Domaine de Boisbuchet: Not Your Average Design Residency

Courtesy Domaine de Boisbuchet

With a focus on slow learning and outdoor classrooms, Domaine de Boisbuchet goes above and beyond.

Alexander von Vegesack, a descendant of Westphalian nobility and a collector of furniture, long dreamed of creating a space where people from around the world could come to study with preeminent designers, artists, and architects in the industry. Vegesack sold a part of his private collection to the Austrian government and in 1986 established the holy grail of nonprofit design residencies, Domaine de Boisbuchet.

He chose the setting, on a 15th-century former agricultural estate in the middle of the bucolic Charente countryside in southwestern France, because it was a place where nature would be the main source of inspiration for the works produced there. “Our idea of education is to put people in a different situation than they’re used to,” Vegesack says. “Sitting on the grass in the countryside allows you to think differently. You’re not in a classroom trying to defend your space.”

Every summer, Domaine de Boisbuchet holds some 30 weeklong workshops, with themes decided by a rotating cast of experts and materials provided by partners such as Hermès, Bernardaud, and Vitra. The classes offer a hands-on experience where participants tackle design problems alongside a group of professionals. “The idea is to become an expert in the inventive process,” says Detroit-based designer Chris Schanck, whose work has been used by architect Peter Marino. Schanck led a workshop this past summer in which students had to design an object out of organic materials partially sourced from Boisbuchet’s grounds.

Collaboration is essential to Vegesack, who plans a variety of workshops for the same week to encourage cross-disciplinary dialogue. He doesn’t insist that students be experts. The only thing he requires, along with the ability to speak English, is an open mind. boisbuchet.org

Discover more stories about how the arts are changing the world.

You can use your American Express® Card to make a donation or redeem Membership Rewards® points to support a wide range of charities that support arts, education, and many other important causes. Visit amex.justgive.org/departures to learn more. Terms apply.