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Fogo Island Sparks Social Innovation


Canada is the largest land mass in the world. While about half of Canadians live in the 50 most populated municipalities, the remaining half reside in the country’s smaller, rural communities. With a large decline of populations leaving these areas for the big city, there has been a strong sense of urgency to foster a revitalization effort in these regions.


Last year, I had the pleasure of traveling to one of these communities located at edge of Canada. Fogo Island, is a town in transition. Located off the coast of Newfoundland, it was not an easy trek to get to. I had to take two plane, a car and a boat to get to Fogo Island Inn, an modern icon making it’s architectural mark internationally.


And the woman who is making this happen is Zita Cobb. For those who don’t know who she is, in a nut shell she was born and raised on Fogo Island. She left, graduated from university, moved to America and made a fortune in the tech industry and now she is back with a goal of revitalizating its declining economy with a focus on nature and culture.


Todd Saunders has been instrumental in developing a new vernacular language to the island with the intent of bringing creatives to the town with his artist-in-resident structures. Squish Studio, Tower Studio, Long Studio and Bridge Studio have been featured in numerous magazines bringing attention to a new form of landscape architecture in the rural setting.


Paralleling the urban setting, new developments in rural areas have to benefit the local community and create a bridge between the land and the narrative of it’s residents. Exploration, reinvention and the intersection of economy and culture come together to create a catalyst for revitalization and sustainable development. Instead of looking at rural Canada as a source for feeding the urban domain, we should look deeper and see them as the foundation of future social innovation.

All photos by Richelle Sibolboro.

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