A holiday retreat for designers

On creating communality

Imagined by Tom Gottelier and Bobby Petersen - founders of design studio Featuring Featuring - Designers on Holiday (DOH) is a 2-week long summer retreat for designers on the Gotland island (Sweden), in the middle of the Baltic sea. With the aim of “acting as a hub for cross pollination across different fields”, Designers on Holiday proposes to re-learn “how to work together” towards communality. We asked Gottelier to tell us more about what seems to be a perfect example of creative settlement in a rural environment.

How did you come up with Designers on Holiday’s concept?
We had the opportunity to buy some land on an island in Sweden. As we love creating events and bringing people together, designing and building, working fast and thinking with our hands, we put these elements together and invited people to be part of something you don’t get to do everyday. Escape with us for a while.

What were/are your main inspirations?
Inspirations have come more after we started it. We wanted to work on a 1:1 scale in a way that was conscious to the world we live in and with a sensibility that we enjoyed. No hippieness, No trying to survive. Just good design from scratch in an environmentally conscious way.

What’s a typical summer like at DOH? How are days organised?
There is a plan of what needs to be done by the end of the two weeks which we set out on day one. Every 2-3 days there is a trip to somewhere new on the Island. Sometimes we take our boat out. Every morning there is a camp meeting to discuss what everyone is doing for the day.


Back-to-nature life and hands-on works are important aspects of DOH. How do you stand out from the crowd of learning-by-doing & alternative workshops active all over the world? What makes DOH so special?
We try not to take things too seriously or be to pretentious. We get stuff done in a very short space of time. Our debate is through doing, not just talking. The biggest difference perhaps is that we are purely peer to peer. The only hierarchy is that all projects are discussed within the group first and that any permanent structures must be agreed on by Bobby and myself. Other than that it is about a cross pollination of skills between professionals across all fields. Our only requirement is that you must be able to share a skill. It can be carpentry to soap making or welding to yoga. The last strict rule is that we do not allow students.


Could you tell us more about the natural surroundings and how important they are for creativity and teamwork?
Half the site is on exposed limestone bedrock. With Juniper and slough bushes poking out on the cracks. There is then a large field with a small wooded area at the end. Where we eat and watch movies at night. There is one local farm house at the end of the road and up the main road a bit there is a small shop. The only one in about an 8 mile radius around the site. People use it to buy snacks on their way up the island.


How did the local population first react to this initiative?
Very well. The people of Gotland are very supportive and a very creative bunch. The DOH site is actually on and old farm. The wife of the farmer used to run a craft store on the Island. So she is very happy and supportive of creativity on the land. Especially as the land no longer has an active farm.


Many of the projects realised on site over the past three years are in-common facilities such as saunas, a bread oven, a cinema, totemic structures, etc. Why so? How's the in-common life experience helping the works and end results?
As much as anything it is about having fun. When you are enjoying designing and making, often the most interesting things happen. We have all chosen to put ourselves in this situation. We are not Bear Grylls surviving and because of this we have the luxury to approach things differently. We have the internet, we have power tools, we can afford to look at what elements we would most enjoy and create them together. We don't need to create fire. We have really good matches. We can use those matches to light the fire that burns all our off cuts that heats the hot tub. A much more pleasurable use of our time. To an extent the whole event is in-common. We provide the literal platform and the means to create. Hopefully we choose a group of people most likely to get on and the whole thing is created through these ingredients being brought together and we are happy to see where it goes, with a little guidance here and there.


DOH is about creativity, sustainability, rurality and communality. How do you combine and challenge these elements?
It's not really a challenge. We should all be conscious of our environment. As creatives we have a responsibility to lead the way in being sustainably minded. Whenever faced with the choice between something like responsibly sourced timber and non responsibly sourced timber, you choose the responsibly sourced. It's just a decision and it should be very easy to make when you have the choice. We are rural and that is a luxury of sorts. It’s an escape. And the combination of being rural and secluded forces communality. Or it fails. It's a case of extremes. Sink or swim.


Looking for more collective experiments in nature? Check our articles about Domaine de Boisbuchet (France) and Triale (Austria).


All images courtesy Designers on Holiday

Published: 31 May 2017

#Interview #DesignersonHoliday #Design #Lifestyle #Rurality #CommunitySettlement #InCommonFacilities

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