October 20, 2023

The perfect shape

Alexandra Hagerty ’07(right) and Chief MateEmily Bull wave to the crowd after dockingthe MercyShips vesselin Africa.

Esteban Arguedas ’15 received $100,000 from Airbnb’s OMG! Fund to make his beehive-inspired vacation home design come to life in Costa Rica. He says Earlham and the United World Colleges gave him the skills to help make it happen.

Esteban Arguedas ’15 has never been afraid to dream big. So when his brother forwarded him an email about Airbnb’s OMG! Fund that awards $100,000 for mind-bending vacation rental home designs, he decided to apply. 

Arguedas already had a plot of land in mind: a small parcel his parents owned in the middle of the rainforest, just a few hours from where he grew up in Alajuela, Costa Rica. All he needed was a design. 

When Arguedas stumbled across an article on the strength of hexagonal shapes in beehives, he knew he was on to something. 

“Bees knew way before humans that this shape was perfect, and that because of its geometry and how it fits one on the other, it uses the least amount of material to hold the most weight,” he said.

Arguedas drew up initial plans and submitted the idea. A couple of months later, he was contacted by Airbnb with a note of congratulations for becoming one of 100 recipients of funding from around the world.

“Bees knew way before humans that this shape was perfect, and that because of its geometry and how it fits one on the other, it uses the least amount of material to hold the most weight.”

Esteban Arguedas (pictured right with his wife, Maria Jesus.)

Beeline to the finish

Based on the terms of competition, Arguedas and his wife, Maria Jesus, had just under a year to turn the beehive idea into a reality. “That made this a crazy year for us,” he admits. “When building something so unique, there’s just so many inherent challenges that come with that.”

Despite those challenges, the Rainforest Beehive House opened for business last month, right on schedule. It can host up to 12 people and overlooks a 55,800-acre rainforest preserve near Pocosol, Costa Rica.

True to his inspiration, the house features hexagonal shapes throughout the property, including six large, interconnected hexagonal windows that dominate the exterior of the building. 

Inspiration from Earlham, United World Colleges

Arguedas was a Davis United World College (UWC) Scholar and graduated from Earlham with a degree in global management. Before diving into the world of design, architecture and project management, Arguedas was working as a quality assurance engineer for a software company. To help make the project happen, the couple worked with a local architecture company, Arqui Boutique.

“A question that comes so often is, ‘Are you an architect? Are you a designer?’” Arguedas said. “And when I say no, they’re like, ‘Well, how come you ended up doing this?’”

The answer, Arguedas believes, is, in part, his experiences at Earlham and UWC. Both places, he said, exposed him to diverse perspectives, knowledge, and ways of tackling problems. That made him confident he had the skills to pull off this project — even without any formal training. “I think that confidence comes from my educational background, one hundred percent,” he said.

At 17, Arguedas received a scholarship to attend the UWC-USA campus in New Mexico, part of a network of 18 international baccalaureate-granting high schools around the world. “UWC is just a dream for a teenager. It’s just a dream. You have people from all over the world with so much to offer, these amazing teachers, these amazing faculty, pushing you to be curious, to learn, to ask, to inquire,” he said.

A similar feeling drew him to Earlham, thanks to a phone call with a student. “Just the way he described faculty and the way he described the people surrounding Earlham, that’s what made me want to go there,” Arguedas said.

“It was the people. And that student was right,” he said. “Earlham is just surrounded by beautiful people all around, from beginning to end.”

Arguedas hopes that, in the future, the Rainforest Beehive House becomes a gathering place for some of those people.

“I really hope that the Beehive becomes a hub for people trying to make a change and for people who are trying to do good,” he said. “I mean, for me, this is not a business, this is a dream come true. And I would love to share that dream with as many Earlhamites and UWC graduates and just as many lovely people as possible.” 

Story written by Autumn Young. Photos courtesy of Esteban Arguedas and Arqui Boutique.

For Good.
Spark good—
For Good.