The project was born in August 2007, when two professors, Sergei Medvedev from the Higher School of Economics in Moscow and Tapani Kaakkuriniemi from the University of Helsinki, organized a Summer School for 30 Russian and Finnish students in one of the most remote and wild places in Europe – Käsivarsi wilderness area in Northern Lapland, 400km behind the Arctic Circle. They stayed at the Kilpisjärvi Biological Station of the University of Helsinki, at the foot of the Saana, the sacred mountain of the Sámi people, and studied issues as diverse as the concepts of Modernity and Postmodernity, relations between Russia and Europe, and the Idea of North.
The success of the School confirmed the original idea: landscape plays a major role in education and communication. One needs to escape to the limits of civilization, into the silent beauty of the Arctic desert, to take a deeper look at the modern world; a physical escape also meant an intellectual departure. Participants brought back home photos with striking views of the tundra from the top of the Saana – but also new perspectives on the contemporary world. Since then, the Summer School has become an annual guest at the Biological Station. Its key theme has evolved into Man, Nature, and the Limits of Modernity. The study of Deep Ecology and environmental issues allows one to question the philosophical, anthropological, and economic aspects of Modernity.
In March 2009, the same idea – retreating into nature to take a different look at our civilization – was used on a different occasion. Sergei Medvedev, together with his long-term colleague Philipp Müller from the University of Erfurt, organized the Winter (or rather, the Spring) School World 2.0 in the pastoral town of Garmisch-Partenkirchen, in the Bavarian Alps, 100km south of Munich. This time, the School critically examined another aspect of Modernity, Man and Technology, and the new opportunities opened up by the advent of collaborative internet technologies – Web 2.0, wikis, social services, peer-to-peer collaboration, etc. While the Lapland School explores the opportunities for an ecological, environmentally-friendly humanity, the Alpine school entertains the idea of a collaborative, technologically-enabled humanity. Once again, the location – a remote Hotel Hausberg, mountain hotel in the outskirts of Garmisch, right on the slopes of the World Cup downhill run – was a good place to start thinking different.
In 2011, the project ventured into other aspects of Modernity, embracing new partners and locations. First, the Spring School Cittá 21: City and Society in the Post-Fordist Age took place in Catalonia in May with the support of the Barcelona Institute of Architecture (BIArch). It explored ways in which Modernity, and the discourse of power, shaped our ideas of culture and architecture, and also looked for exits from Modern city into new post-industrial urban landscape. Second, the Summer School Transformation of Modern Statehood: Sovereignty, Memory, and Democracy was held in Estonia in the beginning of June.
Both Schools were organized out of the big cities, at Can Ramonet country house in the vicinity of Barcelona and at the Kääriku Sports Center of the University of Tartu, respectively. They followed the founding principle of the whole project: escaping from the Modern civilization, retreating from the city, the usual seat of power and education, listening to nature, and learning from the landscape.
Currently, the Schools in Estonia and in Lapland are running annually in February and in August, respectively. New Schools are also being planned to take place in other locations in the near future.
Photos by Aygul Ashrafullina (Lappi'12) and Polina Zakharenko (Lappi'10 and '08).