The importance of home – by Lois Lawn

April 2, 2020

During what appears to be one of the most bleak episodes in our recent global history, the importance of home has never mattered so much. Our homes are no longer places just for eating, sleeping and playing, for most they are now our places of work, our social epicentres, our schools, our gyms, our restaurants, our parks and our only place to keep us and our immediate family safe.

We have been asked to #stayathome to keep our NHS workers safe and limit the spread of the Coronavirus. Though reluctant to say I joked in the initial outbreak in China, ““Corona” virus, is that with lime or without?”. It seems inappropriate now as we look at an ever increasing death toll across our country. Our friends contracting the disease, our Royalty and Government, vulnerable adults at risk, not being able to socialise with our friends and extended family members.

So how are we all going to stay sane in this season of lockdown? Being confined to four walls for most of the day? Yes we can have a daily walk/run/cycle at present, but for the other 23 hours of the day. How do we cope?

Home is now at the forefront of our minds.

Personally, I have three children, a husband (working from home full time) and my own part time working hours to juggle as an Urban Designer. Our home is a 1930’s 4 bed semi in Hampshire. We are blessed to have a garden, a climbing frame (which has never seen so much use) and a lovely Magnolia tree.

However, I know of friends whom live in more cramped conditions, juggling two partners working and having to entertain small children in a first floor flat. For those who suffer with claustrophobia, this must be unbearable.

Working from home
Initially I had set up my laptop in our spare room and had a degree of calm whilst my husband manned the children and I could skype conference call in peace, but now I am wired into the router downstairs in the front room, providing a nice outlook, but nevertheless my “work station” was on show when I’m not “at” work in the evenings, when we’re trying to relax watching the television or playing a game, I struggled to switch off. Although, now due to the Community on the world wide web in our local vicinity, I was able to pick up a 10m long ethernet cable from a friends doorstep (on my daily walk), disinfect it and use it the very next day, so I am now back in our spare room, with a precariously located cable running the length of the house…now I can see the magnolia tree again…

House and Home      
First life, then spaces, then buildings - the other way around never works.   Jan Gehl

One of the roles of an Urban Designer is to design spaces; spaces for life; spaces between buildings; the spaces we’re currently not allowed to inhabit under lockdown. The principles of urban design, providing gardens, communities coming together at safe 2m distances across a fence, streets of residents applauding the NHS. Once this pandemic is over, we will appreciate so much more the spaces in which we inhabit.

One of the many roles of an Architect is to design buildings, (please see our website for wonderful examples) design houses, and create a home is a collaboration between designer and home owner. We can design great spaces, but it’s going to be filled with your belongings, your pets, your family, your life and most importantly, you. Cities, Towns, Neighbourhoods, Streets, Buildings, all these matter to us (it’s our job) and what matters on a micro scale is home. Home (amongst all the other issues we are facing) matters to you and to me. Being in a safe, calm, warm environment is needed right now, more than ever. First, life, as Gehl reminds us.

You know your home the best. So you know how best you can stay sane from inside it, with children’s school work spilling out over the kitchen table, the dilemma of what is priority number one with a deadline and a teething toddler, whether there’s simple solutions that mean rearranging your furniture in the short term to integrate work spaces, (borrowing a long cable) or creating an allotment garden to grow your own vegetables, encourages us to really look at the spaces we have in our homes and what uses we can find. Getting your home to work for you in this season is up to you (and maybe your children if you can bribe them).

Mental Wellbeing
I believe that having an attitude of gratitude (#attitudeofgratitute) is paramount to staying sane in this time in our homes. Having a positive outlook when the News, Twitter and Facebook feeds are making you feel less so. Focusing the mind on what you have, and not what you haven’t is key to being content. Here’s ten things I’m thankful for, for working from home.

  • I am thankful I have a home to work in.
  • I am thankful I have food to eat, (even if pasta was in short supply).
  • I am thankful for the sunshine.
  • I am thankful I have running water and a flushing toilet.
  • I am thankful I have breath in my lungs.
  • I am thankful for the NHS.
  • I am thankful for electricity.
  • I am thankful for Community.
  • I am thankful for colleagues I can message and converse with daily.
  • I am thankful for technology.

What are yours?

Keep calm and carry on
The whole of ADAM Architecture is working from their homes at present. We have the capabilities (thanks to our wonderful IT/CAD team) to carry on providing the same level of service, however limiting face to face meetings, and site visits, other than in the virtual sense. So lets try and enjoy home until we’re allowed back into our offices. Perhaps we’ll be even more thankful for our daily commutes after this pandemic.

By Lois Lawn, Urban Designer at ADAM Architecture, April 2020