In summer 2009 on the island of Hvar, Croatia.
For two weeks a small house in the remote village of Vrisnik on Hvar became a centre of experimentation and learning. The intention was to explore and apply eco building methods in a creative international gathering.
We had high hopes and ambitions for the house, and we invited our friends and family to give us a hand. It turned out to be an extraordinary event. The response was more than what we expected. People kept coming, many of them artists, each of them bringing something new to add to the melting pot of skills and cultures.
Vegans encountered seasoned carnivores, easy southerners met efficient northerners, mechanics met gender activists, but they all had one thing in common – they all wanted a fridge! In temperatures of 30 degrees by 8 o’clock in the morning the appetite for mixing limecrete could easily have melted away but somehow the chemistry worked.
The highlight of Open House Hvar was the dynamic that was created in the group; those who were tired, too sleepy or too hot would get their spark back from others who were more inspired that day to mix, plaster, dig or build. The group spirit was infectious and it carried on to the beach in the afternoon and to the barbeques on the terrace after dark.
So what did we do?
We set up a camp kitchen, brought in electricity from our neighbour, toilet walls and door were built, plumbing installed throughout the house, a solar shower was set up, holes around windows and doors were filled. We sourced lime and experimented with eco plaster, plastered the inside walls of the 1st floor, slaked lime and lime-washed walls, built the terrace parapet walls, experimented with limecrete pointing.
Doors and windows were varnished, a patio in the garden was laid, the garden landscaped with new soil. We planted trees and herbs, installed a rainwater tank, built a cepenak (Bosnian garden seat), painted a Ganesh mural and a fresco. We had film projections for visitors and locals, Yoga, pilates and drama workshops, painting sessions with local children.
It was great to walk through the house and see spontaneous things happening that were a complete surprise. People brought their own creativity, enthusiasm and ideas and the constant flow of energy that came with each new arrival was wonderful.
As midsummer passed and people started to leave we were left with some amazing memories along with the physical record of the energy that everyone had contributed. Already as the last visitor left we were talking about next year and what we would do then.