A home, which became a gallery, which became a house for all; the Openhouse Project in Barcelona thrives on art, shared energy and long distance neighbours. Ben Taylor finds out more…
Opening its doors to more than just creativity, the Openhouse Project (OHP) brings the worlds of art, interior, photography, food and conversation altogether, welcoming those that share the same passion into an environment that’s personal and intimate. In an age when most of our social interaction is conducted through a series of square screens, 5 word messages and emoticons, we are fooling ourselves into thinking that we are surrounded by friends, whereas, in fact, most of us are feeling more isolated and lonely than ever.
Well, things are evolving once again. The online world has seen a slow but steady backlash to this behaviour, inviting those who are connected digitally to become acquainted with each other in offline environments… for example, the Openhouse Project.
Andrew Trotter and Mari Luz Vidal of Openhouse
But, how do you create a home that is, essentially, open to all? Well, OHP’s Andrew Trotter and Mari Luz Vidal are doing just that, along with Ana Schulz who steps in to help out with the activities happening in The Gallery.
Today, I have the result of what happened when I got chatting to Andrew and MariLuz.
Let’s go back to basics first. What was the catalyst that put the project in to motion?
Andrew: I was living with MariLuz in a very small apartment in the old town, but it was a beautiful apartment with an amazing terrace, bigger than the actual apartment. MariLuz is a photographer and I had a shop of art and design called Openhouse. Mari was just coming to the end of a personal project, relating to the construction of the seaside towns in Spain. She asked me what i thought about having one Sunday afternoon a get together of all our friends, some drinks and food, she would put up all the photos from this project and between us all we would choose which ones were to be included and the order. This was around christmas last year. A month later, Mari told me that she had found another flat. I didn’t want to move from this amazing terrace, but she had been living there for 5 years, and not only was it small but it had no lift, and a photographer always has a lot to carry.
I went to see the flat, which couldn’t have been more opposite. It was about 5 times bigger, amazing high ceilings and a lot of light, but no terrace. The minute i walked in i said to Mari, ’this feels like a gallery’. And that’s how we started.
Mari Luz: During our first months in the flat we were talking a lot. Mari had a new project, a beautiful introspective called “Mariona and I”, and in the end we decided to show this as the first opening. The original idea was just to invite friends, but why not open this to the public? One day i said to Mari, “this will really be an Openhouse” and the name stayed.
Most of Mari’s private works are very personal, yet most galleries are not, they are blank spaces. What we wanted to do, was to show photographic work, of a personal nature, from different photographers, in the intimacy of our home. This would give the view a completely different feeling when looking at the work.
Nobu came to live with us around the same time we made the first exhibition. He had known Mari for a long time, he worked at Nobu in london, and is the head chef at Bousu here is Barcelona. It was him who suggested to make japanese dinners or sushi parties here, and the idea is the same. to come to an intimate and private place to eat
What was it that you were hoping to gain from the project initially? Did you all share the same vision?
ML: Our initial thoughts were mainly just “lets do it and see” we had no idea that the people would love it so much. We all are very easy going, and work very well together. Basically the idea is a simple one and we just go from there. It’s very organic in the way it has evolved.
Andrew and Mari with Ana Schulz
Talk me through the range of activities that you host. What would be your dream activity that you would like to host at Openhouse Project?
ML: With the Gallery we hold an exhibition once every three to four months. We have an opening party for each exhibition, 150 people came to the first one, then after people can write to us and ask for an time to come and visit. In the last 3 months we have had about 30 groups of people, of which sometimes they spend and hour or two here, seeing the exhibition, talking, having a coffee or a glass of wine. We have had some very interesting people come. Also I gave a talk to a group of students from a photography school. In the future we would like to hold talks and workshops here too.
A: I think what we are doing, is the dream of what we would like to do with this project at the house. But the real dream would be to get the magazine into print, this would be relly nice.
And I see that you took the project on the road and visited Berlin. Is this something that you like to incorporate more into what you guys do? What complications or shifts in dynamic could this have?
A: Yes, it was an amazing succsess. The home is smaller so we had could only have just over 30 people, but we had a ball, and all of us got to know some very interesting people. Its very nice to have a party with people you don’t know, in a home. The way people interact with each other is very different. At first its like any party in a public space, where the people stick to their own friends, but after a drink or two its more like a private home party where everyone already knows each other. What was nice in berlin, was that the invite was posted on a famous berlin what to do blog, an even a couple who were on holiday from holland came.
I would love that we can start to make other parties in other homes, maybe this will become a full time job. We can come to make a party with you there in milan anytime!
Andrew and Mari with Nobu
The Kitchen. You work with Nobu Kawagoe and share a Japanese dinner, once a month. Wonderful stuff. But, tell me about your attitudes to food. Do you have a dish that you would cook for me on my arrival? How would you serve it?
A: Nobu is a master in the kitchen, and he is also such a character. We range from doing small intimate dinners for between 10 and 15 people to sushi parties for up to 50 or 60 people. We all love good food. For me, quality is the key. I love to eat simple food but it always must be fresh and healthy. We have a good mix here in the house, one japanes, one spanish and one english, so we are always cooking something different. I lived with many italians in the past and have spent a lot of time in italy, so im always cooking pasta or risotto. Mari is from the Murcia, and cooks very good spanish food, and sometimes we are lucky when her aunty (who had a restaurant) comes over with food. Nobu doesnt cook at home much, its his job, but sometimes he gives us a treat. If you come i would ask Nobu to make the buttered cod. It melts in your mouth and is amazing.
What are the aims of your magazine?
A: i have a few friends who open their doors to the public. My friend Tony in london, has a restaurant about 3 times a year in his home , called The Pale Blue Door, then there was Mira at Bless, and a friend of mine Marco, in Milan, used to teach yoga in his home. There are many people around the world who, for different activities open their homes to the public. So we stared to think it would be nice not only to show these homes and tell their stories, but have the magazine a little like a guide, so that if you were visiting a city, or if you are from that city, you could find these places. Imagine you are traveling to New York, and you go to a gallery or restaurant in someone’s home, this must be amazing, so much more than to see they typical things a tourist will see. The magazine is just starting. So we only have a few places. If your readers know of places in their town we will be very happy to hear from them, and who knows, maybe soon we can get the magazine into print.
How does the Openhouse Project celebrate Christmas?
A: christmas is a strange time for me in spain. Everyone goes back to their families. I’m used to london where we always have a big group of friends and stay together. But this year there will be myself and Nobu. A few italian friends will be here and we are trying to persuade MariLuz to stay too
I am sure we will have an Openhouse party just before christmas, and a nice intimate dinner for our close friends. But maybe a roast
Who or what would you close the Openhouse door to?
ML: We have had a couple of people come with their dogs. And it hasn’t been a problem so far. Our doors are quite open, except for when we are in our pyjamas
For more information about Openhouse Project:
Photography - Mari Luz Vidal
Interviewed and written by Ben Taylor