Miranda Webster, Glasgow-based architect, tutor and co-founder of Missing in Architecture, describes her new home / work daily routine as she works from a roof space bedroom filled with lego and toys.
My work-from-home space is in the roof space of our semi-detached house. It is also my youngest child’s bedroom, full of lego, Star Wars figures, books and random soft toys.
While by night it is a bedroom, by day it offers me a place of peace and quiet, away from the kitchen and the seemingly constant requests for food. At the top of the house, I have views, if I strain my head from the Velux windows, towards Glasgow University to the east and the Campsie hills to the west.
I have been able to set up my laptop and keep all my sketchbooks and notebooks in one place. Prior to this arrangement I was attempting to work on the dining room table but it proved impossible to concentrate and avoid the interruptions, and each mealtime it required me to pack all my stuff away.
This is much better… I only hear the muffled sounds of children squabbling from up here…
The ‘work’ I do from here seems to consist of lengthy zoom meetings with colleagues as well as pulling together information to allow for the planning of assessments to take place. I make lists, answer student emails, keep in touch with the team etc.
Working from home is new and requires a change of approach when interacting with staff and students. Students require support and understanding. All their questions about assessment require attention and reassurance. As a department we have to ensure we are sending out consistent information and that there is parity across the year groups. Interacting with staff also requires a change of approach. Being able to delegate and not pile yourself with loads of tasks is important. The sharing of duties allows us to act like a team. It all takes longer than usual.
We established Missing in Architecture (MiA) on International Women’s Day 2018, as a group of like-minded colleagues working within the Mackintosh School of Architecture at Glasgow School of Art.
Having this as a framework for support in what we do has offered the group a confidence to challenge the status quo, coordinate collaborations and identify key areas of the profession and education that we think are ‘missing’. Working from home has allowed these conversations to continue and in fact grow, as we are not getting caught up in some of the institutional bureaucracy that takes up so much time during a ‘normal’ academic year.
Working from home allows everyday life to creep into the way that you work and this has allowed an evaluation of what we do, which in turn helps you prioritise the important stuff and bring into focus what it is that really interests us. I would be lost without MiA and our daily text contact!! It’s offered us a chance to think about future projects, collaborations, articles to read, re-designing a curriculum, strengthening our identity and connecting to more people.
The biggest challenge for me during this time has been the anxiety I feel over what my kids are up to and what they make of all of this – on the one hand, using this time to get ahead of the curve and dive into making, reading and loads of learning, on the other to totally relax and find out how to fill absolute boredom with something they are passionate about.
My partner and I share the home school classroom and it’s worked pretty well so far… Our ambitions are being lowered by the day. It’s a good day if children have managed to brush their teeth.
This time has definitely brought us closer together as a family and made us think how lucky we are to live where we do and to be fit and healthy. We keep in touch through WhatsApp with other family members and have FaceTime sessions regularly.
Zoom has been the new technology to master and could well be the tool of the future with online teaching. We are currently trying to work out a format for an online panel discussion showcasing final year student work. Working out a way to draw and “Teach + Learn” through the pencil again would be good.
Through all this, being able to stay positive and invest in looking forward to new times, new ways of doing, learning, connecting and being.
Miranda Webster is an architect and tutor at the Mackintosh School of Architecture and also co-founder of Missing in Architecture, a platform for research and collaboration between architects, educators, students, local communities, councils and everyone in between. We want to promote creativity, action and equality within the profession and we are interested in filling the gaps in architecture that we care about.