Although completed about a year ago, the Fasano Las Piedras complex in Uruguay has been making the blog rounds this week.
Located in a 480 hectares of countryside including two miles of Arroyo Maldonado riverside in Punta del Este, the place has spectacular scenery and the hotel, restaurants and properties have been designed by Isay Weinfeld to make the most use of it. With wood, stone and glass interiors, the place is pure eye candy.
The hotel and restaurants seem like a beautiful holiday destination, and the fact that they were built in the the previous owner’s home and studio adds to its appeal (regarding the fact that the greenest building is the one already standing).
I was also informed after publishing this post that all of the hotel's equipments are energy efficient and that most of the water from the hotel and villas is re-used to irrigate the gardens. Additionally, the landscape designer used native Uruguayan flora and pre-existing plants, and the hotel has a vegetable garden.
What bothers me about the project is the development of homes for sale. It’s basically a really fancy “country,” as called in South America: a private neighborhood in the outskirts of a city, the kind of thing that promotes sprawl and the use of cars.
Sure, it’s not a place one goes to live in to commute an hour to work everyday, but that’s exactly another problem: Punta del Este is a beach resort, and developing such a beautiful place to sell land to people who will make use of it a few months a year every summer doesn’t seem close to the idea of care and connection to nature which the project aims to communicate.
(In the e-mail mentioned before I was also told the project is "committed to developing only 30% of the total property space", which is good to know even if it doesn't change my point about properties used a few months a year).
A larger problem is its very obvious target audience: the growing trend of foreigners purchasing land in Latin America drives prices up for locals and has even driven countries such as Argentina to set up limits for foreign-land-ownership.
Plus: it is one thing to have a beach house a few hours away from home by car/train/boat, but another very different one to take a 10-hour flight to spend a weekend in Uruguay. Romantic? Yes. Green? No.
Don’t get me wrong, I agree: Las Piedras Fasano is gorgeous and inviting. But it would get a lot more love from me if it was just a small eco-lodge with cabins and villas for rent, instead of including a very fancy suburban development.