Michael Defuster

Michael Defuster, executive manager

“I got in touch with Castrum Peregrini for the first time in 1983, during my architectural studies in Amsterdam. The colourful people I met and the vibrant, novel like stories of lived lives there formed a rich, adventurous world that stood in strong contrast to my bleak reality of life in a student flat, my daytime job and evening courses of architecture. It fascinated me immediately and somehow I knew right away that this organisation would once be my destination. As a young adult I could sense that in the many tales that surrounded that group of people a very universal truth about life was present. It took me fifteen years from that first encounter before I got permanently involved in the organization. During that journey I developed the insight that it was a far better idea to give space to a diverse and inclusive universality instead of one that found truth in a distinct poetry only. After all my experiences this was exactly what Castrum Peregrini stood for, although many of the people involved did not realise or had forgotten.

Both literally and figuratively speaking, high above the crucible of mundane life Gisèle lived in her extraordinary studio, which was a fairy-tale in itself, just like the  surrounding rooms of the Castrum Peregrini building that spark the imagination until today. For me and for many others, Gisèle was the uncrowned queen, the thriving personality of the house: intense and light in social relations, witty, with a sharp eye for beauty in ordinary objects. She was open and interested in everything cultural and human and in possession of an abundance of positive energy. Her cosmopolitanism was a relief compared with the provincial attitudes of my surroundings. Her spirit was my guide throughout the years.

As an architect I love to set up projects, whether they are realised in concrete or in temporary artistic activities. My efforts to give a new existence to a former publishing house in exile sixty years after the end of the Second World War got a boost when Lars Ebert and Frans Damman joined me to realise that goal. We enjoy a mutual friendship bond that transcends the borders of our personal capacities. From 2009 on we successfully set out a new course based on the strengths of Castrum Peregrini.

Today I focus predominantly on our strategy to prepare this unique treasury box called Castrum Peregrini for a sustainable future as an artistic research centre, where the past, present and future communicate with each other and where ideas and plans are conceived and disseminated to make and keep our society the place we want to live in.”

Please also see Michaels reflections on the past and present of Castrum Peregrini (NL) here.