The next stop on our journey through Alpine Utopias takes us back up to the airy climate of the Alps to visit Cloud Citadel: a coworking and coliving community situated in the heart of Briançon, one of the four traditional alpine villages in the Serre Chevalier valley. Cloud Citadel was founded by Joé and Jelena, two millennials from France and Bosnia. It is located in an old house in Briançon, bought in 2019 and restored by the founders. Today, the team is composed of the two founders and two volunteers. The idea behind Cloud Citadel is to create a functional community that supports its members to find a healthy balance between “what they have to do” and “what they want to do”. Nature is never far away and members can readily access the surrounding alpine forest to help quiet their minds. In practical terms, Cloud Citadel operates on the principle of “from each according to their abilities, to each based on their goals” — all the members are encouraged to bring their skills and expertise to help support the professional growth and personal development of one another.
The remote working haven Cloud Citadel aims to be a model of cosmopolitanism in the French Alps: visitors and members hail from all across the world, with English designated as the official language of the commune. The two most important events of the week are The Monday Family Meeting and The Saturday Family Dinner. During the latter, new visitors are given a little presentation to introduce them to the community before everyone plans their social and outdoor activities for the week ahead. Everyone can suggest an activity and is free to join or not. According to the founders, “this approach empowers co-livers and places them at the center of the community”. The building itself encourages cultural exchange due its intimate setting and design, formerly used as the residence of the military governor of Briançon when it was built in 1823. It has private rooms and dormitories, a large kitchen, a large relaxation area and full coworking facilities. The venue can accommodate up to a dozen guests in an intimate setting, with a mininum stay of one week to ensure a certain level of engagement and embedding within the community.
Community life and new encounters are at the heart of the Cloud Citadel project in the French Alps. As the founders Joé and Jelena explain: “We both believe that the more you expose yourself to different experiences and ideas, the more you are enriched. We hope that this initiative will help foster experience sharing, creativity and social interaction around us”. Skill shares and “masterminds” are a central feature of life at the commune — learning directly from individuals with expertise in a particular area, skill or topic. Usually in remote working spaces, the focus might be more on professional development, but Cloud Citadel encourages the exchange of broad and esoteric knowledge amongst its members. Did you ever want to have an epidemiologist explain to you how the coronavirus vaccines work? A creative technologist teach you how to program a flying donuts game? Or attend a lecture on contemporary Kurdish feminist movements? This is what life at Cloud Citadel aims to offer. Ultimately, Cloud Citadel demonstrates the benefits of programmes and living spaces that allow us to know one another and share expertise and passions. As they put it in their manifesto, when we share time together, we get surprised, we get smarter, we laugh, we cry, we challenge ourselves, and learn to help one another.