• The Story Behind Bridgedale360

    I just had to leave…

    I had been walking aimlessly, as if my body just carried me along, for what seemed like forever. I still didn't know where I was heading or what was propelling me forwards. Except the reverb of that thought - I had to leave - and a name. Bridgedale360. My fist tightened around the scrap of paper on which it was written. I didn't have to open it, again, to see it. By now the name and the X that marked it on the spidery map was already etched into my mind. Instead, I looked up and wondered whether the turn in the road was starting to look - not exactly, but still - like the curve of one of the lines on the map. Like one of the spider´s legs. All roads lead to Bridgedale360? I first heard about it from a friend a few months ago and then later, overheard it in a bar. Just people talking over loud and dull pop - but I heard it for sure - and then I found this map, or it found me. I had to leave, my heart needed to believe, I had to believe.

    I picked up the pace, my heart beating out a rhythm for my legs to follow, and my right side stung. Exhaustion and fear tugged at me, and perhaps it was regret that made me look back every now and again, but this time I wasn't going to let it get the better of me. Not this time. I threw some of what was left over from my bag of dried fruits into my mouth, hoping it would hush my hunger. My feet yelled out in pain; my new boots had still not been broken in. Instead, the boots seemed bent on breaking me in. Blisters and all. My insides screamed at me in revolt.

    Suddenly I heard voices. I got cautious, a bit afraid, but my curiosity brought me closer. My ears twitched like antennae, trying to figure out where the voices came from. I stood still. There. “Bridgedale360”, I heard it. My heart rattled my ribcage. “Over there, not so far anymore.” I had to get to them. “Wait!” I think I said and cut through the row of trees, hesitantly at first, but then found myself pushing and shoving shrubs aside, until I saw them and they saw me. “Hi,” said the woman, smilingly. I gasped and smiled back and my insides kept quiet, for once.

    We were walking for days, mostly quietly. But there was a sense of unity that I had never felt before. We were all following our dreams somehow, but without really knowing what it was. Layla showed me some pictures of her family, and said that she didn’t know any longer where they were, if they were alive. Could we blame the “system crisis”? But I also felt conscience-stricken, because I saw how privileged I was. Yet, I was unhappy. But happiness does not come with abundance, I learnt it the hard way. I could not imagine myself continuing like before. I desperately needed Bridgedale360 to be more than a silly fairy tale…

    Once we started off together, everything fell into step so to speak. We moved as if we were one, people from the west, people from the east, just people...fleeing the old system and searching for that unknown place. Conversations bubbled up here and there, naturally without any haste, but then we would retreat into a silence again, as we mulled over things we had just heard, and I imagined how life was for them before in the countries where they were coming from, and how much it sounded like my own in some ways; while in others, mine was completely foreign to theirs. I remembered the things I used to enjoy, but that was in the past, I told myself, as I shook off an all too familiar sense of heaviness. Excess does that to you, somehow. But, here on this dirt road to Bridgedale360, I was just like them. Bridgedale360 was and will be the great equalizer for us all.   

    Arriving happened by surprise. We came to a stream and a little further up a girl was playing in the water, singing for herself. We came closer and when she saw us she smiled. “Ahoy there, comrades!”, she said. And she smiled and waved at us. I was surprised by the openness with which she was greeting a bunch of strangers. In the middle of nowhere! But it wasn’t in the middle of nowhere, we soon found out. Further up the stream we saw a mill and some mechanism pumping water. And then it all just opened up. Without waiting for us, the girl skipped ahead and we followed, not skipping like her, but feeling a slight hop in our own step. We exchanged glances and before we knew it, buildings and gardens and people working appeared from behind the trees. Everybody stopped to greet if only briefly, and smiled before they got back to doing what they were doing. Cows grazed past us. Even they seemed to smile.

    Our little guide, we could see, had come to a stop before the most impressive of all the buildings that we had passed. A man stood there rubbing his hands and then approached us, as if he couldn´t wait for us to get to where he stood. “Welcome,” he said, while his hands rubbed and patted our weary shoulders, ”first some rest and then I´ll show you around Bridgedale360, ok?”

  • The Woods


    “Use nature as a teacher and as a classroom.”

    - Naturakademin


    Graham, 26 years old, forester and architect

    When I was studying in school I was wondering why all subjects were taught separately from each other like if it was not about the same world. I always thought there is something more than they were teaching us in school, something that brings everything together. I lived on the edge of the town, close to the forest. While it was difficult to explain what was missing in school lessons, it was easy to feel it when I was going for long hikes in the forest on weekends. Being in the forest or by the river alone I could observe so much more than in a classroom, and moreover I could feel that I am a part of it, part of something larger where everything and everyone are interconnected. One cannot explain everything verbally, often to understand something, you need to really experience it. Think of relations, cycling or swimming. We cannot learn from the books how to do it, we need to dive in and practice it. The same is with the world and nature – to understand it you need to experience it.

    We are all constantly exposed to so much learning, but our learning is often shallow and we do not get deep insights about why the things go as they do. What is that barrier that hinders us from deepening our understanding? When I was studying architecture, I realised how much our surrounding affects our way of thinking. Apparently, living in urban environments, we always think in the frames of the social identities imposed on us - what we should do, how we should look and act, what people expect from us. Are my clothes good enough, is my smartphone modern enough? But going to nature we start to release ourselves from the social identities. Nature does not care about your social status, your school grades, how much money you earn, which relations you are in and what color your pants are. We are no longer bombarded with opinions and therefore we can see things more clearly; being outside of the social identities and all tasks of busy life, we are more free to explore other things. We finally get a chance to reflect on the information we receive daily. Reflecting and processing the information we start to discover understanding, the inner knowledge. We start to feel what is right and wrong, how everything is  interconnected in the world, understand our own life situation, how to deal with a certain problem and what our real strengths are.  Nature is a great teacher. Nature doesn’t use language and therefore we start to listen with a "different pair of ears" – with our intuition and senses. Relaxing our intellectual part, we immediately open up to take in the wholeness of the situation rather than focusing on details. We start to feel that nature and us are one.

    Expanding cities and agricultural fields over the last thousands years we, humans, started to become more and more disconnected from the natural environment and from one another. For a long time however we were still in tune with natural rhythms. Only with the industrial revolution did the humankind become convinced that we are the power of the world and we reign over nature. We have developed worldviews, religions, sciences, a way of life, that put humans in the centre and disregard nature and all other living beings. We’re the pinnacle of life, right?

    There is a great loss in all this. With the humanocentric worldview, we have decreased the number of other species and natural territories, treating nature as a resource bank; but above all, this assumed human supremacy has been a great loss for ourselves as human beings as well. We have forgotten that we are a part of a huge interconnected system, interdependent and living together. Losing this intuitive understanding we find ourselves in a state of alienation, lack of belonging, insecurity; which results in depression, psychological issues and purposeless consumption as an attempt to fill in the empty spaces.

    This all would sound pretty depressive if we did not realise our alienation from nature on time. Luckily we did. There are so many studies on ecotherapy, green rehabilitation, the positive effects of biomimicry architecture, on well-being etc. that people have started to value their connection with nature more and more, resulting in a radical shift in our culture. We are still confronted with big individual and social crises, but we are learning how to avoid additional crises, by reconnecting with our roots.

    Here in Bridgedale we tried to build everything in a way so we have the natural environment all around. You can see trees, small animals and water everywhere. Greenery and interwoven plants crawling up the building walls in fantasy shapes, intoxicating smells of vertical gardens hanging by the walls in recycled bottles, cats purring on our window shelves, flowers in vivid colours blossoming around the wooden window frames...It is part of what we call biomimicry - you see for example that the window frames are often resembling dancing, blue creeks! We also have big old forests all around so everyone can go for a walk to observe the life cycles, the unity of dead and newborn, the interconnection among all the parts.

    Learning Outcomes

    • To experience extended period of time in nature

    • To begin to perceive yourself as a part of a larger story and a part of nature

    • To get embodied experience in natural environment

    • To develop empathy to nature and non-human beings

    • To find artistic ways of expression of these concepts

The Fire CircleThe Dojo