Khodovarikha – click any image for full size
Serene Footman, the man behind Furillen, (see here, here and here for more) and La Digue du Braek (see here) opened a further region in August 2017. Once again it is an atmospheric setting based on a location in the physical world.
Khodovarikha, a Homestead region, is modelled after the spit of land going by the same name which projects eastwards into the Pechora Sea off the coast of north-west Russia. As you might expect from this description, it is a lonely and desolate place – and such places hold an appeal with Serene. In 2015, the area was the focus of a Russian Television documentary, Arctic Limbo, and this appears to have served as Serene’s inspiration in designing the region.
Serene’s vision of Khodovarikha captures the desolate isolation of the area perfectly – and provides a magnificent reproduction of its most notable landmark: the great wooden lighthouse. This ceased operation in 1996, but played an important role in guiding the convoys bringing supplies and munitions to Russia during World War Two. Within Serene’s setting, the lighthouse is both operational and truly dominates the landscape, but otherwise closely resembles the original right down to a hole in the tower’s base.
The region itself is split into two, with a slender finger running west-to-east to the north, a narrow channel of water separating it from the larger land mass to the south, where the lighthouse resides. The landing point is towards the western end of the northern finger of land, and the easiest route around the island is clockwise, following the rough wooden board walk pointing east from the landing point. This leads visitors over sand and past ageing buildings to where a large wooden warehouse-like structure topped by the dome of a Doppler radar system faces the lighthouse across the neck of water, an old wooden bridge linking the two.
The loneliness of the island is encapsulate in the spread of the building and their generally dilapidated state. The detritus of human living – oil barrels scattered across the sand, sanding in untidy groups or part-buried, sacks of rubbish left to freeze outdoors, and the spoils of collapsed walls and bonfires – all add to the sense of isolation. This is not a place where appearance and neatness matter.
There is also a wealth of detail to be found here that further adds to the remoteness of the setting, particularly inside several of the buildings, where care has been taken to reflect the lonely lifestyle of Khodovarikha’s one full-time inhabitant, Slava, and the work involved in keeping things running – if that’s the right term. The air of untidiness around some of these work spaces perhaps offers a subtle suggestion of Slava’s one-time assistant, Ustin, moving listlessly around the scattered buildings, carrying out assigned tasks during his year-long stay, missing his family and home.
There is a gentle beauty always present in Serene’s builds, and this is certainly the case here. The overcast sky fading to a distant horizon haze, softens the setting and adds to the mystery. Looking out towards that distant horizon, it’s not too difficult to imagine the research vessel Mikhail Somov looming out of the mists on its annual visit to deliver supplies to Slava. Or, for the more imaginative mind, to see the faint, distant shadows of the wartime convoys slipping past in the distance, ghostly shadows within the grey-blue haze.
Khodovarikha is a magnificent build, reflecting its physical world namesake almost perfectly. It is hauntingly beautiful rendering of desolation and loneliness, richly echoing the RT documentary. It is a perfect destination for those who – like Slava – wish to escape the world (at least for a while). And for those who do, there are plenty of opportunities not just for exploration, but for sitting and pondering or talking, indoors and out – some of which are quite imaginatively placed for the keen-eyed.
This is a place most definitely deserving of a visit, and you can find out more on the background of the build and on Khodovarikha in general by reading Serene’s own blog post on his inspiration in designing the region, which delves into things like the meaning behind the big building with its striped radar dome and the inclusion of a half-finished Rawin Dome on the south side of the island, all of which adds further depth and context to the build.
- Khodovarikha (Porter Islands, rated: Moderate)