‘Last Resort’ was a 12-day summer school in which Constructlab members lived and worked together in the domain of Rubens Castle as part of the Stories Unfold programme. This group of both international and local architects, designers, and artists inhabited the temporary resort, along with 30 national and international participants, neighbourhood volunteers, and visitors. This group, later named ‘The Resortians’, collectively worked with the site and its surroundings to develop several workshop formats. These ranged from research, (graphic) design and building to performance and cooking. Thinking about Rubens Castle, with the idea of it as a resort, Constructlab (the Resortians) critically inhabited the space and researched its historical development, its future role as a tourist attraction, and the environmental challenges it faces.
‘Last Resort’ refers to the climate crisis we are currently in and is an ironic reference to the artificial and commercialised holiday resorts that are part of the tourist industry. This is a shared criticism by Flanders Tourism, who are developing ‘Reizen naar morgen’: a slower and more sustainable approach to tourism in Flanders. By working with and reflecting on the environmental crisis and the leisure function of the domain, we hacked the concept of a resort and spurred the urgency for action and togetherness.
Last Resortism implies the choice of a sustainable way of living and of slowing down. Learning from the experience of long term camping in the domain feeds the constantly evolving structures. From the outer shell to the sleeping surface, from individual to collective, the settlements are continuously reimagined.
At Last Resort, objects, just like people, are nomadic. Some never sleep in the same place two nights in a row. One moment you can see a roof moving, while a few meters away an increasingly sophisticated kitchen finds its new site. Temporary sitting devices derived from existing structures are invented for each meal. In fact, many of the objects conceived by The Resortians stem from what is already present. They hang, plug-on or embrace what already exists to provide solutions to evolving needs. Small interventions aiming for maximum effect.
Last Resort is, besides a gathering of people, a situation in which needs are met preferably by gathering resources from within the domain. More than that, needs and habits are adapted to be satisfied by what materials can be sourced in the surrounding environment: in the forest, the fields, the grove, the ditch or by the perpetual rain.
The Resortians gather knowledge as they go. From each other as well as from the beings close to them. They discover, through the vegetation, the history of the domain, while also harvesting the plentiful resources the castle ground carries. With a mindful and resourceful approach, they engage and become, for a brief moment, part of the ecosystem.
The Resortians are particularly devoted to care, which sustains each and every human activity. It takes a considerable amount of negotiation, as well as acknowledging that the domain is shared with other beings. Caretaking is one way of defining relationships to humans and things that go beyond mere consumption.
The Resortians maintain life primarily with their bodies. Morning exercises are performed to ensure the bodies preserve their capacity to move or heal. Maintenance work evolves from straightforward tasks into the activity of serving others and creatively increasing every Resortian’s wellbeing.