Synchronising Creativity III. [Pandemic edition – Work distancing]

Bringing Specialised Management Skills into Architecture Bureaus III. [Pandemic edition – Work distancing]


Things we left pending

The health alarm was declared just as we were preparing this post on our daily routines and on how we manage to synchronise a group entity made up of different individuals. Everything has now changed, so it should be remembered that what follows will always be the ‘pre-COVID Zuloark Creative Routines‘ chart.


“Creative routines at Zuloark”. Diagram showing the standard 24h timetable of Zuloark members in the shared economic structure better known as Matrioska. This chart was drawn up as a familiarisation and coordination activity at the last Zulo-Congress. It is based on research by Mason Currey into the daily routines of famous creative figures.

Fortunately, however, the economic disaster which this studio, like all other businesses, experienced as a result of COVID-19 caught us with everything already prepared in terms of distributed organizing and teleworking. The tools which have become familiar to so many companies and citizens over the last few months already formed part of our daily activities. So now it probably doesn’t make much sense to talk about Slack, G-Suite, Everhour or whether we prefer Zoom to Jitsi.

Classic “Batman slaps Robin” meme.

Now that we find ourselves in this uncertain, oxymoronic state of “new normal”, we’d like to know what’s going to change apart from shopping centres with one way aisles and beaches with dividing screens; and, in particular, whether this is the definitive chance to rethink our work spaces and, by extension, our lives.


The new reality

In Classical Rome, “otium” (leisure time) was valued as a treasure to which citizens devoted most of their waking hours. The rest of their time, spent on matters other than simply enjoying life, was logically called “negotium” (non-leisure). From then up until the invention of the office in the middle of the 19th century, the paradigm was completely reversed.

What kind of curse is it to have developed a system in which millions of workers have to make journeys twice a day to spend the best eight hours of the day locked up with other co-workers (co-workers with whom by the end of their lives they’ll have spent more time than with their loved ones) in alienating environments with proven potential to cause distraction and inefficiency?

In the present situation, it would of course be tempting to argue against people returning to their offices and to agree that the architecture that’s been altering our cities for the last two hundred years has become obsolete in 3 months (and that doesn’t mean to say it wasn’t obsolete before COVID). It would be tempting to argue for the mass implementation of teleworking and measures to facilitate work-life balance.

And yet, despite all the above, the pandemic has served to reaffirm our love of offices. Yes, it really has! Because shared workspace is the place where everything crystallises. Human beings need to interact physically for the “magic of the unexpected” to occur. There are things that can only be transmitted face-to-face and can’t be done by video conference. If there are some of us who want to go back to the office in spite of all the inconveniences and the bad things, it’s because all the hustle and bustle, the work desks, the shared space, and even the time lost also have their benefits.

“Creative routines at Zuloark”. Chart breaking down and describing the 24h of each member of Zuloark, as a coordination and communication tool. This document is based on research by Mason Currey into the daily routines of famous creative figures. During lockdown, permanently open digital meeting rooms were habilitated, with “work” and “break” times. Also, shared virtual meetings continued to be held as previously. These included a “General Meeting” every Tuesday at 9.30h and the “Zuloschool” on Fridays at 12h.

Moving less but seeing each other better 

On the other hand, in our opinion the ideal thing would be to very carefully choose when to come together physically with other people and plan in advance how to make the most of that time spent together. Physical presence should be valued almost as if it were a luxury. Other work activity would be a mixture of digital encounters. Virtual interaction needs to be encouraged and promoted, raising awareness of the benefits of teleworking in terms of carbon footprint, work-life balance, and enjoyment of life.

Related links:

Text translated by Andrew V. Taylor
Zuloark es una oficina abierta y distribuida de arquitectura y urbanismo fundada en 2001. Tiene sedes activas en Madrid, Coruña, Berlín y Bologna. Su trabajo en los campos del Urbanismo y Participación, Arquitectura y Construcción, Docencia y Académico, Diseño y Comunidades Digitales, Creación de Eventos y Producción Cultural.

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