View all blog posts

Dwelling at home

Isolation | Luke Tozer

Thursday 16 April 2020

My home has changed. The physical structure is the same, but the way I’m living in it is different. There are four of us here now, all the time. I’m sharing the space with my wife and two boys (12 and 14). We used to come and go with relative independence except for meal times. Now we’re constantly in, in the same house.

Dwelling at home

The home used to be a place of solace, a place to return to after a hard day’s work. It was a refuge from the outside world and a busy life. A place to relax. It has adapted to be a place of work, a playground and sometimes an indoor (mini) basketball court.

I had always appreciated and savoured the divide between studio and home, despite the short physical difference and commute (for years a seven minute walk and now a seven minute cycle), even before the lock down. It allowed me to ‘switch off’ when coming home. If there was collaborative work to be done, it was in the studio. When I returned home there was a different mental space to think about work in a different way. Or not at all. The work/ play spatial divide has gone and frankly I miss it. Now the separation has gone and in its absence there is a temporal fluidity.

Dwelling at home

The only fixed routine stamped into each day is the 7-8am online cycle with friends over a virtual landscape on Zwift (online computer cycling app), whilst chatting or panting, depending on the ride, on a group Zoom meeting. Some friends are in garages, some in living rooms, some in their gardens, some are on balconies in locations from Bath to Yorkshire to Dubai. All over and done before the rest of the house wakes up and has breakfast and before the team meetings to start the work day.

The mezzanine has finally become the home studio it was designed to be almost 13 years after building completed and we moved in. For all that time it it has been more of a store and a place to pile letters, bills and admin to take care of when time allowed. Now it’s where I spend most of my day. Even the bike on its turbo trainer is up here. But as it’s part of the open plan living kitchen dining room I can hear and smell the comings and goings when someone makes a drink or bakes something in the oven.

The small courtyard garden below me has become the place of contemplation, a place to sit while in a long meeting, with the video and microphone turned off. Hearing the birds and watching the spring buds turn, to leaves and into flowers has been a daily pleasure. It’s looking as though will be plenty of peaches this year.

Dwelling at home

Is the nature of the home changed by the new way we are living in lockdown? Probably not long term, but when sat here, sketching out flat plans, it’s a reminder to me of the importance of regulations covering space standards, external amenity spaces and of designated spaces for home working. I can’t help but feel deeply sorry for the occupants of those office to resi conversions of recent years, with no minimum space standards or requirement to provide outside space. How much harder this time together must be for them. In a post lock down era our house designs need to be robust enough and better designed to adapt to, and allow for extended periods of full occupation. The maison minimum needs another rethink.

I look forward to life when we’re able to move around more again and spend less time at home. But for now I think I can smell cookies…..?

Luke Tozer words and photos
The Architecture Club member