Fogo Island Inn, in Canada

The Fogo Island Inn was conceived by the Shorefast Foundation, a Canadian charitable organization established by Zita, Anthony and Alan Cobb, as a building for learnings that have emerged from four centuries of lived experience on the northeast coast of Newfoundland – to help carry the past into the future.

It was created to be a cultural and economic engine for Fogo Island, one of Canada’s oldest settlements; created in response to a pressing need to find new relevance for traditional knowledge and traditional ways. The goal was to “find new ways with old things”. Fogo Islanders are a people who by virtue of their centuries of geographic isolation have become masters of making things by hand, recycling and devising local solutions to all manner of challenges. Engaging this cultural and intellectual heritage was a key priority in the design of the building and was a key asset in its construction. The Inn is owned by a charitable foundation and is operated for the benefit of the communities of Fogo Island and Change Islands.

The main building is an X in plan with the two-storey west to east volume containing public spaces while the four-storey south-west to north-east volume, parallel to the coast, contains twenty-nine guest rooms. All guest rooms face the ocean and look onto the fishing grounds that attracted people to this island. The room sizes vary from 350 square feet to 1,100 square feet. The rooms rooms on the third and fourth floors all having a wood-burning stove. The ceilings of the rooms on the fourth floor follow the slope of the roof and the three rooms on the east are double volume spaces with the sleeping area located on the mezzanine.

Public areas include an art gallery curated by Fogo Island Arts; a dining room, bar and lounge which was recently rated as one of the top ten new restaurants in Canada by Enroute magazine; and a heritage library which is home to the private collection of the late Dr. Leslie Harris, former president of Memorial University of Newfoundland. The second floor includes a cinema that is a partnership with the National Film Board of Canada. The fourth floor roof deck has saunas and outdoor hot tubs with views of the sea. Traditional style “shore” legs are used to support the floors while minimizing the overall building footprint and the impact on the adjacent rocks, lichens and berries.

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Ecological and self-sustaining systems were subtly integrated from the beginning of the project, incorporating technologies to reduce and conserve energy and water usage. The inn is a highly insulated steel frame building and the windows have the equivalent rating of triple pane glazing. Rainwater from the roof is collected into two cisterns in the basement, filtered, and used for the toilet and laundry water and also to be used as a heat sink for all of the kitchen appliances. Solar thermal panels supply hot water to the in-floor radiant heating as well as the laundry and kitchen equipment. The sound transmission classification of 69 between guest rooms ensures that guests hear only the sound of the nearby waves. The outbuilding houses wood fired boilers and solar thermal panels on the roof. The required number and orientation of the solar panels dictated the form of the outbuilding. The space between these two buildings creates an entry court and frames the main entrance. Vehicle parking is off site.

The knowledge and skill of local carpenters and craftspeople were essential for establishing the materials, details, furniture and textiles used throughout the buildings. Their know-how was the starting point for what has become a long term and ongoing collaborative project between contemporary designers from North America and Europe and the men and women makers and builders of Fogo Island and Change Islands. The inn therefore serves as a means to reweave this remote island into the fabric of the larger world and its highly specific design has enabled it to contribute to the continuation of a traditional economy of care, craft and culture.

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