In 2011 Joep van Lieshout visited Chocó and designed an extraordinary rainforest shelter in association with Fernando Arias and Más Arte Más Acción. Joep's Netherlands based practice Atelier Van Lieshout has attained international recognition for work that transcends the boundaries between art, architecture and design. The objects and spaces they create deal directly with the recurring themes of power, politics, life and death.
The brief was to design a shelter that will serve as a base for national and international projects and cultural exchanges. All future projects will relate to Chocó; a potentially endangered rainforest with scattered communities. With global environmental challenges relating to biodiversity loss, food and water distribution linked to exponential population growth, artists and academics will be invited to share their ideas and creative skills to encourage innovative thinking about these challenges. The Chocó Base will give visitors an opportunity to spend time in this rainforest, to reflect on their work from an inspirational shelter.
Unwittingly the shelter began it's relationship with humanity in 1945 when a local fisherman felled a giant hardwood tree to make a boat. The remaining trunk stayed buried in the forest, on a hillside, close to the sea behind the existing house until it was rediscovered in 2010 when trees were cleared to grow food. Joep was offered this as a potential site for the shelter although his extraordinary design could never have been anticipated.
Before designing the shelter, Joep met local communities including the nomadic indigenous Emberá living in simple shelters inside the forest. The simplicity of their homes influenced the final design, as did the shape of the trunk. The 20 meter structure is defined by the trunk and none of the floors are level – only the bed and two tables, that needed to be horizontal, were.
Más Arte Más Acción assembled a construction team with over thirty local people involved in the four-month building stage. Discussions about Chocó's rich biodiversity and the potential impacts of its exploitation, locally and globally, now and in the future, were documented. Before leaving Colombia, Joep and Más Arte Más Acción presented and discussed the project at Lugar a Dudas in Cali.
“For me to come to Chocó was a very inspiring event. It’s not so often, as someone from Europe, that you can go to an area as primitive and remote as Chocó. It’s very interesting to see the community there and how they live, especially, I was completely astonished by how indigenous people live in a kind of stone-age. What you see is that people live very much within the limitations of what they have. It was amazing to see what people can do with a saw and an axe”.
Joep van Lieshout