Salmon Creek Farm

In the 60s and 70s, thousands of young people in California migrated from cities into remote desert areas looking to create new kinds of communities founded on very different values from conventional society e.g. new ideas of sex and love, experimental religious models, a desire to be close to nature, a rejection of capitalist life, etc.

Many of these “hippie communes” have now been abandoned, victims of the very things they sought to reinvent — internal relations, financing and government — but a few of them still exist today (e.g. the Salmon Creek Farm), inevitably transformed from their founding ideals.

Regardless of the fate of these social experiments, they remain valuable as countercultural models of life. I couldn’t put it any better than Cal Winslow: “The most interesting and most revolutionary aspect of this all, it seems to me, was not so much the drugs, the sex, and the rock and roll, or any particulars of life on the commune (though all important in their own right), but the whole notion of creating another world — of turning the world upside down, of creating a world outside slavish devotion to the market and the shopping mall, free from economic and culturally imposed patterns of personal oppression and economic exploitation.”

Ever since I picked up an Apartamento (my favourite magazine and where I learnt about SCF), I’ve been obsessed with the interior and exterior spaces of artists and designers. I’ve sought out essays, videos and anything else I can read or watch about how some of the most intentional people in the world choose to live.

It’s easy to understand this obsession. First, my dad was an architect, and the sanctity of his drafting board is a fond memory. I love the idea of constructing houses, and I even think of my product design work as an applied, minimalist form of architecture.

Secondly, living spaces — whether personal or shared — are such a great expression of self-love. The amount of care and effort you put into making a space yours is reflected right back each time you walk back in.

Besides architecture and interior spaces though, I’m fascinated by artist communities. Whether in New York or the deserts of California, I admire people who intentionally surround themselves with other people who share their values and want to work on similar things. The quality of culture produced as a result is just amazing.

As a young Nigerian living in Lagos (like many other densely populated cities), public space is a luxury. So when I read about someone like Fritz Haeg, who lived in a dome in L.A. for a decade before purchasing an old commune, reviving it into a nature-loving community of writers, designers and artists, I can’t help but wish to experience something like that.

Lagos is suited (intentionally or not) for nuclear groups cosied together in self-imposed isolation, stacked into “estates” separated from one another by meaningless gates, completely disconnected from the natural environment and society at large. The saving grace, of course, has been the internet, but even that has changed significantly. Blogs, forums and other public community spaces have mostly been replaced by private messaging groups. Social media has taken over public conversation and gotten too crowded for comfort. There’s a lot of room to improve these virtual spaces and create more time to be with others, but it requires a lot of effort.

What I want now — inspired by places like Salmon Creek Farm — is to experience a ready-made living community, maybe not as extreme as a desert commune, but at least made up of artists working together, inspiring one another and cultivating their natural environment.

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