Isolation | Margarita Boulaki
Monday 4 May 2020
There have been long discussions over the years, and even more in the days before the lockdown about our profession being collaborative and based on everyday interaction and how it is close to impossible for architects to work from home – or from anywhere else for this matter. And then, as we were all forced to do so, and work-from-home became our new reality, the rhetoric changed; all practices are relaying the same message ‘we are all set, up and running, doing business as usual’. Are we though?
In terms of clients related issues, projects development and the general extroversion of any practice, yes, we are. Maybe we are even more focused and productive.
Looking within the practices though, I think we are far from ‘usual’ having swapped our offices for the living room or spare room…
As architects, we have a double role when it comes to office spaces: we are the designers but also the occupiers of our own buildings. As such, we’ve put much thought on the way workplaces should be, recently prioritising above all the wellbeing and productivity of employees which led us to rethink how to design office spaces and how to elevate ‘secondary areas’ such as circulation spaces, break out areas or tea points. This resulted in creating a diverse working environment: lounges with a mix of seating options, terraces and rooftops, quiet zones for reflection, solo seating, collaborations spaces, stairs that incorporate seating, and many other shared amenity spaces – what we call the third spaces. The third spaces in the public realm are the areas other than where we work or live, all the in-between spaces. But this applies to buildings too, and as occupants of our own buildings we come to experience what these spaces we create actually mean: it’s where impromptu social interaction happens, where colleagues become friends, where informal conversations flow, where ideas are born – it’s where all the fun happens really.
Coming to the current work-from-home period, everything changed – or maybe just moved: files moved to the cloud, face-to-face interaction moved to the inbox and meetings moved to online conference rooms. So the question arises: where can we possibly move these third spaces, that now stand empty in our office buildings? How can we possibly re-create or digitalize the essence, the purpose of these spaces? What could replace this casual interaction that was generated mainly by the coincidental, physical presence of two or more people at the same space?
We are stepping into a new era where almost everything is changing dramatically and fast. And where our approach as designers is also changing. What however cannot change – at least not as fast – is our human nature: social, collaborative, communicative, physical. This is why I look forward to meeting and interacting again, in the corridor, the stairs, the terrace.
Margarita Boulaki words
The Architecture Club member
James Jones & Gareth Gardner photos