sarah fitzsimons

September 17, 2010 § Leave a comment

A week later, some reflections

Mandø is a starkly beautiful place, with a harsh climate and swiftly changing weather.  As I experienced in living and working there for 10 days, you are constantly exposed to the wind, rain, sun, and sea.  It’s an isolated location, often completely cut off from the mainland by the tide with no ferry service, no airport, and no bridge.

At high water it’s too deep to drive, too shallow to sail.

If I lived here I would want a sturdy house, and indeed, when I look around, the houses are SOLID.  They hunker-down against the ground, and brace themselves in the wind.  On Mandø there seems to be a very clear distinction between indoors and outdoors.  When you’re inside, you definitely feel inside.  When you’re outside, you definitely feel outside.  No front porches, no gazebos, no rooftop terraces.  None of that Southern California indoor/outdoor blended architecture.  To live here, you need a strong, self-contained shelter.  Anything else would be impractical and ridiculous.

I carried my house to the island in a backpack. The first day I built it on a high dune overlooking the town and sea.  Each day it moved further downhill, and ended in the water.

What did this house offer?

not shelter,

not stability,

not privacy,

not safe storage,

not strength,

not warmth,

not permanence.

It was a structure with no roof, no walls, no floor — just the most minimal lines to define the space of a house within the greater expanse of the landscape and sea.  There were absolutely no barriers in this house–the wind blows, the birds fly, and the sea flows through.

For me, there’s value in this brief existence of the suggestion of a house.              (idea for a house, looking forward.  memory of a house, looking back.)

What did it provide?                                                                                              A space for reflection, inspiration, visual poetry, beauty…                                    Art offers a different type of value than keeping you dry in the rain, but it’s just as fundamental a shelter, just as necessary as having a roof over your head.

My thanks to the people of Mandø for your warm generosity, curiosity, and support.  You shared your island home with us for 10 days.  It’s been a challenge, an adventure, and my great pleasure to be a part of this project.










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