Artists Retreat is managed by Simon, the Owner.
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Artists Retreat
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View from afar
— Simon: “We did an audit on our carbon emissions — compared to a conventional house of the same size, you could offset the carbon emissions of your flight from Europe to Spain by staying with us for a week.”
Interview By: Welcome Beyond
— What was your inspiration to restore these 5 old farmhouses and open a retreat?
Simon: “We were living in London before and trying to get out of there with our twins. We’re very concerned with ecology and sustainability, so we were thinking we needed a project where we could achieve all those goals without too much intervention from government and the rest of it.

We looked in France and Northern Spain, but were always drawn back to Andalucia. We’re in the national park and they’re very supportive of what we’re doing. It’s the perfect environment.

We have the art and ecology residency for professional artists. All of those artists have environmental concerns, so this seemed like the perfect place to be able to do what we’re doing in terms of sustainability and studying directly the effects of climate change.”
— View from afar
— What would you describe to be your philosophy?
Simon: “Sustainability through ecology and creativity. The house is completely powered by photovoltaics and wind power. Grey water is separated and goes to irrigate fruit trees in the orchard. Black water gets treated in reed beds. We harvest rainwater from the roof and store it underground.

We did an audit on our carbon emissions and compared to a conventional house of the same size, roughly speaking, you could offset the carbon emissions of your flight from Northern Europe to Spain by staying with us for a week. That includes our vehicles as well.

We’re also localvores, getting all of our food locally. We don’t offer food that’s out of season. It’s just a simpler, better way of life although it’s not without its struggles.”
— Exterior
— Was becoming off-grid difficult to achieve?
Simon: “I do a talk to universities in the UK two or three times a year and I’m quite open to the fact that we didn’t get everything right. But the place is evolving all the time.

In the future, the residency will become a foundation. We’re going to be able to get funding from local government and other funding bodies to have a building competition for graduate Spanish architecture students to design eco studios. There won’t be any services or electricity, other than battery powered. So, we’re kind of like an eco chic laboratory for contemporary art and architecture.”

— Please tell us a bit about the facilities and rooms you have at the farm.
Simon: “We have 7 bedrooms with a separate bathroom in each. We’ve designed them to be changeable, because we have groups as well as individuals who come. It could be two singles, three singles, a double, whatever in each room.

It’s a vernacular building, so one half of it is our own house, then we have the main studio, and the area on the right is the guesthouse, which has underfloor heating. It’s very luxurious but minimal.”
— Salon
— We love the combination of the old farmhouses and the modern interior design. How would you describe the style of the interior?
Simon: “I like the phrase new vernacular because the vernacular shape of the existing building, which we had to restore and be faithful to its design, is the unconscious work of farmers who lived here. The building merely had to represent shelter and functionality. So, when we reformed it and kept the traditional ceilings and stuff, we refined it, taking off the unnecessary edges, making it more minimal, and yet the space is extremely organic in its interior.

I should also add that the residency opportunity we have here is one where the artists we invite often interact with us and the guests. The guests get to interact with real professional artists from places like Australia, New Zealand, America and all over in Europe. Those artists leave a piece of work for us, which adds to our art collection. It’s all on display on the walls.”
— Salon
— To you personally, what is so special about the farm?
Simon: “Contemporary art having a political and creative issue. And it’s about the space, about refined aesthetics.

For example, we had a Belgian artist who paints very existential portraits of young girls, and they’re quite disturbing, I would say. Our artists always give a talk to the guests about their work. One particular guest, she was an ex-headmistress of a school in England hated this work; she thought the world isn’t like this, it is a happy place. Two hours later, having had this long talk with the artist and a group of other people, she changed her mind, stating that the work was amazing.

So, for me, it’s the transformation that’s interesting. That woman came with all kinds of prejudices and ideas, and she was turned around within two hours. If you can exploit that power to turn around people’s perspectives on all kinds of things to do with sustainability, with wilderness, about how you preserve landscapes, then I think we’re doing a good job.”