Every month architects and industry insiders share their recommendations for the best exhibitions and events to visit in London.
In 1790, while imprisoned in Turin after a duel, French soldier Xavier de Maistre described a 42 day-long journey around his room. This May, we find ourselves in a similar though less extreme form of confinement. Over the past weeks, those of us lucky enough to be able to work remotely have established new routines and formed new habits within our domestic spaces. While our worlds may have shrunk in terms of their physical limits, they have certainly expanded virtually to encompass varying activities that we can now enjoy from the comfort of our own homes. Is this an opportunity to take a leaf out of de Maistre’s book and learn how to appreciate what is right in front of us?
From my desk, I am no longer limited to those events happening on my doorstep. Instead, I have attended architecture reviews spanning London to Singapore, Los Angeles to Bangkok. Today, proximity is determined by time zones rather than distance. It is a time where we can circumnavigate the globe while sitting still. The opening up of the traditional design crit is one of the positive architectural side effects of COVID-19. Feeling stuck in isolation as a student? Sign up for the London Schools Architecture Collective’s Peer Review. Need creative stimulus while furloughed? Participate in Sam Jacob’s Desktop Design Academy with a new brief released each week. Nostalgic for your student days? Watch the AA Spring Open Jury as students across the school present projects-in-progress around the themes: Climate, Care, Crisis; or attend the virtual 2020 INDA Parade in Thailand.
Through the window, I watch as spring unfurls before my eyes. Visible through the window of my laptop screen are lectures and conversations that engage with the current crisis and speculate on its aftermath and impact. In May, I am looking forward to Public Practice’s talk on Planning After a Pandemic and Joe Morris’ Methods of Design and Collaboration during a Crisis as part of The Architecture Foundation’s 100 Day Studio (which Unscene Architecture also participated in during Week 1 with a teaser for our postponed Public Space Crawl). I will also oscillate between watching video interviews with fashion designer Iris van Herpen and architects Dennis Crompton and Peter Cook of Archigram via the Dezeen Virtual Design Festival. Or I will go back into the AA Archives to hear Cedric Price talk about Time and the City... in 1991 before Samantha Hardingham re-contextualises this talk in 2020 as part of the new RE-Screen series.
The challenge, as the weeks go by, is to somehow stay sane in isolation. While pacing the corridor of my flat, I have found listening to walking tours, either by the artist Janet Cardiff or the ones produced by London Walks, transports me to different parts of the city across varying times in history. Of course, depending on where you are, you could walk these routes in person during the hour of government-permitted exercise but there’s something interesting about going on an audio walk through the city while indoors. Alternatively, for a lighthearted way to unwind with 6,000+ people around the world, I recommend dancing along to Ryan Heffington’s Sweatfest to keep you from climbing the walls!
While lying in bed and listening to the nightly instalments of Bedtime Stories curated by Alicia Pivaro, I scroll through different newsletters, each collecting a wealth of digital content for us to peruse at this time of reflection. The ICA Dailybrings together observations from across the art world with a selection of items to read, listen and watch alongside a soundtrack of the day. The Canadian Centre for Architecture’s weekly newsletter curates highlights from their archival holdings alongside essays and online workshops. And AA Weekly connects the Architectural Association’s curriculum, public programme, collections and news into a 7-day digest.
Amidst the uncertainty and seriousness of the current situation, one thing is for certain - the world is changing. In her recent article for the Financial Times, Arundhati Roy aptly summarises this saying, “Historically, pandemics have forced humans to break with the past and imagine their world anew. This one is no different. It is a portal, a gateway between one world and the next.” Having journeyed through my flat over the past several weeks, I have realised that the portal is ours to define, design and explore; perhaps, like Xavier de Maistre, without ever needing to set foot outside.