Return­ing to Work

March 2020

After spend­ing years and years on my own, writ­ing a PhD and look­ing after chil­dren, house, dog and cats, I am work­ing in a team again. It is fan­tas­tic but it does bruise my pri­vate bub­ble almost hourly.

First of all, the idea that you have to know every­thing is super­seded. Let alone that you do know any­thing. Hav­ing been out of prac­tice for almost 15 years (apart from small con­ver­sions and bath­rooms and the like), I notice that prac­tice has evolved. There are many more con­sul­tants and the archi­tect is much kinder to the client. When I worked in prac­tice (it may have been the offices I worked in), we would nev­er use ref­er­ence images: that would mean that we were sug­gest­ing some­thing that exist­ed already. Now we use them all the time. This is much kinder to the client, who is not asked to take a leap of faith, but who is prop­er­ly informed about what they can expect.

These may be issues that exist­ed in prac­tice before. There are two things that make it hard to return: first of all, to under­stand there has been a cul­tur­al shift form with work col­leagues. Sec­ond it is hard to gauge what has changed and what has stayed the same. For exam­ple talks about struc­ture and build­ing process­es have not changed as much as I thought. Where­as the admin side for organ­is­ing files, draw­ings and their links have changed con­sid­er­ably. I find myself over­con­fi­dent and capa­ble one moment, to be utter­ly despair­ing the next. 

I dis­cussed this with a friend, a for­mer edi­tor at a well-known glossy mag­a­zine. She said she would nev­er want to get back into her old work envi­ron­ment: every­one will be so much more on the ball, so much quick­er. Solu­tions you would not think about for a minute now cost hours. She set up on her own. Tak­ing her time. 

Mus­ings on a Kitchen Island
Through the Plug-hole

January 2016

The kitchen island rep­re­sents on the one hand a great love for cook­ing, gath­er­ing and eat­ing. In the pri­vate envi­ron­ment its per­fec­tion lends some cachet to the home and there­fore its own­ers, per­haps, a sense of con­trol. How­ev­er, on the oth­er hand the pris­tine clean­li­ness of the island rais­es ques­tions about its main­te­nance and the space it occupies.

It takes a good amount of clean­ing and tidy­ing up to keep up appear­ances. The big­ger the island, the more there is to become dirty, but also the more space it occu­pies; as much as a medi­um to large sized room. Where­as this amount of stor­age space makes it eas­i­er to keep the mod­ern inte­ri­or clean and clut­ter-less, the island itself becomes pop­u­lat­ed with the clut­ter that is now out of sight. Does the island become a Pandora’s Box con­tain­ing harm­ful clut­ter and unwant­ed imper­fec­tions? Or can it be used in a more con­struc­tive manner?

The Kitchen Island and its pres­ence in the mid­dle of a room is per­haps to the 21st cen­tu­ry what the four poster bed must have been to the 17th cen­tu­ry. Both define through their pres­ence the sur­round­ing space in the room and both rep­re­sent a mix­ture of sta­tus, a need to dis­play and a prac­ti­cal use. The largest dif­fer­ence between the two is that the kitchen island is used for its exte­ri­or and the four poster bed was used for its interior. 

The writer Wal­ter Ben­jamin crit­i­cized the bour­geois indi­vid­ual in Berlin and Paris, at the turn of the 20th cen­tu­ry. This bour­geois indi­vid­ual could only relax and be con­tent, be him­self, in his own inte­ri­or among his beloved objects in which he saw him-self reflected.

Cush­ioned by his objects, and there­fore pro­tect­ed from the real world out­side his room he was, ef- fec­tive­ly, shut­ting it out. The inte­ri­or and all its nos­tal­gic objects were seen, by Ben­jamin, to keep the bour­geois indi­vid­ual cap­tive among his pos­ses­sions, pre­vent­ing him from engag­ing with the real world and its peo­ple with its prob­lems and chal­lenges. The 21st cen­tu­ry bour­geois indi­vid­ual, now per­haps part of the mid­dle class­es, inhab­its a pris­tine and clut­ter-less inte­ri­or that reflects the per­fec­tion of the life of its own­ers. Again the indi­vid­ual escapes from an engage­ment with the real world and the prob­lems fac­ing the earth and soci­ety ‑even though these enter his world on a con­tin­u­ous basis through hand­held de- vices- hid­ing all clut­ter and waste inside a kitchen island. In fact, the kitchen island grows at the expense of the world out­side it and becomes a sym­bol of out­wards per­fec­tion only.

The Work­place and Home Merge

March 2015

It was always thought that peo­ple would pre­fer to work from home. How­ev­er, it seems that the work­place is increas­ing­ly becom­ing more like a home with the col­leagues as family. 

Busi­ness trips which can be days or weeks at a time, with col­leagues, often includ­ing bond­ing activ­i­ties. Com­pa­nies such as Google, Face­book and Inno­cent Smooth­ies, cre­ate a home-like relaxed lay­out, try­ing their best to dis­tance them­selves from a tra­di­tion­al work­place envi­ron­ment. In large com­pa­nies the work­place pro­vides pilates, dry clean­ing, mas­sage, GP ser­vices, for­mer­ly asso­ci­at­ed with the home. Many have show­ers and cafes, includ­ing the abil­i­ty to make your own meals. 

Hotel chains, this has been not­ed a long time ago, cre­ate an inte­ri­or that is famil­iar, so again peo­ple feel at home away from home. As peo­ple, how­ev­er, are always away from home, what will in the end con­sti­tute the home. The home becomes a series of notions and ideas, smells per­haps, and rou­tines, many estab­lished in child­hood, but not nec­es­sar­i­ly a phys­i­cal space in which one spends one’s best moments. 

One can, of course also be away from home at home. Work at home, bring the laun­dry away, use the home as an office and have meet­ings at home. Basi­cal­ly, we can con­clude that home and work have merged? 

So why are their no spaces for the home­less­ness at night? Can’t the home­ly work­places con­tribute beds at night?