by Guest Contributor Pamela Ubeda
The obvious conversation in the field of residential architecture right now is: what effect will the pandemic have on the architecture of the home?
I think most people have become pretty familiar with how the pandemic has changed their existing home over the last year: working from home, home schooling, quarantining at home, not to mention make shift post office, hazmat wash down centre, home gym, home theatre. Fill in the blank and we have pretty much had to accommodate every single activity at home this past year.
I don’t know about you but my home was not designed to do this. Built over 100 years ago with 2 bedrooms and 1 bathroom coming in originally at a whopping 800 square feet, it is a living example of how our homes have changed over the last century, pandemic aside. And I’m one of the luckily ones, because my house is old school. Each room has a door!
Originally it was designed for 2-4 people to sleep, cook, bathe, relax while providing security and shelter. Despite varying sizes, this is the purpose of housing. So, in a lot of ways “home” really hadn’t changed much for centuries.
But at some point there was a shift. Houses, our ‘homes’, started to be asked to do more. Accommodate more. Be more. With the pressures of “outside life” escalating, we looked to the home as a refuge.
In the 70’s it was big recreations rooms with a pool table and bar. Then in the 90’s gym equipment became affordable and mainstream and so home gyms were added. Then in the 2000’s tvs got bigger and cheaper. In 2010’s home streaming was the next big thing and the modern home theatre with full massage recliners was invented. This was all for the good though. We created spaces in our home that made life easier, more manageable, more FUN. All of these additions were our CHOICE.
Until last year.
Choice was taken away from us.
Covid has asked a lot from us and our homes this past year. Home is now where everything and everybody is, simultaneously. Home is now, the good, bad and ugly. We are, of course, very privileged to have homes technology that can help us through this difficult time, but as this pandemic has pushed our homes to the limits it has also pushed our mental health to the limit. The one place you used to be able to count on to decompress, unwind and recharge, is now the place that is causing you stress.
Not many people are aware that the TB pandemic of the early 20th century shaped Modernism as we know it today. They believed that rehabilitation and physical health could be attained by creating homes that featured daylight, access to fresh air and sun, flat roofs and outdoor spaces like terraces and balconies.
In a similar way, I believe this pandemic has the potential to shape a new era of architecture: one that will encourage a focus on the psychological aspects of health.
So, just as I think most people have become pretty familiar with how the pandemic has changed their existing home over the last year, I think they are also going to be the experts on ‘what effect the pandemic will have on the architecture of home’. And it will be different for everyone. There is that saying: “we are all in the same storm but we are in different boats.”
As an architect my role has always been to take my cue from my client and for THEM to tell ME what their idea of home is. To take those intangible ideas of what makes them feel safe, calm, reenergized, and happy along with their wants, needs and dreams and design a house where they can feel at home.
I encourage to you take a few moments to write a list of things in your home that are currently contributing to nurturing your mental health and ones that are detracting from it. Reestablish some of the boundaries that make your house a refuge. Implement some of the ideas that are immediately achievable and make a plan for ones with which you will need help.
A lot of us aren’t in the position where we can move houses, build a new house or accommodate some of the bigger ideas we have. But I know your property and house likely have more opportunities available to you than you than you expect.
Pamela Ubeda is the principal architect at Coast + Beam Architecture.