Everything in Panama is built out of concrete. I think that they would build boats out of concrete if they could figure out a way (I’m sure someone has tried). I have heard many reasons to justify the proliferation of concrete: a fire destroyed part of the city that was wood years back, wood doesn’t get along with termites or humidity, the concrete companies are run by the mob, etc. The only time you encounter wood construction in Panama is in the rural areas of the country. There the abundance of available materials, tradition, and ease of assembly have all successfully kept modern concrete practices largely at bay.
Unfortunately for us, we’d like to use wood at Isla Palenque. Wood looks and feels better, blending more with the natural environment. It can be treated to repel termites and withstand humidity. It is easier to construct at a smaller scale and doesn’t require extensive digging or batch plants. Central and South American tropical hardwoods are some of the most beautiful and coveted in the world and have been used as a building materials for thousands of years.
Finding this wood and the people who know how to work with it in Panama has been a huge challenge. One fascinating source that we’ve recently explored is “rediscovered” tropical hardwood being extracted from submerged forests that were flooded when the Panama Canal was constructed. In 1914, Lake Gatun was formed when the Chagres River was dammed to create the famous path across the isthmus. A company in Panama has recently begun extracting the massive trees that have been submerged for nearly 100 years. This extensive wood supply will save hundreds acres of forests and give access to extremely rare woods. In addition to being environmentally sensitive, it is also culturally sensitive. The operation has employed many native Kuna people who have been given an opportunity to showcase their physical diving and artistic woodworking talents.
It may very well be that The Residences at Isla Palenque are constructed using this unique source.