Vladimir Djurović : Montenegro project

Montenegro project … like being at home … bringing together people that touch and inspire … a foundation … wild pomegranate … following the goats … the right place to build a house

To bring those special energies together, that’s number one in the Montenegro project. And what is set also for sure for me, is I want people to come all year around to be there. With me, without me, I want it to be lived experience. And what people: people that touch me, I mean, that do special things in this re-awakening, in this new place we have to build, environmentally, nature wise… Anything that inspires you that they’re good people… And I have a lot of people that I love and they don’t even know it… So the first part is for those people to come together.

And then, of course, we will have the food, the farm and the sea, all this stuff should happen there, and because there is nobody eating organic food in Montenegro, food alone is one chapter. Those people coming should be eating from the land – 90% of their diet has to come from our land there. And then, in the future, after a few years, I have these other structures at the bottom, that’s where we will do this Plan B Foundation.

So, let’s say you invite David Attenborough and… Someone very special, totally different, from a different background. Nobody will pay a penny, you’re invited, it’s like you’re at home and then you leave. If you’re interested when you’re coming down – because this foundation is at the bottom of the land, at the public side; it will be us and the community – I’m gonna do one of the houses just as an open house and you can sit and give a lecture or talk, etc. And then, I have friends here in Lebanon, they do the most amazing videos you’ve ever seen; also winning awards all around the world. They go to people that had a very very difficult life and they do a 3-minute video about them and how they found joy of life again and what’s their mission now, after they went through this hardship. Very powerful videos, very short. So imagine when these people come, and capturing the essence of this very informal, not planned, not structured happening. And then you have a website or whatever so people can come and see those people at that moment at that place. And they contribute this way.

And the foundation will have many more things, there’s a big program for it. For that to happen, I brought Salim and I told him when I’m 60, the company has to run without me a little bit, because I need to spend a lot of time and be in Montenegro, feel it and see it.

And we’re working, I’ve told you, all these years with Aga Khan Foundation and Gulbenkian Foundation now – very special relation with all of them, the president, all the board members, 50 year old building project; timeless, incredible project. And the foundation nurtures it in a way that’s spectacular. So imagine inviting them, the board members, they do this quarterly meetings: come one time and be alone in Montenegro and do it. And one day I will ask one of them, show me, help me make a foundation, because I have no idea how should we set up a foundation, what do we need… But then, you have somebody driving it.

The symbol of the project now is the wild pomegranate. I want to rewire the whole area and plant thousands of these trees and what grows around with them.

All the people in Montenegro will tell you “sok od nara” (wild pomegranate juice) is the most powerful drink you’ve ever seen: you squeeze the wild pomegranate and if you drink this much in the morning (half to 1 dcl) every day, no cancer. In Montenegro, I’m going to make this drink, everyone that comes will take a bottle with him, “sok od nara”.

So this wilderness is everything to me now. Why now? If I connect the story to Wadi Rum, it’s because it’s untouched by men. And Wadi Rum got me. I realised the damage we are doing everywhere and the power of something that is virgin somehow. Pomegranate for me now became a symbol of the project. And now I keep discovering more and more that this is linked to what I’m doing at work: it feeds the work. Because there, now I’m proposing these things in a way. So it’s all like somehow it’s all coming together. Look, what really disappoints us with clients, it’s you always have to compromise somewhere. So you prevent the big vision. They do 60–70%, they never go all the way like you want. Because they have other interests. Like, no, Vladimir, this is a university, we need to do this, we need to do this, we have women coming with heels, we cannot have natural grounds, who’s gonna clean it if it rains? They don’t see the benefits, for example, of the rain soaking… Without buildings, you just let the ground soak, yes, a bit of maintenance, but zero costs, zero whatever. But at the end, you always end up compromising. I realised that in the end, if I want zero compromises, and I want to do what I feel should be done, it has to be our project, not the client’s, I’m the client.

The goats are designing the Montenegro project. I walk all of the walkways, and to discover the place, I follow the goats. And they show you the way to go everywhere.

We have a contractor who’s very very conservative and old-fashioned, and very beyond basic… And Rafi would marry him… He’s so… He built the whole project. I came and I saw the wood ceiling he made, I said I wanted to meet the carpenter, where’s the carpenter? He looked at me and said what, what do you mean carpenter? I said the man who makes the wood. He said, “I made it”. I said who built the floor, the stone floor? “I did the floor”, he said. Who did… I did it. Who’s doing…? I’m doing it. Everything him! He’s amazing. But old old old-fashioned, and you know, everything by hand, everything is simple, basic, nothing can go wrong, and if it goes wrong, it is very easy to fix, there’s nothing sophisticated.

And do you know how the Montenegrins decide where to build a house? When they find the land they want to build their house on and live on, they walk around it for a long time, with the sheep, with the animals, whatever, and then they do two things. They discover where the animals like to be, and then of course, the orientation, wind, sun, etc., plus what they feel. So it’s a possibility here, or here, or here, maybe: three places where we can build our house and live our life. So OK, what do they do, where do they build the house? They bring three pieces of stone, they put one big piece of stone in every place and they leave it for a year. They come back one year later, they flip the stone, the one that has a lot of life under it, this is the one. They build the house there. The one where there is no insects, the energy is not good. And they don’t build here or here. And no machines, no nothing, look how beautiful, though. Because I remember from your childhood, sometime you move the stone… Where it’s not appropriate, you find nothing. The Montenegrins are never in a hurry, you know, we want everything tomorrow, now now now now now now now… But they take their time, without any machines, without anything. For me, it was like… The contractor keeps impressing me, this guy. First, we had his father, until 1995, and he was working with his father until 1995, when unfortunately his father passed away. And now he continues, he’s like 55, but took everything from his father and learned a lot. And that’s all he does.