This is more than an inn.
It is a place with social purpose.
We use business minded ways
to serve social ends.
There is an inherent and irreplaceable
value in small places, where cultures
are guided by ingenuity, creativity, and
a respect for the natural world.
Canada’s rural places, and similar small places worldwide, are under great pressure. Faced with the challenges of modernity and globalization, many small communities have not been able to hold onto their roots as traditional crafts and skills have been devalued or outsourced, and many people have been forced to make lives for themselves in cities. Fogo Islanders have also been grappling with the question of community resilience in this time of urbanization, industrialization, virtualization, and commodification. In particular, how do communities like Fogo Island establish their individual relevance in the global economy?
Fogo Islanders have been able to hold on by adapting their fisheries and by collaborating through art and social business to find new ways with old things. The people of Fogo Island are deeply bound up in the nature and culture of their Island, and have continued to devise clever solutions to the wicked problems of modernity. They have worked with the ocean, with the land, and with one another in order to continue to live, work, and thrive in one of Canada’s oldest European settled communities at the edge of the North American continent.
Newfoundland’s outport communities, including Fogo Island, offer specific and pure forms of hospitality and social richness. Fogo Island Inn was an opportunity to use social business and design as a means of fortifying culture and place, while at the same time giving Fogo Island relevance in the contemporary world and enhancing the economic prospects for the community.
The Inn has helped to facilitate the continuing process of cultural and economic revitalization on Fogo Island. In addition to catalyzing a renaissance of traditional building techniques, the Inn and its associated projects have created substantial employment opportunities in a region previously devastated by the decline of the cod fishery, and Fogo Islanders have acquired new skills to sustain them for years to come. Of crucial significance is that the Inn follows the innovative and radical social business model, and is a community asset: 100% of operating surpluses are reinvested in the community of Fogo Island through the Shorefast Foundation. As such, the Inn stands to promote sustainable economic prosperity on Fogo Island, a community that once stood on the brink of extinction.
“Challenge for Change” was a program
that allowed communities to use film
as a catalyst for social change.
Fogo Island has a long history with film. The Island was the location of a legendary community filmmaking project in the late 1960s known worldwide as The Fogo Process. The Fogo Process emerged from the National Film Board’s “Challenge for Change” program which used film to promote community collaboration and social change. The National Film Board of Canada (NFB) and Memorial University of Newfoundland’s Extension Service visited Fogo Island to give light and voice to Fogo Island’s individual communities that were struggling with the collapse of the inshore fishery. Facing the impending threat of government resettlement, Fogo Islanders had to quickly develop a system of collaboration that had never before existed on the Island in order to work through the loss of the traditional fishery and hold on to their home.
Filmmaker Colin Low, community worker Fred Earle, and head of Memorial University’s Extension Service Donald Snowden worked from a shared vision. Colin Low made 27 short films documenting life on Fogo Island, and subsequently screened his films for the Island’s residents. For the first time, Fogo Islanders saw that all of the Island’s communities were facing similar issues and challenges. Watching their fellow Islanders speak on film helped sparked new dialogues across previously divisive community lines. The collaborative spirit engendered by The Fogo Process films and by the newly formed Fogo Island Improvement Committee eventually lead to the formation of the Fogo Island fishing Co-op. The Co-op, owned by local fishers and plant workers, spearheaded the adaptation to the midshore fishery and continues to exist as a mainstay of the economy to this day.
Shorefast Foundation and Fogo Island Inn continue to believe that art and film have key roles to play in telling our stories and preserving traditional knowledge and culture. The Foundation has recognized this history of collaboration through art and film through the establishment of Fogo Island Arts, and by partnering with the National Film Board on the Fogo Island Inn’s digital cinema. The Inn’s cinema is the first theatre to exist on the Island, and marks the return of the NFB to Fogo Island to honour a longstanding commitment to the community that ultimately put the “Challenge for Change” program on the map.
Fogo Island Inn is the embodiment
of an ecological ethic.
From its inception, Fogo Island Inn has adopted a responsible, systems-based approach to design and implementation in order to conduct itself in a way that demonstrates and upholds a higher fidelity relationship with the natural world. The Inn has a concrete and accredited environmental strategy, ethical suppliers, and tactics in place to protect the environment. We are deeply committed to and invested in all things local and we consistently surpass the requirements of environmental laws.
We start by seeking local, Fogo Island suppliers. If a product or service is not available locally, we then move to our closest communities on mainland Newfoundland, and then to other suppliers within the province of Newfoundland & Labrador. From there, we move to other suppliers in Canada, then North America, our traditional international trading partners, followed by the rest of the world. And in each sourcing decision, purchases are only made from jurisdictions that abide by basic environmental protection laws and labour standards.
Maintaining responsible, energy efficient, and ecologically-minded design, construction, and ongoing operation were primary objectives of the Inn. The building’s architecture and operational systems have been conceptualized as a single system with the primary purpose of providing unparalleled indoor environmental quality within a luxury setting, while also ensuring the highest levels of energy efficiency and resource conservation. The Inn’s steel frame is highly insulated, and the windows have the equivalent rating of triple pane glazing. Rainwater from the roof is collected into two cisterns in the basement and subsequently filtered for use in toilets, laundry, and kitchen appliances.
The outbuilding adjacent to the main Inn contains the Inn’s wood-fired boilers as well as solar thermal panels on the roof which supply hot water for the in-floor radiant heating and the laundry and kitchen equipment. The required number and orientation of the solar panels dictated the form of the outbuilding, and the space between the main Inn and the outbuilding creates a sheltered entry court which frames the main entrance.
Fogo Island’s history, culture, and economy is bound up with the sea.
The New Ocean Ethic is a series of initiatives led by Shorefast Foundation on Fogo Island and Change Islands to seek new ways to care for the health of our oceans and, in so doing, protect the livelihoods of the people whose culture is linked to the sea.
The genesis of the New Ocean Ethic is simple. For centuries, we have viewed the oceans as providing a vast and seemingly endless supply of resources. Fortunately, we have recently realized and recognized that the oceans’ resources are not infinite; the dramatic decline in commercial fish stocks attest to this.
If we are to continue to benefit from the bounty of the sea, we have to rethink our relationship with the ocean. Through Shorefast’s New Ocean Ethic programming, we aspire to position Fogo Island and Change Islands as models of responsible ocean stewardship for the rest of the world.
We have started a number of initiatives to make the New Ocean Ethic a reality, and Cod Potting is one such initiative. Cod Potting is a method of capturing cod using fishing gear that offers the opportunity for sustaining ocean ecosystems for future generations. Using a cod pot, fishers harvest live fish, bleed them at sea, and produce a top quality product without harm to other species and with negligible environmental impact to the sea bottom. Fishers receive significantly higher prices for cod harvested using cod pots from traditional inshore fishing grounds as opposed to more commercialized fishing methods.
The New Ocean Ethic initiatives are led by Gordon Slade, who was invested into the Order of Canada in 2006 in recognition of his work to preserve the heritage of Newfoundland and Labrador.
Fogo Islanders are genetically predisposed to exceptional hospitality.
People and place are inextricably tangled up with one another on Fogo Island. It is crucial to hear stories from the people who have lived here before truly being able feel this place and understand how everything fits together. Fogo Islanders are naturally friendly people: whether on the ferry ride or during a music festival, visitors are bound to strike up a conversation with a local person. This is just a part of the culture – it’s how we are.
Unique to Fogo Island Inn, our Community Host Program matches a person from the local community with guests of the Inn to help orient them to the Island. Our community hosts are passionate, lifelong Fogo Islanders who are pleased to offer their insights into the Island’s natural and cultural heritage. They have fished the Island’s shores, picked its berries, climbed its rocks, driven its roads, and walked its trails hundreds of times over. They are intimately connected to their home and eager to pass on their extensive knowledge of Fogo Island’s culture and history to our guests.
Our community hosts will guide you through the curiosities and particularities of each of our Seven Seasons. Activities extend to a range of indoor and outdoor cultural, marine, natural, and artistic forays. Each stay at the Inn includes a half-day customized Island orientation with a community host. The Community Host Program is led by Sandra Cull, who was born and raised on Fogo Island.
Fogo Island Inn innovates with local produce and uses the bounty of the North Atlantic to express the richness of the Island’s locality.
Food is a critical part of the language and expression of a particular community and has a way of capturing culture and a sense of place in one single, delicious gesture. As contemporary interpreters of Fogo Island’s history and culture, we seek to express the bounty of this Island in the deepest and broadest way possible. The kitchen brigade constantly seeks to innovate with the Island’s local produce and the abundance of fresh seafood pulled from the nearby North Atlantic.
The Island’s subarctic landscape and maritime climate offer their shares of both challenges and blessings when it comes to food. The Island’s soil is not plentiful but it is rich in nutrients and ideal for growing many staples such as potatoes, turnips, and onions. The culinary team pays homage to traditional storage and preservation techniques but employing the use of root cellars to preserve fresh and pickled foods and by incorporating traditional salt cod into his inventive recipes. The Inn’s food showcases the richness of the Island’s locality by making use of foods native to the Island as well as engaging the best additions from our traditional trading partners. At the same time as the Inn’s food incorporates the Island’s plentiful edible offerings, we also import ingredients such as chocolate, vanilla, molasses, and, of course, fine wines from Canada, USA, and our historical trading partners: France, Italy, Spain, and Portugal.
Fogo Islanders have historically hunted, grown, foraged, and caught their food both out of necessity and for pleasure. We carry on these traditions by foraging for berries, supporting local growers and fishers, and exploring the barrens surrounding the Inn in search of the perfect garnish for our culinary creations. Savoring Fogo Island Inn’s food is a cultural experience combining the best of Fogo Island’s customary foodways with the exciting forward-thinking of contemporary cuisine.
The traditional boats of Fogo Island represent a way of knowing born specifically of this place.
Punts, skiffs and bullyboats were among the traditional wooden boats of Fogo Island. Punts in particular were the workhorses of the Island’s inshore fishery until its collapse in the mid-twentieth century. Punts represent a way of knowing born specifically of this place: they were a direct response to human need and utility in times when fishers fished within sight of land. This way of fishing the North Atlantic sustained Fogo Islanders for centuries until factory overfishing caused the dramatic decline in cod stocks and forced Fogo Islanders to adapt to midshore fishing for new species and in larger boats.
Though punts are no longer used for the fishery, they hold the knowledge of a people who made their living on the planet’s fiercest ocean. On Fogo Island, boat builders were and continue to be revered for their expertise. They know how to build models of their boats, which wood to harvest for boat building, and when to harvest it. Boat builders and their boats played an essential role in making a living in a marine environment where fishing was not only a way of life, but often the only means for survival. These boats embody the very nature of outport people: ingenious, creative, adaptable, resourceful, and hard-working.
In order to preserve this important piece of Fogo Island’s history, Shorefast Foundation has developed a set of initiatives to ensure that the tradition of boat building carries on. In partnership with local builders, the Foundation has created a heritage collection of wooden boats. Shorefast also began a ground-breaking boatbuilding program with students and staff at the local high school to pass on the knowledge of the punts to future generations.
Those visiting Fogo Island in July will have the opportunity to witness The Great Fogo Island Punt Race Festival, which has raised greater awareness of this wooden boat heritage and contributed to preserving the traditional skills, methods, pride, appreciation, and enjoyment associated with the great wooden boats of Fogo Island and Change Islands. At the Fogo Island Inn, you will notice details derived from the Island’s history with boat building. The legs of Elaine Fortin’s punt chair, found in each of the Inn’s guest rooms, are made using the same wood-harvesting techniques employed to fashion the interior ribs of the punt.
Architecture has the power and the duty to carry and convey the character of a particular time and place.
Designed by Newfoundland-born architect Todd Saunders, the Fogo Island Inn emerged out of a four-hundred-year-old vernacular tradition of creating seemingly temporary although ultimately permanent structures that are light on their feet. Originally, Newfoundland’s outport settlers were not permitted to build permanent structures or dwellings: prohibited from taking up permanent residence, our ancestors were expected to fish Fogo Island’s waters but eventually return home to England or Ireland. This led to the creation of buildings that were made of wood as opposed to stone and rested lightly on landscape by making use of stilt wood legs – called shores – rather than fixed heavy foundations. The temporary nature of these original structures is still part of Newfoundland’s vernacular building techniques, and is clearly reflected in the architecture of the Inn. Buildings in outport Newfoundland continue to be designed for economical use of materials and to be moved when needed, all while withstanding the harsh Northeast gales.
When commissioned to design the Fogo Island Inn, architect Todd Saunders was tasked with creating the hospitality centerpiece of a unique geotourism destination that retained the richness of outport Newfoundland traditions while also speaking the visual language of modern contemporary design. The goal was to “find new ways with old things” in order to both preserve and stimulate cultural production on Fogo Island and to create restorative spaces for guests who come to the Inn for refuge from the noisy, busy storms of modernity.
The creation of the Inn was a highly collaborative, eight-year process. The marriage of old and new was ultimately achieved through a holistic, courageous, open hearted journey that involved local makers and artisans, as well as architects and international designers from away. Engaging with Fogo Island’s cultural and intellectual heritage was a priority in the design of the building and a key asset in its construction. At times there were dozens of people involved in a particular process or project. They researched traditional approaches, materials, and implementations and re-imagined them in a contemporary expression while bringing professional design skills from other parts of the world to bear on the needs of the project and the Island.
The resulting Inn embodies and honours four centuries of lived experience on the Northeast coast of Newfoundland. It stands out on Fogo Island, yet remains distinctly of this place. The Inn is explicitly tied to Fogo Island and the architectural traditions of Newfoundland outports in the way it meets with the natural landscape, the use of materials throughout, and most importantly, the pragmatic and collaborative design and construction process.
Designers from away worked side-by-side with Fogo Island’s artisans and makers to create furnishings and furniture that weaved the new from the fabric of the old.
By virtue of their centuries of geographic isolation, Fogo Islanders have become masters of making things by hand, recycling, and devising local solutions to all manner of challenges. Since the beginning of European settlement in the late 1600s, Fogo Islanders have been building their own wooden boats, houses, tools, and furniture. In keeping with this handmade tradition, nearly all of the furniture and furnishings inside the Fogo Island Inn were designed and created on Fogo Island specifically for use in the Fogo Island Inn. The furniture of the Fogo Island Inn is the result of an innovative collaborative process between artists and designers from away and skilled rural artisans from Fogo Island and Change Islands. Contemporary designers worked side-by-side with local craftspeople to create furniture and furnishings that embodied a “new outport aesthetic:” weaving the new from the fabric of the old.
The furniture within the Inn is primarily handcrafted and produced on Fogo Island, employing local artisans and makers and contributing to the promotion of economic resilience for one of Canada’s oldest communities. Materials are sourced mainly from Fogo Island and Newfoundland, followed by the rest of Canada, North America, and traditional trading partners such as Spain and Portugal.
Each guest room is adorned with key furniture pieces such as Elaine Fortin’s boat-inspired punt chair, Donna Wilson’s plush Berta chair, or Ineke Hans’ cushioned rocking chair. Every opportunity was seized to incorporate joy and colour anarchy into the guest suites: whimsical touches such as custom-designed wallpaper, brightly-coloured hooked mats, and fantastical furniture pieces play off of traditional motifs but ultimately add something new and exciting to the furnishings landscape of Fogo Island.
All guest suites are equipped with quilts custom made for the Fogo Island Inn by local Island quilters. The Inn’s quilts use natural vintage fabrics in an assortment of colours and patterns, and were inspired by Fogo Island’s longstanding quilting tradition. Though made new for the Inn, they mirror patterns familiar to the Island and breathe new life into the common strip quilt, crazy quilt, and heritage quilt styles. Thinner, breathable summer quilts are used in softer seasons, and are switched out with thick, heavier winter quilts during snow and ice seasons.
What if everything you bought had a
label that told you where exactly your
money was going?
Fogo Island Inn and Fogo Island Shop pioneered the practice of economic nutrition labelling. Most people are accustomed to seeing nutritional labelling on the foods and beverages they purchase. These labels allow consumers to make conscious and informed decisions about their food choices. Food nutrition labeling was revolutionary for the food industry. Now, we want to spark the same energy for change with the launch of economic nutrition labelling.
One of the strongest influences an individual can have is through their personal spending decisions. We believe that most consumers want to make purchasing decisions that positively impact people and planet. Unfortunately, information about where “the money goes” is rarely available and is certainly not readily available at the point of purchase. The information provided by our economic nutrition labels shows how your purchase impacts the broader global economy by detailing how the money you spend is distributed.
Many luxury properties have
a charitable foundation. Our
charitable foundation has
a luxury Inn.
Fogo Island Inn is an initiative of Shorefast Foundation, a registered Canadian charity founded in 2003 by Zita, Anthony, and Alan Cobb. Shorefast is dedicated to helping to secure a resilient economic future for Fogo Island, Change Islands, and similar rural communities worldwide. All surpluses from the operation of the Fogo Island Inn are reinvested in the community of Fogo Island through the projects and programs of Shorefast Foundation. There is no private benefit.
A shorefast is the line and mooring used to attach a traditional cod trap to the shore. It is a strong symbol of Fogo Island’s cod fishing heritage and the Foundation chose this name because it symbolizes a belief in the importance of holding on to community and culture and in the power of authentic connections between individuals, their communities, culture, and place.
Fogo Island Inn is Shorefast’s largest undertaking to date. Other projects include Fogo Island Arts, a micro-lending fund for small businesses on Fogo Island and Change Islands, various academic residency programs, heritage building preservation initiatives, the New Ocean Ethic, and a retail furniture business: Fogo Island Shop.
The significant success achieved by Shorefast to date illustrates that reviving small communities is a possible and worthy undertaking. There is inherent value in rural places that can be reclaimed and made relevant for 21st century life, and losing our small communities and the human ways of knowing they contain is neither inevitable nor necessary.
Shorefast’s work is not done. The Foundation continues to nurture and support current projects as well as develop new ideas and initiatives to serve Fogo Island, Change Islands, and similar small places around the world. Shorefast’s approach and processes can translate well to other communities as a small island like Fogo Island is a good proxy for a small planet.
Fogo Island Arts is a residency-based contemporary art venue for artists, filmmakers, writers, musicians, curators, designers, and thinkers from around the world.
Fogo Island Arts was established in 2008 and provides support for artistic exploration and production for artists, filmmakers, writers, musicians, curators, designers, and thinkers. Artists-in-residence come to the island to do research, and selected artists are invited to present their work in exhibitions at the Fogo Island Gallery located inside the Fogo Island Inn.
Exhibitions are accompanied by publications produced in collaboration with international imprints including Berlin’s Sternberg Press and with public institutions globally. These initiatives are part of Shorefast Foundation’s social enterprise-based business model that seeks to support the economic viability of the Fogo Island Inn and the growth of tourism on Fogo Island. The unique programs and approaches of Fogo Island Arts are facilitated in part by the resourcefulness and creativity of Fogo Islanders, who provide a vital framework for the organization’s activities. Fogo Island Arts places emphasis on creating meaningful partnerships — locally, nationally, and internationally.
Artists engaged in a residency with Fogo Island Arts work out of one of four contemporary artist studios designed by architect Todd Saunders, a Newfoundlander now based in Bergen, Norway who is also responsible for designing the Fogo Island Inn. Situated at various locations on the island, each of the four studios is distinct in design. Anchored into the landscape by steel legs, the studios range in size from two hundred to twelve hundred square feet and are completely off the grid. All studios are self-sustaining and equipped with compost toilets, solar-powered electricity, wood-burning stoves, and high speed internet. In addition to the implementation of ecological building systems, the environmental impact of the construction was minimized by the use of local materials which were largely transported to the remote building sites by hand.
For more information visit us at fogoislandarts.ca
The furniture and furnishings
of the Fogo Island Inn are
now available for purchase through
the Fogo Island Shop.
The launch of the Fogo Island Shop is Shorefast Foundation’s latest initiative to support economic and cultural sustainability on Fogo Island. During the design and construction phases of the Fogo Island Inn, artists and designers from away were invited to come to Fogo Island to learn about the island, experience this powerfully elemental place, walk the landscape, and meet and work with the men and women who make their lives here. These encounters resulted in collaborations on the design and production of the furniture, textiles, and furnishings for the Fogo Island Inn. The pieces created in this process have so delighted the Inn’s guests that they are now available for special-order purchase through Fogo Island Shop.
The furniture and textiles of the Fogo Island Shop are handcrafted and produced on Fogo Island, engaging local artisans and makers and contributing to the promotion of economic resiliency for one of Canada’s oldest communities. The Shop is a social business and an initiative of Shorefast Foundation, a registered Canadian charity focused on leveraging the inherent value in rural places. All of the Shop’s products are priced to create a 15% net surplus, 100% of which is returned back to Shorefast Foundation to support ongoing charitable programs on Fogo Island.
With the handcrafted objects offered by the Fogo Island Shop, centuries of knowledge in boat building and furniture-making has been applied to the making of a brand new line of objects that are contemporary in nature but also carry the spirit of the past. The furniture and products sold by the Fogo Island Shop connect guests and hosts, designers and craftspeople, with the aim of sharing and strengthening a culture guided by ingenuity and joy.
Visit the shop at fogoislandshop.ca