The future of shared domestic spaces

 

The Covid-19 pandemic has brought how we use our homes into sharp focus. As we spend more time than before working, socialising, exercising and resting at home, our shared spaces have taken on new functions. No longer is the kitchen only a place to cook or eat – it may now be where at least one member of the family conducts their daily online meetings. This means that many of us have had to think about how our shared, domestic spaces can accommodate more aspects of our daily lives.

RISE Design Studio casa plywood London

Reinventing the workspace

Working from home has been a journey of discovery for many of us and it looks to be here to stay, at least in the short to medium term. Although time is saved on the non-existent commute, the experiences of remote working in 2020 have been psychologically and socially challenging. Online meetings enable regular contact with colleagues, yet this method of communication has been found to lead to feelings of isolation, anxiety and disconnection from others.

As many of us continue to work from home, it may help to think about how to adapt our domestic working spaces to address some of these issues. Like in the office, sitting in one place all day can cause health issues (bad posture, etc.), and too much clutter can create a ‘fuzzy’ mind when focussing on difficult tasks. A good chair that gives an optimal sitting position is crucial, as is a desk at the correct height, in a well-lit, clear space.

Bringing the outdoors indoors

With the outside world ‘off limits’ or presenting a threat to those most vulnerable, it has become crucial to incorporate more nature into our homes. With a boom in gardening among those with access to a garden or other outdoor space, integrating living plants into our homes has become more popular. Although hygiene is key, our personal living spaces still need to be physically enriching and remind us that the natural world still exists ‘out there’.

Testing architectural and design assumptions

The recent situation has also challenged how we use public spaces. As government requirements mean more ventilation and regular cleaning regimes, those places that are more modern, with transparent architecture and interior design, may have an easier road ahead. This is not dissimilar to the reasons behind the development of modernist hospital architecture in the early 1900s to combat widespread tuberculosis.

It has been predicted that the way in which we design our homes is likely to change. Instead of browsing showrooms, most purchases are now made online. The development of online consultation services and the use of simple digital planning tools is becoming more widespread, and some companies are even bringing materials to people’s homes for them to test, rather than requiring them to come to a showroom.

At the end of the day, spending endless time in our homes may have brought us down to earth somewhat. We have had to focus on what works and what doesn’t, as well as what our priorities and design choices really are. Perhaps we have also discovered some simple pleasures about our home that we hadn’t noticed before. What we learned about our homes during 2020 will be crucial for planning ahead to the ‘new normal’ and how to maximise our enjoyment of time at home in the future.

The legendary Richard Rogers retires

 

A few weeks ago, Richard Rogers retired from architectural practice. One of the UK’s top architects, this marks the end of an illustrious career portfolio which includes the striking, modern landmarks of the Lloyd’s building and the O2 arena in London. In this post, we look back at some of his key works and what these meant for architectural practice more broadly.

Richard Rogers Madrid airport

Born in Italy, Rogers moved to the UK as a young child. As he grew up, his architectural skills were honed at a range of institutions, including the Architectural Association School of Architecture in London and Yale School of Architecture in the USA. At the latter, he met fellow student Norman Foster, with whom he set up an architectural practice with in England in the 1960s.

Early projects

In the late-1960s, Rogers was commissioned to design a glass cube house in Essex, framed with I-beams. This modernist, hi-tech style continued in subsequent works into the 1970s, including the use of standardised components to make energy-efficient buildings.

Perhaps most well-known at this time was his design of the Pompidou Centre in Paris, which he developed with Italian architect Renzo Piano. The unique way in which the services for this building (water, heating, etc.) are located on the exterior allows the internal spaces to remian free from clutter. Although the building attracted widespread shock among Parisians when it was built, it is generally a widely-loved Parisian landmark today.

The Lloyd’s Building in London, which Rogers designed in the 1980s, was also subject to some controversy. Again, the building’s services, including lifts, staircases and water pipes, are on the outside of the structure, leaving open space inside. The building was Grade I listed in 2011 in recognition of its fame.

How cities are used

In his later career, Rogers devoted a lot of his attention to sustainability and the ways cities are used. He became quite vocal in political discussions about urbanism, setting up the Urban Task Force at the request of the UK government in the late 1990s to identify causes of urban decline and set out a vision for the future. The task force wrote a white paper, ‘Towards an Urban Renaissance’, which set out more than 100 recommendations for future city designers.

In the early 2000s, Rogers continued to work closely with government, advising mayors of London and Barcelona on urban design strategies.

His later works

Alongside his political engagements, Rogers created additional works that were, like his earlier works, simultaneously popular and criticised. Of particular note was his design of the then Millennium Dome (now the O2 arena), which received widespread criticism in the run-up to the new millenium due to its cost.

The ‘inside-out’ works of Richard Rogers remain icnonic to members of the public and architects alike. The way his designs strive for uncluttered, well-lit internal spaces has provided inspiration in our work and we wish him all the best in his retirement.

Drones and architecture

 

Drones (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, or UAVs) are being used more and more for a range of purposes, from surveying and mapping, to delivering Amazon parcels to remote communities. For architects, there are many exciting possibilities. Drones offer immense potential for capturing images and data about a building or site. They also offer us a new point of perspective and the ability to save the time otherwise needed to send in a team of surveyors to navigate complex terrain.

Drones and architecture RISE Design Studio

Capturing data and optimising design

Drones have become an incredibly useful surveying tool. They are small and generally easy to manoeuvre, making it easy to access parts of a site that might otherwise be unsafe/challenging to access on foot. A drone can be used to provide close-up footage of any potentially unsafe structures, sent back to the architect in real time during the flight.

Drones can also assist with mapping work. Although it is very common to use satellite imagery for site planning, the quality of the images can often be too low and not yield enough data to work with. Images and data collected from drone flights are generally very high quality and can be used to create accurate 3D models of the site in familiar software programs.

Flying safely and legally

It is the responsibility of drone owners to fly their drone safely and within the law. This includes keeping the drone in sight and below 400ft and not flying too close to airports, over congested areas or within 50m of a person. It is also important to ensure that any images obtained by the drone do not break privacy laws. The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has created a ‘Drone Code’ which sets out the rules for all drone users.

Using a drone in the UK for commercial purposes requires permission from the CAA. Commercial drone users are required to attend an accredited course that will ensure they can operate a drone safely.

At RISE, we are always eager to implement the latest technologies and to better our practice with the tools that are available to us. We have used drones in the past in order to gain better visual access to difficult sites, especially in larger projects, and for photographing completed work from the unique angle only drones can offer.

Showcasing work and looking to the future

Not only is a drone immensely helpful in the design stage, it can also be a real asset when showcasing completed projects. Drones can carry very powerful cameras which can take footage of the completed work and how it fits into its surroundings. The footage can be used to compile engaging and impressive photography and films of the architect’s work.

Looking forwards, drones are likely to be here to stay and there are many exciting opportunities for architects who use them. There are examples of drones being used to carry materials into sites (light materials, at this stage), and using heat-sensing/infrared technology to monitor the real-time effects of a project on the surrounding environment. Some architects even dream of using drones to build a building, but this is perhaps a while away yet!

How will architecture adapt to Covid-19 and beyond?

 

The global Covid-19 pandemic has created a new world for all of us. While the fight against the virus continues, we are all learning to adjust to life in a socially-distanced society. How we move through our cities, towns and villages has changed, and we have had to refamiliarise ourselves with adapted indoor and outdoor spaces. What will these changes mean for the design of housing, work spaces and placemaking in the future? We think there will be some key changes that architects will need to respond to.

RISE Design Studio architecture and Covid-19

Seeing our homes in new ways

Even those of us who have always loved spending time in our homes will feel, after many weeks of lockdown, overly familiar with our own living space. Bedrooms have become the office or the home gym, kitchen tables have become the home school, and the quiet space that was once a reading nook may now be overrun by all members of the family seeking that rare moment of solitude.

As we contemplate the reality of more time in our home in the weeks and months to come, we are valuing our homes more than ever before and thinking about how to maximise the space. Storage has become more important as we appreciate the simplicity and order of life at home while the world outside seems increasingly complex. What was originally a temporary workspace may become a permanent feature and this presents an opportunity to create a soulful space that inspires creativity and productivity.

Even the tiniest bit of outdoor space has provided a huge boost for those lucky enough to have some. For those without, sunrooms or spaces with good quality natural light for urban farming provide a welcome alternative.

Perhaps the most important question is about how we delineate the spaces in our home that we use to rest, eat and play from those in which we now work. How can smaller spaces be used to perform these multiple roles but still allow a separation of home and work life? The creative solutions need to flow.

The importance of our local surroundings and supply chains

The pandemic has made us all acutely more aware of our local surroundings and what effect these can have on our health and wellbeing. Encouraged to walk, run and cycle close to home, we have become very familiar with our local streets, paths and parks, perhaps much more than we could have ever imagined.

As many of us continue to spend more time at home during the working week, there is an opportunity to implement energy-efficient standards, and push for faster decarbonisation of heating systems to ensure the carbon footprint of the home is reduced and energy costs are manageable.

New developments will need to adopt strong placemaking principles likely walkability to local social infrastructure. This will be crucial to ensure that local businesses can be accessed quickly and safely, particularly as home workers are likely to make these sorts of trips more regularly than in the past.

The longer we spend without regular social contact, the more important our greenspaces become for our mental and physical wellbeing. There is a need to embed these spaces in our local communities and look after them for the years to come.

Adaptable and healthy cities

Perhaps most striking has been the decline of the use of cars in our cities. Streets have been left empty and air pollution levels have dropped significantly. As people are converted into ‘full-time pedestrians and cyclists’, the benefits of making streets safer for those of us not in vehicles couldn’t be more apparent.

There is likely to be a greater focus on health in city planning and development. For example, in Singapore, therapeutic gardens have been built into public parks, and in Tokyo citizens are working with urban designers to create more greenspace in their neighbourhoods to improve their health.

Across the world, architects have been working hard to identify and adapt buildings and other spaces into temporary health care facilities. The pandemic has highlighted the need for fast design and build projects, which has made the use of modular construction – buildings assembled using prefabricated modules – more common.

Perhaps most exciting is the growth in the adaptive reuse approach to design. Using existing structures to serve new purposes, this is a real opportunity to use a sustainable and efficient approach to upgrading our living environments in this new world.

Christo & Jeanne Claude

 

Christo and Jeanne Claude RISE Design Studio

“The work of art is a scream of freedom.”
– Christo

It is with both joy and a tang of sadness that we present this post today. With joy because of the incredible work that the couple carried out; a lifetime of art full of brightness. And sadness because, now that they are both gone, it has left us wondering – who will fill their void? Who will be as inventive, as playful, and as daring?

Christos and Jeanne Claude’s wrapping of landmarks was a breath of fresh air. An idea both monumental and ephemeral which never failed to trigger a sense of awe. The work was particularly powerful because it went beyond talking about itself to talk about us.

It talked about us and our monuments and buildings, putting in perspective our place in history and our scale in the world. It made us realise that we are not gods, that we come and go and that our creations are only a little sturdier than we are. Like Christos said on one occasion: “We believe that nothing exists that is forever, not even the dinosaurs; if well maintained, it could remain for four to five thousand years, (…) that is definitely not forever.”

There is a great relief in the realisation that, however long our temples or bridges have been standing there, it is comparatively little when regarded in cosmic time. The gift wrapping of these awe-inspiring monuments made them objects again; and us, children. The lightness that comes with knowing that there are much bigger things than ourselves, that we are relatively insignificant in the grand scheme of things is a burden taken off humanity’s shoulders.

Christo and Jeanne Claude changed our cities and our landscapes, covering them up to show them in a new light. They made us think about the world we live in and the world we build in a quiet way that harnessed so much power. Perhaps unsurprisingly, many never got to see their art in person – some of the installations lasted weeks; others, only days. But the playful way in which they wrapped the world and let people walk on water remains documented for everyone to be inspired. For us, as architects, it is an immense gift that has allowed us to think about our own creations in a completely new light.

Sketchbook Chronicles N.005

 

RISE Design Studio Birch Clay Refugio

– RISE on Houzz: how to work remotely like a pro.
– Springtime means colour! – Architecture interiors and garments.
– Prefab Architecture: do-it-yourself kits and modular buildings.
– 3D-Prints: Foster + Partners printed steel truss.
– Social Distancing in style.

You can read the full version of the Sketchbook Chronicles issue N.005 here.

Our top tips to thrive working from home

 

Who knew that working from home could be quite pleasant? Here are our top tips to make it so.

RISE Design Studio working from home reduced

1. If you don’t have space… make space!

Re-arranging a room to fit a desk in the corner, or using that awkward recess in the corridor for setting up a little working space can make wonders to our wellbeing. Did you know that our minds stay calmer and more focused when we assign a specific task to each space?

In other words: eating in bed? Bad idea… Using the kitchen counter as your office? Turns out, not ideal either! Instead, we can get creative by separating the counter in two with a makeshift partition, or temporarily set up the dining table as an office desk while moving family meals to the kitchen.

2. Clean space, clear mind

We know… easier said than done, right? But tidying up is an effort worth making, as it has a huge influence on our mental health as explained by this article by UCLA professionals.

3. Stay connected

It is very important to stay in touch with others even if we are physically apart.
Pay attention to small interactions too. It is easy to make contact about big issues but, with the distance, we lose the little exchanges that are so crucial to our social brains. In order to avoid “losing touch” in this way, embrace communication regardless of the weight of the matter… even if it is to reach out to a colleague or loved one and ask “how’s it going?”.

4. Indulge a little

Cooking a new recipe or working while listening to Bossa Nova can transport us to places that are off-limits for the time being. Finding the energy to change things up a bit brings a lot of rewards, including a more positive attitude and a more productive state of mind!

5. Take advantage of the situation

Remember those days when you woke up wishing you could just stay at home all day and do nothing?

Oh well… now is the time to do all those things we wanted to do but never had the time to. Our best advice is to start a personal project to take your mind off things and have something exciting to look forward too. In our case, it is all about renovating homes! Spending so much time inside has led a lot of clients to finally tackle all those things they wanted to change about their homes.

Until the next time! And remember, stay safe, stay active, and stay positive.

The RIBA House of the Year winner 2019: House Lessans

 

A bow to simplicity and values rooted in maternal landscapes, House Lessans is the winner of the RIBA House of the Year 2019 award.

RISE House Lessans copyright Aidan McGrath

When we think of contemporary architecture and high-quality design, we often picture modern trends, futuristic looks, and scary budgets. House Lessans reminds us that those preconceptions are just aesthetic preferences. High-quality contemporary architecture is characterised by adhering to larger values that are present throughout our society: acknowledgement of the delicate nature of the environment, an effort to utilise new technologies to drive tangible progress instead of for their own sake, or a shift from admiring grand appearances to appreciating quality.

House Lessans encompasses all of these contemporary values. It does so with a simple and tasteful exterior that nods at the typologies of the setting. The reference to the barns scattered around the Northern Irish landscape is apparent at first glance, and it fits in seamlessly with the subtle design decisions that habilitate a domestic program within the three-building complex. The budget is modest, but in no way compromises the end result.

The interior, equally subdued and graceful, focuses on atmospheric over shock value. The grey blockwork, white plaster, and timber flooring palette is reminiscent of misty farming fields without being literal, and the outdoors is ever-present through the use of natural light and the careful detailing of windows that bring the grassy landscape to the very edge of the rooms.

Looking at the project, it is a pleasure to admire the compositional skills of architect McGonigle McGrath. The result is a monument to architectural language; a true achievement of the art of making and curating.

Image ©  Aidan McGrath

Sketchbook Chronicles N.003

 

– Architecture with a social spin: an initiative for a school in Guatemala from Architecture Sans Frontieres.
– The ancient craft of hand-blown cylinder glass.
– Natural materials for the future: environmentally friendly engineered wood and hempcrete introducing hemp to traditional concrete techniques.
– Goldsmith Street: a new direction for social housing.

You can read the full version of the Sketchbook Chronicles issue N.003 here.