If there's one thing you probably know about Itz'ana – other than our love of food & waterfront views – it's that we are passionate about design. From the wood for our yoga deck to the market-sourced art that will adorn the shelves of our rooms, no detail is too small for us to obsess over.
That's why when it came time to choose a partner to help us design the perfect outdoor atmosphere we were thrilled to find Matthew Lewis. Matt is the founding partner of LAND design and a visionary of holistic natural design.
We sat down to find out what drew him to Itz'ana. "Honestly, it was getting to know the team – Jonathan, Colin and Ronan – from the very start. They are hardworking, talented, creative and driven. Then of course it's the fact that the project is in Belize! I love working on sensitive beach environments in unique, out of the way places."
One of our favorite stories about Matt is the already-legendary (with the staff, anyway) Tale of the Big Oak.
The Big Oak is the oldest living tree on the site – Matt estimates that it is at least 60 years old and "a remnant of the oak palmetto hammock that once permeated the Placencia Peninsula."
"I believe that it is the site that should dictate the architecture and not vice versa. We moved dozens of buildings, pools and roadways to preserve the trees. We allowed the architecture to feel grounded to the site and to the surroundings."
Preserving this heritage tree was absolutely worth moving mountains… or at least the pool! When you see it in person we're sure you'll fall in love with it too.
So what brought Matt – originally an architecture student – to the work of designing the outdoors? "Growing up, my brother Andy and I would always terrorize the local forests and natural areas around our house, building forts, making trails, creating secret hideouts and courses for bikes and motorcycles. Figuring out how a site works, where the water goes, how the trees grow, how to get from one place to another and how to create a space within the vast wilderness – my vision had always gravitated toward landscape and nature."
So how do Matt and his team bring this love of nature to their work? They spent as much time in Placencia as possible! "We photograph, sketch, take notes, talk to locals, understand the spirit of where we are."
"What we found inspiring on the site were the views, the proximity to two major bodies of water and the massive trees growing up from the beach. It's not often you see such large trees as the oaks, cashews and oil palms growing in this sea side condition, and we felt that it was our duty to have them help us create the site."
As for what he hopes guests notice about the landscape of Itz'ana – "I want people to look around and feel that they have arrived to mother nature."
"I think it is important that guests feel they are in Belize. I didn't want to create rows and grids of trees with manicured hedges or feel like a mega resort in Cancun. We want authentic, natural, real."
When you arrive for your first Itz'ana experience, you may question whether the landscape was designed at all. That's exactly how Matt's team – and ours – wants it.
We can't wait for you to see the final work. And our grand opening is getting even closer! Check back later this month for some photos of our recently-completed pool area and see which of Matt's trees you can spot!
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