A good friend of mine called it Instinctive design: the art of solving everyday problems through hacks and new uses for objects. It's not a novelty: we've been doing it forever and continue to do it day to day. And we do it the most when we're faced with scarcity or when we find ourselves isolated from modern civilization.
Camping sites are, of course, a fertile ground for finding good examples of this, and also to explore how people can achieve living with less in creative ways. And Spanish artists and designers Miquel Olle and Sofia Mataix sought to capture that spirit in their Camping, caravaning, arquitecturing documentary and book.
For 30 days, the two traveled through 15 campings in the Mediterranean coast, where they interviewed over 150 people, documenting their findings along with reflections on what it means to live this kind of life on the way.
"Spaces usually condition and modify human behaviors, but in this case the behavior modifies the space, adjusting to the needs of each user. The user becomes the architect, the designer. This freedom of action gives life to a great variety of attitudes, constructions and ways of life" says Olle via e-mail. "The proximity of the parcels, the open character of the spaces and the idle and relaxed attitude promotes social relationships between neighbors, and actions which are private in everyday life become public and shared," he ads.
They found camping life is sustainable not only because there is a great deal of DIY and reuse of discarded objects, but because camping 'construction' is dry and temporary: when people leave, they take away everything they brought and the impacts is minimum.
"We found ghost camping sites which were abandoned because the land was supposed to be destined to development projects which didn't take place at the end, and what happened when people left was that a beautiful forest or garden grew in the place," Olle explains. "It's curious how a macro-organism which functioned like a city can become a green area without any trace of what happened before."
What were they final thoughts, at the end of the project? "It's hard to find a conclusion, because there is a great variety of attitudes and ways of life around camping. But we've observed that in every case we've been welcomed with open arms, in a very familiar way, that they understood the concept of the project sometimes a lot better than architecture or design professionals, that they were very socialized because they shared their lives with the rest of the campers: we found streets in which neighbors were more like a family, with 20 years living together. These were people who understood that to enjoy life and leisure time you don't need great things, but just a little creativity and good company." Amen to that.
Olle and Mataix think there's a great deal to be learned here for architects and design professionals: "Their fundamental rule is the respect for their partners, so it is a mine of resources to study in social and in creative aspects. A gold mine for design professionals and an example of functional, social and sustainable creativity in every way," the designer concludes.
The book and the documentary which resulted from the research were in exhibition at the ACVic Centre d’Arts Contemporànies in Barcelona, Spain, and will travel to Maribor (2012 European Capital of Culture), Slovenia for three months this year, later probably arriving to South America. Find the film trailer below and more info contacting Olle and Mataix.