CasiCielo, Bocas del Toro, Panama
Promoting a sense of belonging through a purposeful communal framework that fosters social engagement and a sustainable lifestyle amidst a mesmerizing natural landscape.
165 hectares (407 acres)
- “CasiCielo” translates to “Almost Heaven” in Spanish.
- The 360,000 sm development includes 700 keys and 700 residential units.
- Viceroy Hotel & Residences will launch in 2021, featuring a 118-key hotel and 77 branded residences.
THE CHALLENGE: Preserving Bocas del Toro and Promoting Community Resilience
Located in one of the world’s most biologically diverse regions of the world, CasiCielo sets out to catalyze global entrepreneurship, creativity and change with a new “conscious community” and authentic sense of place on Panama’s Bocas del Toro peninsula. The developer, Circular Strategy Group, is inspired not only to support Panama’s growing reputation as an ecotourism and adventure destination, but also to strengthen the local culture of Bocas and provide economic, social and environmental benefits that empower the local community to thrive for the long term.
The 165-hectare peninsular site is undeveloped and therefore off the grid, creating an opportunity to develop a self-sustaining community that redefines resilience. Leveraging the latest innovations in sustainable design, CasiCielo aims to bring together professionals in all disciplines from art and culture to technology, philanthropy and entrepreneurship to set new standards for forward thinking eco-communities.
THE DESIGN STRATEGY: Connecting with Nature to Inspire an Enriching Human Experience
WATG’s own multi-disciplinary approach to cultural and environmental based design sets the firm apart from its competitors. From the outset, the team drew on their decades of industry-leading hospitality design to consider the human experience of residents, visitors and workers to CasiCielo – to consider how a community must function from logistical, cultural and emotional perspectives, and how a wide variety of spaces and experiences must be layered into the customer journey. The master plan would become a flexible development framework for a multi-district sustainable community that features a low carbon footprint and site-specific architecture and that promotes the long-term growth and success of the community.
The heart of the community is a marina village with a vibrant mix of locally inspired shops, restaurants, services and entertainment venues, all linked together by parks, plazas and boardwalks. The Village District bays and canals flow into the serene waterway network of the Canal District. This diverse district will offer numerous waterfront lifestyle opportunities with its variety of secluded islands, community gathering areas, and beaches along Almirante Bay. Beyond the tropical islands and waterways of the Canal District lie the more remote ridges and valleys of the Forest District. This one-of-kind forested headland can be home to resort retreats and secluded villa enclaves, all with convenient access to the intimate beaches of the Caribbean Sea.
A connection with nature is emphasized throughout the community, leveraging the region’s pristine beauty not as a backdrop but rather at the forefront of the design strategy. To preserve the natural ecosystem, the perimeter of the peninsula is not modified, and buildings adapt to the natural form. There are hilly, marshy, and forested areas, and each is highlighted and enhanced authentically by the architecture. Building footprints and land disturbances are kept to a minimum, and indoor and outdoor spaces merge seamlessly so that nature is always present.
Given the site’s off-the-grid location, the design team had to create new ways to generate power, distribute waste, and provide clean water. To optimize energy performance in Panama’s tropical climate, designers utilized passive solar strategies when placing and orienting the buildings. Solar thermal, rainwater collection, and natural draining systems are also integrated into the infrastructure. Transit and mobility plans similarly prioritize sustainability, with interconnected paths for pedestrians and bikes, reduced dependence on private vehicles, and improved opportunities for social interaction.
The Viceroy Hotel & Residences launches the community as its first built element, with 118 hotel rooms and 77 branded residences featuring interior design by Wimberly Interiors. Eight on-site restaurants and lounges, numerous pools, a spa, fitness center and meditation rooms reflect the adventurous yet relaxed local culture with provocative design and an authentic luxury experience.
As a whole, CasiCielo provides a space for the community to grow with additional hotels and residences, retail, entertainment, cultural and educational spaces. By integrating a mix of live-work-play venues, a dynamic town center emerges. Local art galleries and live music enrich the space. Sustainable agriculture and production of artisanal goods support shops and restaurants and reduce the community’s reliance on the mainland. And gathering spaces encourage locals and visitors with a shared passion for learning, growing and evolving to come together and shape their community’s future.
THE RESULT: Building Long-Term Resilience with a Sense of Ownership and Pride
By nurturing a culture of makers and doers that have a responsibility for each other and for the natural environment, the community itself is both the driving force of the destination and the key measure of its success. CasiCielo showcases Bocas del Toro’s unique environment, diverse people and culture to create a strong sense of place, and sense of ownership and pride. The emphasis on natural open space contributes to those senses and distinguishes the development from other destinations.
CasiCielo is designed to become a self-reliant community where every stakeholder has an opportunity to contribute. With built-in strategies for job creation and ongoing revenue generation, the development serves as a regional economic catalyst that promotes health, happiness and well-being for generations. It also becomes an inspiration for future developments in other parts of the world. Circular Strategy Group is already exploring long-term institutional relationships with think tanks and incubators in such relevant fields as sustainability, environmentalism, oceanic studies and longevity. These partnerships not only have the potential to shape Panama’s future, but also to show others a sustainable and resilient way forward.
“Being from Panama, I felt this was a golden opportunity, not only to preserve Bocas and make a positive impact in the region, but also introduce a new way for conscious communities to be built. With the infrastructure already in place, CasiCielo essentially serves as a blank canvas that will continue to evolve, while remaining a true haven for those seeking a different way of life.”
– Moshe Levi, Circular Strategy Group