Revisiting Our Homes
Over these last few months life has come to a halt and our perception of our surroundings has somehow changed. The absence of some things has turned our attention to others, and aspects and details of our lives which were previously in the “background” have now taken on more prominent roles.
Our homes – their ventilation, spatial organization, orientation – have been more important than ever before. During that first phase of lockdown, for example, when we could hardly go out at all, the natural light entering (or not entering…) our homes became a crucial issue for many of us. For those living in less favourably oriented houses or apartments, the arrival of a direct beam of sunlight was one of the highlights of the day. And so we’ve seen neighbours standing on their balconies and singers posting photos of themselves lying on the floor “sunbathing”. The feel of sunlight on our faces became a luxury that money couldn’t buy. The thing is, domestic space – which has constituted the backdrop to video chats, life on the balcony, photos posted on social media – has been more public than ever during lockdown. Social networks – that “second” public space – also encouraged us to talk about our personal thoughts and experiences, and made us aware that they were shared by others.
If light has been one major consideration, “open” air has been another. Having big windows, or better still a balcony, a roof terrace, or a garden, was a privilege. For many, the balcony became a “rediscovered” space. We’ve seen neighbours “go out for a walk” on their balcony, pacing from one end of it to the other. And we’ve also seen how tiny balconies have been turned into places for meditation, breakfast, work, and meetings.
For the first time, we’ve actually noticed our neighbours, because we’ve been scrutinising everything that can be seen from our own homes. For many, the applause for health workers at 20.00 each day was a five-minute exercise in observation: the couple on the terrace, the neighbour who shouts when he’s talking on the phone, the lady who always comes out to applaud from the same tiny little window…
And so, for a few months, we all realised the importance of quality architecture, architecture capable of taking into account everything that has to be designed in order to lead a worthy, comfortable life. But we also put into practice a perceived need to “recycle” domestic spaces. We had to adapt. Living rooms became offices, school classrooms, gyms, cinemas, virtual pubs, and Saturday night restaurants. Corridors became race circuits for the toddlers, while kitchens and bathrooms offered alternative spaces that could be used when it was necessary just to “be alone”.
As Proust said, “The only true voyage of discovery is not to visit strange lands but to look with new eyes”. In the end, immobility took us on a journey that was anything but boring, a voyage on which we had to focus more than ever before on the most essential aspect of architecture, rediscovering and evaluating our homes and how we build them.