Who We Are & Why We Stayed In Costa Rica

Behind every successful business endeavor, there is an unbreakable team. In the case of Studio Octava, Matt and I joined forces as business partners over ten years ago.

But to understand both the process behind and the success of Studio Octava, you’ll want to get to know us a bit more.

My name is Rhina Portillo and my partner in life, love, and work is Matt Usher. I am from Costa Rica and Matt is from Austria. We met in Vienna, Austria, but we’ll get to that part later. 

Architect by Day, Online Educator by Night

Aside from being trained as a civil engineer and architect, Matt films Youtube videos on productivity, his architectural process, and how to run a business.

He also reaches a community of upwards of 97,000 architects and design aficionados on Instagram from around the globe. 

We’re both passionate about undergoing projects that embrace the idea of regenerative living.

Sustainability is important to us; we maintain a sustainable mindset in everything we do, from the materials used to the repercussions our projects may have on local communities.

Matt Usher Instagram Account with a community of +90k Architects or Architecture Aficionados.

Studied with Zaha Hadid & Kazuyo Sejima

Matt and I met in an entrance exam for a university we both attended in Austria.

Matt had previously studied Civil Engineering at a technical school in a small town of Austria, whereas in the same time I had been studying in London and Costa Rica architecture beforehand.

We both applied and got accepted to study with Zaha Hadid – the famous Iraqi-British architect – at the University of Applied Arts in Vienna.

Thesis Review With Professor Kazujo Sejima from Sanaa (Japan)

When Zaha retired one year before we finished our degree we got the chance to study with Japanese architect Kazuyo Sejima. Both had won the Pritzker Prize, the esteemed architecture award. 

Combining Minimalism, Nature & Space

To this day these inspiring women are the biggest influences on our work. Sejima from Sanaa Architects inspires with Japanese minimalist elements and with the radical simplicity of her work and Zaha with innovation and bringing nature to space

During our studies, we both went on to work at Zaha Hadid Architects in Hadid’s Beijing office. Our work together continued at SYNArchitecture, and also on a previous venture we founded in Austria that focused on the automatization and recommendation of furniture. 

Mid Term Presentation at Zaha Hadid Architects London

Finding our Passion for Hospitality

In 2018 we purchased our first apartment in Vienna. We purchased the apartment with a business plan of renting half of it as a short-term rental and financing it that way.

In order to do that we had to split the apartment and plan, design, and oversee the construction for the first time for our own “investment”.

Afterwards, we managed the rental and every aspect of it. That process sparked the interest to repeat the ones we got the chance to again.

Moss Micro Apartments design by Studio Octava, Vienna, Austria

The Big Move to Costa Rica

In December of 2019, right before the pandemic hit, we came to Costa Rica for a few weeks to visit my family. Or so we thought.

We extended our trip from three weeks to three months to a year. We kept pushing the flight to Vienna back.

During that time we met lots of people who sparked our interest in finding and developing a residential property on our own.

And although we didn’t consider actually moving to Costa Rica, there it was, the next potential project we were looking. The project that would change the course of our live.

Matt Usher Studio Octava Founder Architect in Tamarindo, Costa Rica

Leveraging Our Know-How

We spent some time in Santa Teresa, Mal Pais, where we got married some years before.

One thing that we would see over and over again was that the quality of development are rather low in comparison to European or US standards.

Also, the aspect of sustainability and conscious material choices was not something that we felt was not that broadly discussed. 

Due to the fact that this was Costa Rica we felt we could push some boundaries and explore ways to build unique architecture where nature and design are intertwined. 

We relocated from Vienna, a modern & busy city, to an entirely different environment, one where “Pura Vida” is life’s main motto and organization has a completely different meaning.

Still, at Studio Octava we maintain a balance between Caribbean nonchalance and “German” organization, structure, and training.

Beach Experience Costa Rica

Our Core Belief To Contribute To Something Bigger

We believe in creating spaces, buildings, and cities that we would personally enjoy and benefit from.

We combine the knowledge we’ve gained from our mentors and the challenges our world faces currently when creating our designs.

Every project is a chance to explore creative solutions for everyday spaces.

At Studio Octava our work contributes to something bigger than us, to social and environmental sustainability. 

Our Clients Demand Sustainability

We love embracing our clients’ wants and needs in our projects. Every client comes with a set of goals for their space.

Our clients’ demand for sustainability ranges from the inclusion of permacultures and renewable energy systems to the use of local materials that reduce their carbon footprint in the development process.

Both us and our clients value the existing nature of each property, which is why we often include those natural elements into our design so as not to eliminate them.

At Studio Octava, we want to support the local economy by creating jobs and joining recycling programs. With the help of our inspiring clients, we aim to build a better planet for all. 

Section Model of Beachway Villas in Mal Pais
Beachways Villas design by Studio Octava, Santa Teresa, Costa Rica

We Are Using 3D Process on Every Step

From Inception to execution, we value quality when undergoing new architectural projects.

Our projects are conceptualized in 3D so that each of our clients can follow the design process and visualize their space.

Quality is big for us. We aim to use high-quality, European-inspired building techniques while making responsible choices of what materials to use.

We have a responsibility to find the balance between quality and price. Our designs ensure that the buildings have longer “lifespans” and require less maintenance throughout the years. 

The concept we use varies, depending on the location of the site. We use digital tools to envision how different geometrical shapes will look in a space and to allow clients to follow the design in 3D. 

Organic Forms To Become Part of Nature

We enjoy the idea of incorporating organic forms into our designs, specifically, having our buildings be a part of nature instead of a foreign entity.

We designed a building embedded into the Earth for a client who wanted a 100% off-grid space. Nearly invisible from afar, the walls were made of soil and we used a green roof system to embed the building into the ground and to decrease the heat from the sun.

This allowed the building to maintain a cool temperature. Our next launch into nature is a 4-building project, each equipped with three stories, a roof terrace, and a pool in Malpais.

We hope you’ll stay tuned to see updates on this project and all future projects from Studio Octava!

Residence design by studio Octava in Osa Costa Rica
Sustainable Residence design by Studio Octava, Osa, Costa Rica

Hey There !
To Paradise
& Our Blog

We are Matt & Rhina, the founders of Studio Octava. Studio Octava Is building residential and hospitality projects all over Costa Rica, This blog is about what we’re are working on, what tools we use as well as about our experiences as architects & developers.


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