Jason Watson Todd, the founder of eco-conscious Ibizan design studio Terravita, reveals how his state-of-the-art homes push boundaries in every sense.
Since setting up the multidisciplinary design studio Terravita in 1999, Jason Watson Todd and his team pushed the frontiers of sustainable design, using cutting-edge technology and an innovative approach to build homes that are as beautiful as they are efficient. It’s a method they apply not just to architecture but to interiors and landscaping too, always working towards a symbiotic relationship between people and nature. Their most recent home, Can Tanca, is zero-carbon, completely off-grid and is one of the only houses in the world to be both Passivhaus Premium and Exceptional BREEAM certified.
Every project begins with a blank canvas. Terravita’s team of artists, architects, biologists, landscapers and engineers collaborate closely to draw up imaginative, sophisticated plans that are changing conversations about eco-friendly design. “Our projects are always bespoke. If I design a tennis court, it’s not going to be a standard tennis court,” says Jason, “it’s going to be a work of art. People come to us because they know we’ll create something unique for them.”
Jason’s mission to create spaces that enhance our relationship with the environment is central to his forward-thinking designs. For example, Ibiza’s warm climate makes having a pool non-negotiable for some. One of the earliest niches Terravita carved on Ibiza was with natural pools, which replace chlorine with aquatic plants and let birdlife and dragonflies thrive. The water can also be used to irrigate vegetable patches and fruit trees, resulting in a self-cleaning ecosystem that contributes to the local habitat.
That has always been a core philosophy of ours: we want to deliver projects that look and feel great but are eco-friendly too,” Jason points out. “We have the privilege of designing some of Ibiza’s most remarkable projects, including landscapes where we’ve been able to dream on a grand scale. Gardens in Ibiza can reach roughly 10,000 or 20,000 square metres.”
For Terravita, the possibilities are endless – once you work with them, you’ll quickly recognise their penchant for innovative problem-solving. They’ve designed swimming pools with subterranean caves and bars, tennis courts with living fences, outdoor cinemas, yoga decks as well as dance areas. “On Ibiza, people tend to go a bit wild,” he explains. “The island seems to push them to be open-minded and very creative – and I always like surprising people.”
Jason was born and raised in Ibiza. His German mother and British father – a respected art dealer – moved to the island in the 1960s and co-founded the now world-famous Las Dalias hippy market. “We had a very wild childhood; it was very free. My parents were the first generation after the Second World War, and they left everything to move to Ibiza. In those days there wasn’t even a paved road on the island,” Jason recalls. “We had no running water, no electricity, no television. Instead, we grew up with candles: it’s as if we lived in the last throes of the Stone Age.”
At the age of 11, Jason was sent to school in England – an experience he described as a culture shock after growing up in a small, close-knit community. After studying landscape design in the UK, Jason returned to Ibiza and set up Terravita to promote creative, compassionate and humanistic design. His team are driven by a shared passion for carving healthy, sustainable homes – an ethos that has earned them a reputation over their twenty-year presence on the island.
With concern about the climate crisis growing both on the island and among their global clientele, Terravita is often asked for proposals that save and recycle water in the gardens, run on renewable energy or include an organic vegetable patch for self-sufficiency. “Of course, there’s still a lack of awareness and understanding of the need to make substantial changes, but the evolution is incredibly positive and encouraging,” Jason explains. The energy efficiency of a house for example, can be easily overlooked but the Terravita team view difficult questions about building better as their obligation to future generations.
Can Tanca, a villa designed and built by Jason in the heart of the island, is perhaps the best example of what Terravita embodies. “Can Tanca is a dream come true. It brings together the most important building elements: energy efficiency and sustainable materials while combining the beauty of design, comfort and convenience,” Jason elaborates. “Living in such a space is an experience in itself.”
Originally a plot of neglected farmland, he fixed the original stone walls, tilled the soil and spent five years building the house itself. The result? A zero-carbon villa with the highest eco-credentials. Its strikingly clean and modern lines are a common thread in Terravita homes, as is the simplicity of the materials that are a part of Ibicencan vernacular.
In Ibiza, people tend to go a bit wild, the island seems to push them to be open minded and very creative.
- Jason Watson Todd, Founder
Carved from sustainably grown wood, the exterior is coated in lime render and painted white in keeping with the island’s traditional style. A large wraparound timber terrace creates outdoor living space and in the garden is a vegetable patch, fruit orchard, natural swimming pool, children’s playground and yoga deck. “The house is completely off-grid, generating its own electricity from solar panels which is then stored in batteries,” Jason says, “it has its own well and borehole so it’s self-sufficient with water, too, using greywater in the garden and a compost system. The insulation is outstanding, and automatic blinds prevent overheating.”
Flick through Terravita’s portfolio and you’ll soon be impressed by the diversity of their work. As well as transforming fincas, restoring old barns, breathing new life into manor houses, they design some of Ibiza’s most extraordinary gardens. Jason and his team even have an ongoing passion project on mainland Spain: Asturias is a self-initiated and self-funded reinterpretation of a sprawling plot. “My studio has been working on Asturias for seven years,” Jason explains.
“We bought half a village and are creating a retreat and wellness centre with eco-housing by restoring the houses and building. Whenever we have spare money or time we add to it bit by bit.”
For a long time, beauty and eco-friendly design were seen as mutually exclusive. Terravita is challenging negative perceptions of environmentally conscious aesthetics. If anything, their designs are rebranding sustainable design as futuristic. “When you take into consideration the environment and try to work with it, it just makes you more creative and you really can do wonders. It’s not just wrapping a branch around the building,” laughs Jason.
The studio goes from strength to strength. “We keep improving, drawing on those pillars of innovation and creativity,” says Jason. “A lot of companies have a formula and they stick to that. I just love to innovate.”
We have the privilege of designing some of Ibiza’s most remarkable projects, including landscapes where we’ve been able to dream on a grand scale.
- Jason Watson Todd, Founder