I run a little architectural company on a little island in the Baltic Sea. Every day I drive to my office to work together with my colleagues who are migrants just like me. Sometimes I ponder about matters that have repeatedly come up in our discussions: We should always remember the importance of thinking positively. What would the people of Palermo think of the local custom of choosing to live alone in the woods? Why do many restaurant-owners in Rwanda’s beautiful, hilly capital choose to build walls hiding the views? – More than once I have been taken aback by how our differing backgrounds are revealed and how this can sometimes help me see things in a new way.
My island is actually a part of an archipelago of thousands of islands with a living history reaching way back into the ancient past. I have gradually begun to see myself as a modernist, but only in the sense of a way of thinking and not as an expression of a certain architectural style. In the office we often discuss our relationship to the landscape and our ability to develop the local building tradition.
For me, being an architect is not only a profession but also something that never leaves me, something that I am constantly proud of. Sometimes, looking at our old buildings, I feel that I learn about the times when the house was built; about its owner, about the society, and most of all about the thoughts of the person who decided how the house should be formed. I am fascinated by how architecture can establish communication with the past.
In our exhibition we have chosen to present a project called Welcome Home, which arises from the fact that during the past decades many migrants from other countries have enriched the population of our island. Nowadays, a third of the population is born abroad. We are interested in learning how the new languages, cultures, and living habits are going to influence life on our island.
Out of this interest we have developed The Snail House, which is basically a way for ordinary people to buy and own their dwelling on their own terms. During its lifespan, the house can be modified according to the changing needs of its inhabitants. When the owner wants to move on he can easily take his house or room with him in the manner of a snail. We see architecture as a means of communication, and we hope to enhance that communication by making people more aware of the whole process.
We gladly invite you to join our experiment by building your own Snail House on our model of the Åland archipelago. In fact, this is an act of bravery, as we believe that your house is going to show us who you really are. It will indicate at least whether you are a hermit or one afraid of loneliness, whether you can trust people or need walls around yourself, whether you are humble or arrogant, and it may even reveal your innermost thoughts about money or power. Even though you are just one of many individuals you will still have an influence on the society you are a part of, and therefore we ask for your help to find out more about everyday life in the future of our island. We will simply listen to what architecture can tell us about times to come.