One Year at Home
This week marks one year since we last gathered in our studios. We’re grateful that our colleagues have remained safe and healthy during this time, and our appreciation goes out to all of those working on the front-line, and for the sacrifices they have made to keep us safe. This period of separation has been a challenge for us all, personally and professionally. This anniversary gives us the chance to reflect positively on what we have achieved in these twelve months, and how we’ve galvanised ourselves as a community under difficult circumstances.
A continued source of inspiration this year has been watching the construction sector adapt and meet the challenges of a national lockdown. Seeing our projects progress on-site while so much else in the world seemed to stop, is the highest form of motivation for our profession. At St Matthew’s Parish Church in Bishopbriggs, we were able to see the parishioners, masked and distanced, re-engage with their newly refurbished church; and at Birmingham Symphony Hall the first notes of music rang out in the new foyers earlier this year, a teaser before its official reopening. We can’t pretend it’s a substitute for seeing the buildings open and full of life, but they represent a glimmer of light as we emerge into a post-covid world.
Being suddenly separated, and without precedent for how to interact in a virtual environment, has been tough. However we’ve risen to the challenge, and find ourselves a year on having shared together moments of celebration, as well as a few more challenging days. In these times, we’ve found ourselves as tight-knit as though we were sitting side-by side in our studio crit space.
We’ve endeavoured to remain as sociable as possible. Our annual Christmas Party was its usual success – although we did miss our traditional breakfast rolls (and hangover cure) the next morning. We gathered throughout the year for quizzes, challenges, and one surreal cameo on Zoom from a farmyard goat. Our Monday Morning Meetings have been a constant throughout, and the speculations and topics brought to the table have provided the whole office with a healthy mental distraction. Several of these discussions have focussed on our social responsibilities, and we were able to make contributions to charities in Glasgow, Leeds, and Bangladesh – including a donation to Vise Up, a collaborative enterprise manufacturing visors for NHS workers.
There have been awards successes to celebrate too: our project at Leeds Playhouse took home the Architecture Grand Prix Prize at the 2020 Scottish Design Awards, on a night in which our Edinburgh Printmakers and Woodside Health Centre projects also won in their respective categories. This success was flattering – particularly given the competition this year – but also served as a reminder that these buildings were foremost designed to be occupied and used. Our clients have each met the challenge of the past twelve months head-on, and we wish each of them the best of luck as the begin to reopen their doors again.
For the past year, we’ve each shared a candid window into our lives outside the office, and it’s nice to think we’ve grown closer and more understanding of each other as a result. Children, pets and partners have all appeared inconspicuously in our virtual backgrounds, and it’ll be an unusual adjustment seeing our colleagues in person again, without the familiar backdrop of plants, bookshelves, and posters. Engagements, new arrivals, and milestone birthdays have all been celebrated, and we’ve shared with each other the interests, passions and hobbies that we’ve been able to nurture with a little more time on our hands.
We’ve toasted the success of our former Part-3 candidates – now architects – Raph and Christine, and the achievement of colleagues Alistair and John in gaining their RIBA Conservation Accreditation. This year also saw Natalia Burakowska, our conservation specialist, complete her MSc in Architectural Design for the Conservation of Built Heritage. Their accomplishments were all well-deserved, particularly for our Part 3 candidates, who undertook one of the most exhausting professional assessment processes in relative isolation, their peers and colleagues only being able to offer virtual support.
We can’t deny the challenges this year has brought, but nor should we downplay the achievement of our colleagues and industry peers in emerging on the other side. We’re looking forward to gathering again soon, and using the experience of this period – and the perspective it has afforded us – to chart our way through the forthcoming months and years.