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Fogo Island Artist Studios in Canada by Saunders Architecture
March 2nd, 2011 by Sanjay Gangal
Fogo Island lies on the edge of Newfoundland, Canada and is home to a gentle, independent people who have lived for centuries between wind and waves in pursuit of fish. Fogo Islanders live in the untamed landscape of the North Atlantic. The people are subtle and unpretentious yet have seen their traditional way of life by threatened by forces largely beyond their control.
Fogo Island is an elemental place of subtle and abiding beauty – a place where time is not obliterated by the circulation of everything. Its people are inextricably bound to this place where they belong. They are a culturally rich and resourceful people who live in close connection with each other and with their people who have come before.
The Shorefast Foundation works with the people of Fogo Island to find ways to preserve this special place and this special culture. We have chosen to find new paths by leading with the arts. We want to create structures that respect where we’ve come from and dignify this landscape that is so fragile yet so fearsome. We want structures that touch our imaginations and help maintain a connection between our past and our future.
The following 3 buildings are a selection of six artist studios we have designed for the Shorefast Foundation on Fogo Island, Newfoundland, Canada. The project is the basis for an Arts Residency Program starting in 2010. Studios will be built in remote settings on Fogo Island and traditional Newfoundland homes in various communities will be restored to become artists’ residences. Artists will come from around the world to live and work in the area for months at a time.
The idea behind the forms of the various studios was to create a bold geometric structure to starkly contrast, yet lay silently in the striking natural environment. The main concept behind the layout of the artist studios was to observe the surrounding environment during its transition through the various seasons in which the studios will be in use: spring, summer and fall.
The studios are all oriented towards the sea and elevated above the ground to provide the resident artist with a feeling of being unobstructed and unbound. The materials and construction methods chosen reflect that of the local architecture of Fogo Island. The environment will leave its marks on the studios by weathering the structures over time. All studio are 100% off-the-grid and produce their own power and recycle of of their own waste.
The following presentation includes the 3 studios: 1) The Long Studio, 2) The Tower Studio, and 3) The Bridge Studio all to be located on various dramatic sites.
The Long Studio – 120m2
The concept of the long studio responds to the transition of the seasons. The studio is organized in a linear from that consists of three different spaces. An open but covered area representing the spring marks the entrance to the studio and the beginning of the seasonal activity. The central portion is left open and mostly exposed to be fully immersed in all that is offered by the long summer days on Fogo Island. The end and main body of the studio is fully enclosed to provide an area of protection and solitude from the outside environment while still providing a connection to the landscape through a strategically framed view of the dramatic surrounding.
The long linear structure of this artist studio maximizes the amount of open wall and floor space. Large windows at either end and a skylight on the roof of the studio allows the maximum amount of natural light to flood the space. We have made one of the walls 1m deep to house storage, toilets and washbasins, with doors that are flush to the wall, thus avoiding any visual distraction inside the space.
The studios are placed on pillars at the end towards the sea, while the entrance area has a small concrete foundation for anchoring the construction to the landscape. With this type of construction, the studios can be placed in almost any place on the island. In addition, this allows for the studios to be pre-fabricated in a local workshop during the winter months, and then placed in the landscape in the spring.
The Tower Studio – 80m2
The general impression of the building is an object standing tall and proud in this often-harsh landscape. The form is composed of twisting planes reminiscent of brain-teasing origami. All four facades are different. The tower will always appear tall; yet will look different from all directions.
The lower floor is a simple storage area or extra studio space. One climbs a stair to enter a double height room that goes over two floors. A large window is on the north and wraps around the western façade. The view is to the north and towards the sea, thus providing the diffused daylight preferred by most artists.
There is a sculptural-looking stair that goes up 6 metres and opens onto the roof terrace. The roof terrace is an excellent place for an artist to work when there are warm days in the later spring until the early Fall. This vantage point allows for spectacular 360-degree views of the dramatic surrounding landscapes.
The Bridge Studio – 20m2
The small one room studio is a place for contemplation. The studio is a small enclosure with little disturbance that allows one to concentrate on the art of writing. We have decided to disconnect the studio with the land and place it on pilings in the water thus creating its own “island”. A long plank walkway leaves the land to continue over a stretch of water to the actual studio. The exterior form is a simple box tilted upwards toward the view of the ocean. The interior is divided into two areas. The upper level is a wide and deep desk and is situated towards the view of the sea. To the right of the desk are small shelves where a writer can have their immediate material close at hand.
On the lower level we have made a small intimate library. A place where one can retreat from the “working space” and relax in a comfortable chair to read, day-dream, procrastinate and perhaps even enjoy a glass of whiskey. Here the writer can have their own library, and the space can be supplemented with books on Fogo Island and Newfoundland.
The Fogo Island Arts Corporation
Second, the Production program will organize workshops, art projects, seminars and exhibits in partnership with professionals of different backgrounds. The two programs will interact on all levels and work in close dialogue with each other. Both programs will focus on locally rooted and site-specific themes inspired by this unique place and it’s people as well as reach out to the International Contemporary Art Scene.
Contemporary artist and innovators will be invited on a temporary basis to make this quality design and unique location their own. Fogo Island will be used as reference for their creations of meaningful glimpses into what was and what is – and whatever there is to come.
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