'We need to find ways of taking back control of the objects we own,' stresses Andy Marks, a social entrepreneur based in Sydney. His chief concerns are how much we disregard in our quest for the new and why we are hardwired to constantly acquire things. 'Does buying actually satisfy us, or create more hunger to spend?' he asks. Just how do you enliven debate about consumption and waste in engaging ways?
Enter property developer Nectar Efkarpidis, the co-owner and creative mind behind Hotel Hotel, a design-driven, five-star boutique hotel in Canberra, Australia. The very nature of its build and artisanal fit-out questions mass production, as it brings together the work of over 50 of the country’s top creatives from architectural, art, film and design backgrounds.
Hotel Hotel’s interiors comprise salvaged and restored 20th-century Australian furniture, hand-crafted objects, unique artworks and custom-made furnishings, plus a spectacular entry stairway made from over 2,000 pieces of recycled timber, which all together convey a sense of raw material luxury and warmth. Add in-built power- and energy-saving devices, plus an active engagement with Canberra’s arts scene, and it’s clear that Efkarpidis’ agenda is about communal endeavour, patronage and sustainability (in addition to filling the hotel’s 68 rooms and 31 apartments).
'Nectar afforded me creative freedom to devise a program that brings people together to question our relationships with objects, and to share skills and ideas,' enthuses Marks about Fix and Make, a 12-month initiative including workshops and talks at Hotel Hotel. Launching earlier this month, 60 national and international collaborators from fields spanning neuroscience, art, design, craft, education, music and psychology will partake in over 30 events, held mostly within the hotel complex.
'Through the process of fixing and making we can gain a better understanding of how things work and apply this knowledge to… solve our own problems; to take control of our own resources; and to break our dependence on manufacturers who create products with limited life-spans,' adds Marks.
Activities involve re-purposing used and end of life materials, plus offcuts from workshops and factory floors. Camp furniture will be built with fallen branches and biodegradable plastic; chipped ceramics will be repaired using kintsugi, a traditional Japanese lacquering technique; toys are made from trash and instruments from household waste; and utility aprons will be created in the Japanese boro style, from old denim. Talks cover everything from psychological explanations for compulsive buying and hoarding, through to Hotel Hotel’s key interior curators revealing what constitutes ‘value’ to them.
Quirky? Yes. Practical? Possibly. Whilst new learnt skills are a bonus of the initiative, Marks hopes that the long running program will encourage repeat visits, so the messages really sink in. 'Hopefully they’ll inspire us to re-use materials, produce locally and reduce waste by keeping our broken things out of landfill. We believe there’s potential for other cities to activate similar discussion.'