Cultural Innovation: A Community Talk with Architect Todd Saunders

August 24, 2023

Design and architecture can be used to stimulate innovation and give centuries-old knowledge, traditions, and culture an economic foundation.

In early June, Todd Saunders, the Newfoundland-born, Norway-based architect behind Fogo Island Inn and the four artist studios on Fogo Island, hosted a talk for community members and visitors at Shorefast’s historic Orange Lodge building.  

Tracing the trajectory of his career, Todd provided context and advice for people at the beginning of their careers and offered his thoughts on the future of architecture – citing his belief in a hybrid approach that mixes different elements together, with the caveat that “You make great architecture when you know a place.”   

Originally tasked with a mandate to build Fogo Island Inn as demonstrative of “what has been learned from 400 years of clinging to this rock,” Todd shared insights alongside Shorefast CEO & Founder and Fogo Island Inn Innkeeper, Zita Cobb, about how leaning into the specificity of a place can be the very way that we connect the local economy to the global market.  

“Culture is a living thing. If it doesn’t innovate it dies,” Zita remarked. Through cultural innovation we can find ways to illuminate the specificity of our place and carry it forward in ways that support dignified and meaningful employment, and a greater sense of belonging.  

The following is an excerpt from a conversation between Zita Cobb and Todd Saunders on the 10th anniversary of Fogo Island Inn, shortly after the on-island community event.