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.









Sarah FitzSimons

September 10, 2010 § Leave a comment


So finally I’m taking some time inside, out of the wind and rain,

to sit and think a bit about what I have actually been doing here.

First, to be practical, here is my mini-catch-up-blog within a blog:

Day 1.  Sunny and warm.   I unpack and spend all day setting up the house on a hill overlooking the sea and town.  many visitors stop by.  It’s is the PERFECT location for this project.  I can’t imagine a better spot. 

Day 2.  Still sunny and warm.  almost no wind.  I build the chimney, front and side doors, and a window.  The window only works when someone is holding it up.  Basically, you choose your view.  At the end of the day, there’s a group effort to move the house down the hill.  Abstract remodeling job.


Day 3.  Sun and clouds.  Getting colder and windier.  Added more poles to the composition.  Music and dance performance in the former house now abstract drawing.  Later, another group procession to move the drawing closer to the sea.


Day 4.  Sun, clouds, wind.  Spent the whole day walking the drawing down to the sea.   Took a loooong time because it’s a really big drawing and different parts wanted to go in different directions.  Had to keep everyone together.


Day 5.  No sun.  Strong WIND.  Hard to stand up at times.  The drawing is now reorganized and resting at the beach.  Base camp to prepare for a move into the sea.  Work all day outside in the wind. By the end I am starting to get sick.  Kjeld contributes dried fish to the composition. 


Day 6.  Cold and rainy, but less wind.  Still feeling sick.  Work inside all morning in front of the fire, reinforcing poles to anchor in the sea.  Later, an enthusiastic group effort in the rain, (and without pants) to wade into the sea and set up the main house shape. 

Day 7.  A bit rainy to start but not much wind.  House survived the high tide and night in the sea.  Today, I move it into deeper water.  Tea and cookies served at 2pm.  Tomorrow I’ll set up the chimney, 3 more doors, and windows.


This catches us up to date!

Later I’ll write more from Day 8, and some reflections beyond the practical details…

Sarah FitzSimons

September 6, 2010 § Leave a comment

Sarah FitzSimons

September 5, 2010 § Leave a comment

September 5, 2010 § Leave a comment