When a local mayor asked Costa Rican architect Álvaro Rojas to build a community center for the small village of El Rodeo, about ten miles west of San Jose, Rojas quickly understood that the commission would be a tall order despite the small size of the proposed project—about 8,000 square feet, in a town of around six hundred. For one thing, community centers in Costa Rica serve a wide variety of functions, as classrooms, recreational spaces, and forums for political and civic gatherings. This facility would also be adjacent to a soccer field and have to provide changing rooms and a kitchen to serve players and spectators. Furthermore, Rojas and his team would have to pull all this off with a budget of just $185,000—“less than a third of the budget typically required,” says the architect. “So the financial reality of the project was a major point of decision in how to approach the design.”
In response, Rojas and his wife and partner, architect Sylvia Fournier, have designed a facility that not only maximizes efficiency and provides a flexible, functional space, but also one that gives the people of El Rodeo a unique and compelling place to gather. The circular form of the main building underscores its role as a unifying, democratic place for meetings and social events, and the layered roof structure yields a soaring interior while making a bold pronouncement in the landscape.