12 . 01 . 2021

Living within Nature through the Senses

We talked to Nathan Browning, founder of Santa Familia’s landscape design firm, Island Planning Corporation (IPC), about his vision for bringing residents closer to nature through the senses.

Nathan founded the design firm Island Planning Corporation under the principle that bringing native horticulture into projects is inherently valuable for both the planet and residents. “In tropical places, we spend most of our time outside” he points out. “We needed to bring the lushness and colors of the tropics inside” to create not only a sense of local identity, but also the feeling of being in an urban oasis that restores the sense of calm one feels in nature. 

That aesthetic appeal is an important part of the sensory experience is not surprising coming from a firm that works around the world with such elevated brands as Aman Resorts, LVMH and Apple. In their creative process for Santa Familia, IPC prioritized making the ocean views from the building dynamic rather than static and predictable. One of the tactics was to bring varying sizes of palms trees from the foreground to create interesting aspects to the view, entitling each neighbor to have its own unique perspective.

Execution will require selecting mature palms based on having exactly the right trunk structure, then transporting them by truck into Casco Viejo and installing them by crane. “These are not your typical Home Depot palms”, says Browning.  “I’ll find the ones that have a unique curve, not the perfect ones you see along the highway.”

In the quest to bring the residents closer to their gardens and to nature, the selection of species also put forth the element of scent, with specimens flowering during the day and others at night. “It’s a beautiful thing to have a private garden that provoke with both a visual and aromatic experience”, Nathan explains.  The result is an interesting and sophisticated composition that turns on the senses and has a versatility that will evolve through time.

Inspired by how greenery grows naturally in Casco´s old historic walls, he is creating a whole green wall for Santa Familia that mimics the ingenious system nature has devised to allow epiphyts and philodendrons to take root in abandoned buildings. Using natural stone, the wall will hold orchids, flowers, epiphytes, ferns, philodendrons and monsteras. It will be watered from the top, just like in nature. At some point, the goal is that watering won´t be necessary. Taking into account our Panamanian tropical weather, the system will likely grow into being self-sufficient.

The common areas were cared with special attention. While the building has a great deal of common area, it was still critical to find the balance between sight lines to the ocean and pockets of privacy for more intimacy with nature. 

Even different times of day were considered. The pool area is surrounded by a palm garden that reflect onto the water during the day and mirror the lights through the night transforming the pool into a sort of water feature. The shade of the palms brings a cooler ambience that invites lingering and conversations. “I want residents to feel like they are in a botanical park, a place where biodiversity thrives, with smells, textures and tastes; a place that is beneficial for itself, that helps the soil and helps the environment.”

IPC provides master-planning, landscape design, and installation for urban projects, hotels, resorts, and private residences IPC shares ongoing collaborations with resort groups including Aman Resorts, Apple, Cheval Blanc (LVMH), GHM, Maha, Six Senses, and numerous private clients throughout the world. 

Discover Santa Familia