Now you’ve got time for those personal projects

Words:
Pamela Buxton

It’s only week 2 of the Covid-19 lockdown, and for many time is hanging heavy. We talk to five architects who are making the best of the extra time

Stuck at home during the lockdown, we all – potentially at least – have a bit more time for those personal projects that we never quite get around to in normal times. If ever there was a time for that book you always meant to write, this is it. Then there’s that art project you’d love to explore, or those home improvements that always get bumped to next year. Below, we talk to architects about the creative pet projects that will be occupying their spare time in the coming weeks and months.

  • Sketch by Piers Taylor of the home education building project he will be carrying out in collaboration with his children.
    Sketch by Piers Taylor of the home education building project he will be carrying out in collaboration with his children.
  • Sketch by Piers Taylor of the building home education building  project he will be carrying out in collaboration with his children.
    Sketch by Piers Taylor of the building home education building project he will be carrying out in collaboration with his children.
12

Piers Taylor, founder of Invisible Studio:  Home education and home improvements

We’ve always worked relatively remotely so the practice is carrying on as normal in many ways. But I have about 35% more time on my hands because we’re doing all meetings and site visits remotely now as well.

I’ve got three school-age children who’ll be around so I’ve been thinking about what we can do to keep them busy and get them outside. So the plan is to design a new outside shower and kitchen with them as part of their education.

We’ve built with kids professionally, but haven’t done any building projects with our own children formally before. My 17 year old daughter is very keen on carpentry and building and had wanted to apprentice to a local timber company this summer in any case. The little one definitely enjoys architecture. But my 15 year old is more interested in abstract political systems. We’ll be using softwood from our own woodland.

We’ll also be taking the opportunity to scaffold our house – Moonshine – and completely redo the facade and roof since our understanding of building performance has moved on a lot since we built it 15 years ago.  Also, we have no idea what’s around the corner, so it makes sense to make our house more energy-efficient so we can be more self-sufficient.


 

  • Sam Jacob is planning to use any extra spare time on a variety of creativity projects including his series of over-painted oil paintings, with the working title of Blind Spot.
    Sam Jacob is planning to use any extra spare time on a variety of creativity projects including his series of over-painted oil paintings, with the working title of Blind Spot.
  • Blind Spot 2 – In this series, Sam Jacob adds geometric shapes to romantic landscape scenes.
    Blind Spot 2 – In this series, Sam Jacob adds geometric shapes to romantic landscape scenes.
  • Blind Spot 3
    Blind Spot 3
  • Blind spot 4
    Blind spot 4
  • World of Interiors – World of Interiors globe project in progress (left) and complete (right), by Sam Jacob
    World of Interiors – World of Interiors globe project in progress (left) and complete (right), by Sam Jacob
  • World of Interiors – World of Interiors globe project in progress (left) and complete (right), by Sam Jacob
    World of Interiors – World of Interiors globe project in progress (left) and complete (right), by Sam Jacob
123456

Sam Jacob, director at Sam Jacob Studio: Art projects

As well as work, I've got quite a few things on the go for the foreseeable future. It’s the perfect time to get on with a huge A0 version of the plan drawings that were shown at my Empire of Ice Cream exhibition at the Betts Gallery last year.

I’ve also got a painting project to work on – the working title is Blind Spot. I’ve bought a load of cheap oil paintings off eBay that I’m painting over. The painting are clichéd romantic landscapes – often, but not always by amateur artists – and I’m painting black rectangles and triangles onto them in oils. The shapes are partly governed by how they fit into the pictorial space, maybe nestling in the forest or the mountains for example, and are also defined by where they are in relation to the frame. I think of it as 2001-meets-Superstudio-meets-John Baldessari. I’ve got 10 canvasses ready to do.

Today I’m going to turn a globe I’ve had lying around for ages into a piece called World of Interiors, with room plans arranged all over it. And there’s another project I’ve been meaning to do for ages – I’m going to turn a bent steel chair into a garden sprinkler by slicing open the tubular steel, inserting a bit of plumbing, adding a nozzle, and seeing how that goes.

And I’m hoping I’ll have time to finally play a video game I’ve had for ages called The Last of Us – it’s about the world after a virus pandemic…


 

  • Townscape mosque drawing by Shahed Saleem in the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. Museum number E.1046-2019.
    Townscape mosque drawing by Shahed Saleem in the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. Museum number E.1046-2019.
  • Drawing from Shahed Saleem’s sketchbook in the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. Museum number E.1048-2019.
    Drawing from Shahed Saleem’s sketchbook in the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. Museum number E.1048-2019.
  • Plywood painting, one of a number that Shahed Saleem is planning to make over the next few months.
    Plywood painting, one of a number that Shahed Saleem is planning to make over the next few months.
  • Abstract object drawing from one of Shahed Saleem’s sketchbooks.
    Abstract object drawing from one of Shahed Saleem’s sketchbooks.
1234

Shahed Saleem, director at Makespace Architects and studio leader at the Faculty of Architecture and the Built Environment at the University of Westminster: Painting, cataloguing and photography

I have a sporadic painting project that I’m hoping to have more time for, making paintings based on sketchbook drawings – some of which are related to my architectural projects. These are fairly abstract paintings using acrylic paints on plywood.

A couple of my sketchbooks were acquired last year by the Victoria & Albert Museum. I am hoping I will finally be able to help cataloguing them with a description of each page. One relates to my architectural projects including a number of new mosques and the other is a visual record of places I’ve visited.

I’ve also got two photography projects that I’ve been meaning to do for a while. I’m scanning in some very old slides from the 1950s and 60s that my mum shot in London and during the time she was in New York training as a doctor, which capture that time very well. I’m not sure what gems might emerge from those. And I also want to develop a stack of my undeveloped black and white films that have been piling up since I got back into photographing with film a few years ago.

Alongside home schooling, I'm not sure I'll get it all done!

Sketch of the day
Sketch of the day Credit: Angela Brady

Angela Brady, co-founder Brady Mallalieu Architects: Painting, exhibition

I think staying positive, despite the chaos in some parts, will get us through these difficult times. 

Being creative is a great way for me to relax. For the past few years I have worked on artworks at home every Friday and I’m going to have a lot more time for this over the coming weeks. Today I am working on a portrait of Robin [Mallalieu] in acrylic – there’s no one else to paint around here – though for this one I’m using a photo. Already the house is full of art works. 

Another project I’ll have time to work on is the revival of the DiverseCity exhibition. This was a Women in Architecture project I curated as chair of Women in Architecture as part of the RIBA's Architects for Change group, which is celebrating 20 years this year. DiverseCity 2020 promotes diversity within our profession and now this year it will be a virtual exhibition on video of the work and viewpoints by diverse architects from as many as possible of the 34 cities worldwide who were part of our Global Snowball international exhibition. We have requested short videos from the people who took part between 2003 and 2010 about where we are now in terms of diversity in our profession. We also want to highlight three new rising stars and three from the original cities in the exhibition to find out where they are now. 

It is good to have time at home to think without distractions, and to spend some time everyday doing something you like to do – whether it be the DIY, gardening, making some fused glass art or painting a picture.


 

  • Screengrab from the footage for E-motion-Al City, a short film by Tszwai So for the Hong Kong pavilion of the Venice Biennale.
    Screengrab from the footage for E-motion-Al City, a short film by Tszwai So for the Hong Kong pavilion of the Venice Biennale.
  • Screengrab from the footage for E-motion-Al City a short film by Tszwai So, which follows a woman and a chid as they wonder through Hong Kong.
    Screengrab from the footage for E-motion-Al City a short film by Tszwai So, which follows a woman and a chid as they wonder through Hong Kong.
  • Screengrab from the footage for E-motion-Al City a short film by Tszwai So that explores how people interact with the city.
    Screengrab from the footage for E-motion-Al City a short film by Tszwai So that explores how people interact with the city.
123

Tszwai So, founding director, Spheron Architects: Editing a film

I am editing an art film that I have written and directed about architecture. It’s a new challenge, and I’m really enjoying the process. I find it very refreshing. For me, it takes me away from the negative associations of the outbreak because it’s a creative endeavour, and it relates to architecture.

We shot eight hours of footage in Hong Kong in February and I’m editing this down to 10 minutes, working over Skype with the videographer, Andrew Alexander Mackay. We were making it in collaboration with Hong Kong conglomerate the Chinachem Group for the Venice Biennale of Architecture 2020, which has been rescheduled to open at the end of August. So we’ve now got more time to get the edit just right.

The title is E-motion-Al City, and it relates to the Biennale theme of How will we live together?, and also to my ongoing research interest of the relationship between human emotions and the built environment. AI-controlled algorithms are already playing a much bigger role in shaping how we live – AI is spreading like a pandemic without us even noticing. The film is also influenced by psychogeography, and the idea of drifting through the city and seeing it unexpected ways. In it, we see one part of Hong Kong through the eyes of the two-year-old Cho Yu and artist UUendy Lau as they drift through the urban landscape, narrated by Herbert Wright. The key message is to consider how we interact with the city. I want to communicate how the big architecture of well-known buildings is far less relatable than that of the spaces and buildings that embody our collective memories.

When the Biennale finally happens, the film will be shown in the Hong Kong pavilion. If it doesn’t go ahead, we’ll find another way to show it. We just have to stay positive and get through this together.

Do you have a pet creative project that you can finally spend some quality time with? We hope to come back to this subject. Please email: editorial.ribaj@riba.org with creative project in the subject line. 

More on coronavirus and architecture