To be slow is not just to decrease the pace of life. It’s about taking the time to reconsider our actions and think more deeply and responsibly about how we live. It’s about consuming less and better, aware of the social, environmental and systemic impact of our choices. It’s been more than 30 years now since Carlo Petrini protested against a fast-food chain opening in Rome’s Piazza di Spagna, sparking the creation of the global slow movement, which has since expanded into a cultural revolution across many disciplines, from urbanism to media to the world of design.
We count ourselves as part of this movement, drawing inspiration from an intellectual and literary lineage that’s as deep as it is wide. “There has always been a parallel track for contesting the notion that faster is better—a countercurrent for slow,” wrote Carl Honore in his 2004 book, In Praise of Slow. “Thoreau going to Walden pond, Nietzsche talking about too much speed, Bertrand Russell, the hippies.” Slowness, in the words of the Netherlands-based Slow Research Lab, also signifies “an expanded terrain of individual and collective potential that brings balance to the pace at which we encounter the world.”
Slow has been quietly unfolding since the creation in 2016 of La Granja Ibiza, a working farmstead devoted to discourse around food. As we worked to regenerate the soil, expand the farm, build a cultural program and push the boundaries of what a hotel can be, it soon became clear that La Granja was the beginning of something bigger. We began to assemble a community of designers, farmers, writers, artists, artisans and architects whose work engages with slowness and related concepts such as deceleration, sanctuary and decay toward a resetting of values in hospitality and beyond. We reflect a range of different backgrounds, passions and areas of expertise, but as a collective, we share a set of common values and compatible sensibilities. This is what brings us together on this journey.
We build and nourish a network of locally rooted Places that offer a deeper, more conscious form of travel—not a “pit stop” away from the hectic pace of daily life but a continuous journey of reconnection, of learning to live in harmony with nature, our shared human heritage, our community and ourselves. We take a localized, conscientious approach to every element of the design, working with sustainable, native materials whenever possible toward the creation of integrated aesthetic environments designed to enrich physical, mental and psycho-social wellbeing. Through year-round and seasonal cultural programming, we cultivate arts, crops and inner gardens, with each place taking a central discursive focus. Tulum Treehouse centers on the pre-Hispanic craft and culinary traditions of the Yucatan, while Herdade do Meco taps into the surrounding biodiversity of Portugal’s Arrabida Coast to explore wellness and regenerative agriculture.
The practices across all of our Places are supported by our Roads program, an ongoing series of thematic retreats and inquiries around the world aimed at recapturing connectedness to the natural world and to each other. Slowness is where the world of Slow comes alive through original reportage, sound, poetry, art, illustration, film and other forms of digital storytelling.
We draw inspiration from idealistic collectives of the past, like the 1920s experimental Catskills retreat Yama Farms, the legendary avant-garde incubator Black Mountain College, or the iconic German art school, the Bauhaus, all of whom looked to traditional cultures and crafts as they dreamed up wildly innovative new forms. We want to capture the spirit of Isabelle Eberhardt’s remarkable wanderings through the Maghreb and Freya Stark’s travels with a donkey through an Arabian winter. When the time comes to travel again, we yearn for an older, slower way of moving through the world.
Yet we look toward the future, to new sustainable technologies and design methods, to novel ideas and audacious dreams. We want to be outdoors, to nourish ourselves on what Thoreau called “the tonic of wildness,” and to live evermore in the moment so that we can inhabit an existence that’s “more elastic, more starry, more immortal.” Or, in the words of Rachel Carson, the mother of the green movement:
“One way to open your eyes is to ask yourself, ‘What if I had never seen this before? What if I knew I would never see it again?’”
More specifically, our story starts not in Rome but in Southern Germany, where a new movement in hospitality had captured the imagination of Slow co-founder Claus Sendlinger around the same time that Petrini was staging his protest. In the late-1980s, Ian Schrager of Studio 54 fame commissioned the designer Phillippe Starck to create the interiors of the Royalton and Paramount hotels, effectively kicking off the boutique hotel movement and inspiring a then-20-something Sendlinger to transform his small upstart event agency into the influential brand Design Hotels.
Over the following decades, Design Hotels grew to help drive and define the hospitality industry, increasingly prizing localism, originality and cultural specificity. Yet after the dual shocks of 9/11 and the 2008 financial crisis, it was clear that the old rules of consumption no longer applied. Initiatives like Made by Originals, which focused on the unique personality and vision behind each hotel, and the Future Forum, a roving, forward-looking conference that would evolve into the innovative annual Arena* summit, left their mark on the global travel industry. Beginning with Papaya Playa Project in Tulum, the world’s first pop-up resort, and San Giorgio Hotel in Mykonos, Design Hotels Projects experimented with new models of hospitality—truly alternative, sustainable spaces away from the crush of urban living—ultimately leading to the creation in 2016 of La Granja Ibiza, a working farmstead devoted to discourse around food. It soon became clear that La Granja was the beginning of something bigger.
The practices across all of our places are supported by our Roads program, an ongoing series of thematic retreats and inquiries around the world that explore slowness as a way to recapture connectedness to the natural world and to each other. Our magazine Slowness is where the world of Slow comes alive through original reportage, sound, poetry, art, illustration, film and other forms of digital storytelling.
Slowness, in the words of the Slow Research Lab, a Netherlands-based collective of designers, architects, artists, ecologists, technologists, and activists that’s been mining the philosophical depths of the slow movement, also signifies “an expanded terrain of individual and collective potential that brings balance to the pace at which we encounter the world.”