCHITECTURE TOGETHER.

      AS YOU ARE WELL AWARE, THIS BLOG IS JUST THE BEGINNING OF A BUNCH OF PROJECTS IN NICARAGUA. THE CULMINATION BEING THE BUILDING OF THE ACOUSTICAL SHELL.

      WISHING YOU AND YOUR FAMILY THE BEST.

      GLEN

  2. The schemes look very good. The aviary reminded me of Cedric Price’s London Aviary.

    I am working out a thesis about you along the lines of Eros and Civilization,. Marcuse believes that the only revolutionary society is one that is sexually liberated. And that a repressive society represses sex. Your shapes before they get articulated as architecture are like proto-developed organisms, like worms, tadpoles, embryonic shapes. Un-defined lifeforms and full of potential.

    The philosophers like Henri Bergson and psychologists like Wm Reich call these ‘shapes vitalist’ meaning life producing and see these shapes as symbolic precursors towards freedom in all its later forms. Your designs are physically manifesting an organic bridge between body and mind, thought and feeling. That is part of the attraction, part of the power in the work: a sensuous simplicity that borders on nature mimicry. The environmental parameters take this another level; beyond the individual and integrates design and mankind with nature in eco-conscious developed forms. The radicalism is in the design Design that is NOT based on private property, family or the church or state. Nature alone is the design justification.

    eric chavkin

    • ERIC,

      SENSUOUS SHAPES DO MAKE A DIFFERENCE, THAT WE ALL KNOW. PEOPLE ARE NATURALLY ATTRACTED TO THEM AND LOVE BEING IN THESE SPACES. WHEN I AM IN THE REDWOODS I WANT TO PUT A GLASS TOP ON THEM TO LET ME LIVE IN THERE PERMANENTLY. I WAS WATCHING A DOCUMENTARY THE OTHER NIGHT ON GOTHIC ARCHITECTURE. THAT IS THE CLOSES WE HAVE GOTTEN. IT WAS FIGURED OUT HUNDREDS OF YEARS AGO. HERE IS TO THOSE UPLIFTING SPACES.

      THANKS FOR THE INSIGHTFUL COMMENTS ERIK. YOU HAVE GOT THE INSIGHTFUL TOUCH FOR WORDS.

      GLEN

    • HI CHRIS,

      BOTH THOSE GUYS WORK I LOVE, BUT THERE WAS A REALISM ABOUT WHAT THEY DID THAT I DO NOT FOLLOW. I LOOK FOR THE INSPIRATION TO SPRING FROM TO MAKE THE DESIGNS. THE METRO PARIS ENTRANCES WITH THE LIGHT GLASS ROOFS ARE FANTASTIC AND I KNOW THEY HAVE BROUGHT A TON OF JOY THEIR DESIGN.

      THANKS FOR THE COMMENT.

      GLEN

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