By creative Agents Ralston & Bau together with Linda Hovland
The most empathic act to perform in a home is to welcome strangers to stay. A visitor sleeping in a strangers home and the host letting its spare room are challenging the proxemic zones normally respected between people that have never met before.
The Ideal Lab’ scenarios are defined by the local community where the theme is implemented. In Dale and Flekke, two villages in the municipality of Fjaler, there are a lack of hospitality facilities. While habitants in Fjaler are known to pitching in and host visitors privately when big events are being organised locally, there were no organised hosting network available to uninitiated stranger passing by.
In Empathic Home theme, Ralston & Bau researched the needs and desires for organising the empty beds in the villages so they could be available and known to anyone visiting the area. Locals known to have empty rooms and being open to receive were personally invited to start up a local B&B network. In the meetings that followed, several issues relevant to hosting were discussed. The fact to get paid for something most normally did as a courtesy to a friend or neighbour, made many uncomfortable. To always have to be available and say yes to anyone asking, was another factor that frightened potential network hosts. Even if receiving visitors as a favour, it was clear that if a network was going to work, the hosts had to get paid for preparing and cleaning the rooms.
The social network Airbnb has become world widely used as a platform to make private hosting available professionally. It handles all the practical issues of planning and payment for for a small fee. Airbnb was chosen as a tool for communicating and renting the local hosting possibilities. In that way, anyone not initiated to the local networks would find the home listed in the area.
Two of the host families in Fjaler were chosen to get extra follow up in making their spaces available to receiving visitors: Berit and Hallvard Senneset and Tove and Jan Ulltang. Ralston & Bau advised them how to optimise their interior rooms and give them identity. Before the summer 2013 both families were up and running. After one year being operational, they had received many spontaneous visitors from different nationalities.
The Senneset family are today making their B&B activity professionally in a family house they are renovating and the Ulltangs have extended their hosting to letting, not only their basement flat, but also their whole house. When letting their house they enjoy the adventure of living themselves in a Camping car. These families have become local ambassadors and examples, a modest start to a more sustainable local hosting network.