Upcycling buildings by empowering artists

Piera Mattioli
7 min readDec 12, 2023

What if you were given the possibility to re-imagine and paint an entire building where community is created and everyone is given the possibility to contribute?

A playground in the middle of the mountains to gather people around one shared goal: transforming a building into a piece of art by living with creativity.

This is the story of a project where 25 volunteers and artists from Palestine, Argentina, Nicaragua, Italy, Chile, Turkey, Canada, Brazil, France, Spain, Germany, Switzerland and the Netherlands have joined to contribute to the realization of the transformation.

At first I thought I am too young for this, or my work is. But then I went out and I saw different people who help each other, who take ideas from each other and share everything. They know that you can do it and they tell you that you can do it.” Altaieb — calligraphy and tattoo artist from Palestine

📝 This article aims at sharing

  • What The Art Workation Experience was about, the vision, the values, the challenge and the impact;
  • The Creative Process with a detailed overview of the methodology and the learnings, with the hope to inspire other creative and artistic projects;
  • What are the Next Steps and a call to action to engage new stakeholders and partners to continue doing impactful projects through art.

The Art Workation Experience

The project

Art Workation in Braunwald was a six-week program for artists of all levels, designed to transform the Coliving.frilingue, an old mountain hotel, into a living work of art through collaborative murals.

An inspiring and educational volunteering experience in the scenic Swiss Alps of Braunwald, designed to gather a community of diverse individuals who share an interest and passion for the arts, with the goal to give a new artistic identity to the old hotel through murals and creativity, a “fresh start”, Marcus — previous owner and citizen of Braunwald.

This project was not only about upcycling the old building, but also about empowering the artists to step out of their comfort zones, gain confidence in their works, and start dreaming of traveling around the world to share their art while connecting with other cultures.

“Now I feel much more confident and I would love to keep doing big murals, big artwork in big canvases” Matias Irreal — digital artist from Chile.

“I was far from art for a year but then when I came here I reconnected to art and started drawing again. The thing that I will take with me for my whole life is how art can connect people together.” Bayan — landscape architect from Palestine.

Values and Vision

As a service designer, working to create meaningful experiences for the users, making murals for interiors is a way to design and influence the way people will live in the space.

You can create new meanings, use colors to influence the emotions, revalorize what is already there and tell stories through art.

Just like this room, where the mountains are mirrored in the wall during the day, and in the windows at night.

As an artist and facilitator I am passionate about creating collaborative murals where everyone is contributing to imagine and create shared visions.

I truly believe that to change the world we need to start collaborating and to have conversations where everyone is taken into account, is given the possibility to have a voice and is empowered to create.

The challenge

How to bring all the art expressions together in one seamless artistic experience?

Orchestrating the imagination of diverse individuals coming from different cultures (including visually), and giving tools and guidance to those who are willing to challenge themselves with their first mural, has been extremely exciting and challenging at the same time.

🔎👇🏾 If you are curious to read about the creative process I recommend you to continue reading about the overall methodology process, the brainstorm done to start imagining a new building and the learnings.

👀 👉🏾 If you are a visual person experience it in Miro https://miro.com/app/board/uXjVMV1kIJE=/

⏬ Otherwise continue scrolling to read about conclusions.

Creative Process

The Overall Methodology Process

First, you need to create a concept to guide the story creation and empower the people within the team to express creatively and imagine new worlds.

The first week the team was asked to experience the space and reflect on their feelings and emotions: which places needed more love? How would have they liked to experience the place? What visuals could they imagine?

💬 To start creating and capturing those visions the team was guided into an ideation journey (brainstorm) over several days:

  • Self portrait to lose the fear of drawing and present themselves;
  • Hotel exploration + drawing and imagination to find key graphic elements that could inspire the creation of a shared language and start sketching ideas of murals and art;
  • Graphic synthesis and visualization of ideas to collect all the ideas in one story;
  • Natural walk to bring the nature within the Coliving;
  • Mind mapping with key concepts to explore meanings and find patterns;
  • Mood board + concept title and description to elaborate and communicate the idea;
  • Drawing and digital sketch to start visualizing murals on the walls;
  • Creation! The start of the journey will set the principles that will guide the development of the transformation and that will be used to bring all the artistic expressions together (e.g. color palette, graphic style).

Learnings about the process

Inspired by agile methodologies we have done weekly retros to reflect on learnings and improvement points (I like, I wish, I wonder).

👁️💡 Meaning and creation

  • Work as a team towards a shared goal;
  • Have a session in advance with your key stakeholders to understand history, brand identity, future vision and target audience;
  • Don’t wait too much to start creating: you need to have a concept to start visualizing a new place, but it is by living the transformation that you understand how to continue.

🫶 Empower artists

  • Elaborate on each other’s ideas and give recognition for ideas;
  • Everyone can be an artist and create! Reinforce the fact that all the ideas are valuable and empower your participants to create.

🎨 Development

  • Guide people into an imagination journey (explore meanings, concepts, history, culture, communication around the place, branding);
  • Empower people to create;
  • Build trust;
  • Create community engagement;
  • Adopt an agile methodology: weekly planning, weekly retros and check-in moments;
  • Clearly communicate the schedule, every week and every night before the next day;
  • Organize the paint through an accurate color description on top of cans and glasses;
  • Engage community members and people that live the place in the creation, through continuous check-in moments and questions.

What is next?

When transformation happens what is reframed has the energy of a new beginning.

With this project we have started a new artistic journey with the dream to scale up this approach to other places, to other buildings, to other countries and communities.

💡 If you have an idea

🏡 If you have a place you want to upcycle

🎨 If you have an artistic experience you want to create

🚀 We are looking for our next opportunity to transform the world while transforming people! Reach out to mpieramattioli@gmail.com

“El impacto lo ves en los ojos de las personas”

A special thanks to all of those who made this possible 💜

Carla, Andrea, Sameh, Yazan, Maria, Shadi, Altaieb, Alex, Freddy, Sophie, Shan Shan, Nour, Bayan, Areej, Mohammad Abu Rmilah, Rachel, Ragad, Shams, Orla, Lorea, Mohammad Ali, Michele, Pamela, Moaad, Halit, Dumiana, Matias, Eliza, Philipp, Benny, Patricia, Stephan



Piera Mattioli

Independent Service designer , Facilitator and Visual Storyteller