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  3. When the Strange Meets the Familiar: Saunders Architecture on Fogo Island

When the Strange Meets the Familiar: Saunders Architecture on Fogo Island

When the Strange Meets the Familiar: Saunders Architecture on Fogo Island

Fogo is a small, rocky outcrop off the coast of Newfoundland, Canada, with a population of just over 2000 people. Its sub-arctic natural landscape of lakes, rivers and mountains is interspersed by eleven small settlements and has now become the scene for a collection of follies, studios and residences designed by Norwegian practice Saunders Architecture. Most recently, Fogo's rocky wilderness and contemporary architectural interest—reminiscent of the land around Todd Saunders' current home city of Bergen—has been captured in a one-hour documentary film directed by Marcia Connolly and Katherine Knight, entitled Strange & Familar: Architecture on Fogo Island.

In recent years, the islanders of Fogo have seen a decline in their traditional industry of cod fishing. In response Zita Cobb, a Fogo Island born social entrepreneur, has worked alongside the architects to spearhead international artist residencies on the island. Saunders, who was born and raised in nearby Gander, Newfoundland, recollects his childhood as formative to his understanding of architecture. "Everything I've learned about architecture," he jokes, "I learned before I was fifteen years old." Together they have been engaged in a "dance with the devil" — attempting to retain what is special about the way of life on Fogo while, at the same time, redefining its place in the world. 

Fogo Island. Image © Iwan Baan
Fogo Island. Image © Iwan Baan

This film examines how the architecture acknowledges the cultural traditions which inspire it, while maintaining a captivating sense of the unfamiliar. Photographed over the course of four seasons, it offers a portrait of an island and its people which tackles the juxtaposition between old and new and the complexities of building in a place far removed from the relative convenience of mainland Canada.

You can watch screenings of Strange & Familiar at the following festivals and events:

  • New York Architecture & Design Film Festival – October 13th - 18th 2015
  • Providence (Rhode Island) Architecture Film Festival – October 30th - November 1st 2015
  • Planet in Focus (Toronto) – October 22nd - 25th 2015
  • St. John’s International Women’s Film Festival (Canada) – October 20th - 25th 2015
  • Princess Cinema (Kitchener/Waterloo) – October 26th 2015

Fogo Island Inn / Saunders Architecture

Squish Studio / Saunders Architecture

Tower Studio / Saunders Architecture

Fogo Island Long Studio / Saunders Architecture

Bridge Studio / Saunders Architecture

About this author
James Taylor-Foster
Cite: James Taylor-Foster. "When the Strange Meets the Familiar: Saunders Architecture on Fogo Island" 05 Oct 2015. ArchDaily. Accessed . <> ISSN 0719-8884
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