Las Tortugas Residence

2014 - Present

Status: Construction


Architect: IM/KM
Project Manager:  Mary Elizabeth Burton with Rene Nava Oteo
Engineers: Roberto Cigurrista (EMP), Francisco Cedeno (Structural)
Project Management: IM/KM Inc. 
General Contractor: Construcciones de Bahia de Puerto Escondido, Juan Herrera, Betsy Cerrud de Quintero, and Crew
Site Work + Landscaping + Reforestation: Main International, S.A., Saul Cedeno, Horacio Peralta, and Crew

Las Tortugas residence is a 12,000SF family retreat perched on a forested cliff overlooking Panamaes beach on the Pacific coast of Panama where threatened sea turtle species often come to nest. The vast majority of the 300 acre property is old growth dry tropical forest (an endangered ecosystem), and the family dedicates everything aside from the plot of their house to conservation. With an appreciation for both sustainability and traditional Central American hacienda design, the family wanted a warm inviting beach home that felt fully integrated into the precious coastal ecosystem through functional outdoor living spaces, but they also wanted to be able to close off the space to the bugs and elements while still feeling connected to the surrounding environment.


The old-growth trees of the cliff allow the house to be perched very close to the edge, creating sweeping ocean views from the interior rooms. The house consists of 3 residential structures that are sited around a main building and a pool house. The individual structures are connected by a series of outdoor terraces that serve as adjoining living spaces to their interior compliment. The living spaces are organized around a central courtyard with lofty thresholds that allow air to circulate through the connecting living, dining and social spaces. The tall arches draw from hacienda design, as does the stucco façade and clay tile roof. Banks of floor to ceiling French doors contribute to indoor/outdoor living while nodding to the colonial architecture in old world Panama. Shaded terraces lead to individual bungalows set back slightly from the main house to allow for privacy while still keeping the residence integrated and intimate.

The entire Southern façade includes views of the waves breaking on the beach below, and to take advantage of the view and ocean breeze, the social areas include as much indoor square footage as outdoor. The large patio is located on the prevailing wind direction, and serves not only to connect the common areas but to cross ventilate for passive cooling. The house is built using local materials and traditional means of construction, which adds to the vernacular of hacienda design as well as reducing the carbon footprint of construction.

The project includes fieldworks on the property, including the construction of trails, riverbank restoration and forest conservation. A dammed portion of the river was created to conserve rainwater, as well as control the runoff from tropical storms to both conserve the excess rainwater as well as divert the overflow from running towards the house.  

Construction to begin July 2015