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Isolation | Jo Bacon

Tuesday 5 May 2020

Some years ago, I sat next to a Scot, whose introduction to conversation was “So where do you belong?” This kind man, who had only once in his life left the Moidart on the west coast of Scotland, was not asking a philosophical existential question. However, his local Scottish turn of phrase made me wonder where my place was.


Years later, in lockdown I am fortunate to be at home, in West Dorset. This is the place from which we adventure, find enlightenment, entertainment and most importantly seek work that we can be passionate about.

In normal times, I commute weekly to London to spend time with my second family: those who work in our studios. I never doubt that it is a place I want to be, but I also know that after four or five days of intensity, I shall be pleased to take the slow South West train home and review the progress of the courgettes.

In lockdown I have realised how much the making of and toiling in a garden has given me roots here. Although the next village is where I happily spent holidays with my cousins in the 1970’s, and I now attend the funerals of my parents’ generation, it is in the making of this place that has made it easy to stay within these walls.


Since March 20th, I have left the property only to walk footpaths and lanes, but otherwise have been, in a car, to shop less than once a week. We are foraging food from the freezer, the veg patch and the hedgerows.

This is an excessively lucky place to be and to belong. In this crisis my husband has been working with charities feeding those less fortunate (for instance and daily the news rightly focuses on those who have no place, who are misplaced by the crisis or who find themselves unhappy in their homes. I am delighted that our own pro-bono, tiny planning application for Winter Comfort progresses, which will provide better facilities for the homeless in Cambridge.

Placemaking may have become too hackneyed a term in our industry, but the importance of making places that people can belong to with pride will remain front and centre of our thoughts in the months to come.

Our studio family is made up of 30 nationalities many of whom, while they have homes in this country in order to work, are not at home. They are distanced with family and friends elsewhere - there is distress in separation. Some are making the very best of constrained conditions because homes have become smaller and, for many, the pressure of working and living in small spaces is taking its toll. I hope for a return to studio life not only for the survival of a business but also to recreate that sense of contributing to something bigger than each individual; a good reason for congregating and for that sense of belonging.

Meanwhile I am growing lots of food and hoping to bring bags of lettuce, courgettes and apples to share with the studios later in the summer…

Jo Bacon
words and photo's
The Architecture Club member