Ruth Ruttimann uses the backdrop of Tenerife to craft a new kind of ‘inner travel’.
Tenerife is a surprising volcanic destination in the Canary Islands. A soaring peak at 3,718m — Mount Teide, the highest mountain in this part of the world — creates a unique ecosystem that divides the island into two climatic zones: sunny and dry in the south, and greener with more rain in the north. If one instantly feels like being on another planet, the same goes when stepping into Ruth Ruttimann’s world: a unique collection of modernist villas down the volcano’s slopes.
A philanthropist and creative maverick, Ruttimann divides her life between Switzerland and Tenerife, where she feels life is more flavourful. While visiting the neighbourhood of La Orotava a decade ago, she stumbled across a series of modernist pavilions built in the 1960s and 1970s by a visionary German: the man was, to her delight, obsessed by clean lines, minimalism and expansive views.
The neighbourhood, named Urbanisation Humboldt, has no equivalent on the island. Ruttimann acquired five large units and started stripping them back to their original structure. “Simplicity is my definition of luxury,” says Ruttimann. “Sometimes, it takes years for a painter or a musician to get to this point and master their art as if it were a simple task. Such is my goal.” Ruttimann applied this goal to the neighbourhood. She named the project Dream Living.
Ruttimann asked Christophe Fouad from Nor Architectes in Lausanne to plan the transformation: the terrain was levelled, exteriors adjusted so they looked alike and landscaping rethought to enhance circulation and clear up panoramic views. The linearity of the ensemble and the dialogue between architecture and nature proved to be striking.
The Swiss entrepreneur started gathering friends and artists to experience something different: she began with a concert, then a creative meal, then a festival. “What I am most interested in are people and especially what happens when you mix talents with local chefs and winemakers,” adds Ruttimann. The idea of Dream Living as a creative destination was set in motion. “I want to offer guests a moment they will never forget, to challenge their creative boundaries. As travelling can be an exploration of new latitudes, so can art and creativity,” she says.
Friends come from all over Europe and the only common denominator is a hedonist approach to life: the day starts with a stroll at the market with local chef Dolores (from La Cocina de Dolores) who knows all about local produce and ancient recipes. Meeting Dolores, Ruttimann had the idea to set up a series of events unearthing old island recipes. The dinners are prepared using only local produce, paired with island wines.
During my visit, in the kitchen that evening two young Swiss chefs from Conte-Goûts in Lausanne — Gabriel Serero and Julien Lerouxel — compose a unique diner in collaboration with Dolores. The result is exceptional: squid ink potato gnocchi (the volcanic soil produces unique varieties of potatoes) are served after a local variety of mackerel, much smaller than usual, and local clams called ‘lapa’ cooked with chorizo and capers.
“It is my small contribution to fighting the all-inclusive tourism industry on the island. Thousands of Germans flood the island every year and don’t even get to taste a single product from here,” says Ruttimann. The vineyards on the island are equally exceptional, protected from phylloxera by isolation (the island sits in the middle of the Atlantic); it is not uncommon to see 300-year-old braided vines tied together with dried banana peels on steep cliff sides accessible only by horseback.
After dinner, composer Mich Gerber takes us to yet another planet: with his double-bass he uses a live sampling technique to create layers of music, weaving the whole into a rich rhythmic and melodic soundscape. A one-man band that certainly sounds like a solo acoustic ‘bass orchestra’.
Ruttimann says: “I have been so lucky in life, meeting extraordinary people along the way. I wanted to give back and create a ‘dreamshot’: a place where experience would craft a new kind of inner travel. A state that allows guests to open their hearts to their surroundings, letting go of their daily routine and problems to discover their own richness and space. This is what Dream Living stands for today.”
From €900 per day to rent all the houses and villas. Four days minimum. dreamliving.ch
This article originally appeared in Billionaire's Art Issue, June 2019. To subscribe contact