Faced with the lock down imposed on all to counter the spread of the Covid-19 virus, many architects had to adapt their practice and their working method to this new rhythm of life. AA’s “Locked down” series gives them a voice, by questioning their vision of the situation – but also their cultural recommendations. Today, we are travelling to New York to meet Sara Schuster, architect and partner STUDIOS Architecture.
L’Achitecture d’Aujourd’hui: Where are you confined and how are your organised to keep your work/activity going?
Sara Schuster: My husband and I are both working remotely and caring for our two small children within our apartment in Queens. Their routine has been dramatically upended, and as they are used to our undivided attention for ‘family’ time, it is a challenge to watch the stress they endure when both parents are on simultaneous video conferences. There is no longer a dedicated work day, rather moments of concentration that occur in between preparing meals, naptime and late at night.
Confinement and Architecture, are they mutually exclusive?
When your home becomes a place of business and a school overnight, you must consider how space can best support multiple functions. A conference room and art studio now co-exist within our dining space. On a practical level, technology allows us to remain connected to colleagues and design collaboration continues. As an international practice we are well-versed in projects progressing forward via video conference and shared documents. With the entire world forced to work differently, I believe the tools will evolve and improve at a faster pace.
What lessons do you think you will draw from the ecological impact of this crisis?
For the short-term, I look to our home and our footprint of personal waste; for my children, there is only a world with multiple bins – for trash, recyclables, compost. There is not enough distance to fully evaluate the greater ecological impact. I am overwhelmed to think of the empty office buildings across the river in Manhattan, and the resources being drawn to accommodate the technology still alive within the buildings, whilst the offices sit idle.
A film to watch or a book to read during confinement ?
There has been limited time to indulge in entertainment; although I have been reading a variety of cookbooks for both practical purposes and pleasure! Frequently opened this week : Ottolenghi, My Kitchen Year by Ruth Reichl and the Ovenly cookbook. In the evening, my husband will turn on a documentary and I promptly fall asleep, most recently to Manufacturer Landscapes.
An account to follow on social media?
On Instagram @christinatosi a NY-based pastry chef with a daily “bake club” show that coincides with my children’s naptime; @worldeconomicforum, who is producing short-cut videos highlighting how our lives are globally connected.
What do you hope to gain from this experience?
To continue to pause amongst chaos and be thankful for small moments that bring joy. This experience has highlighted that our personal and professional lives are entwined in ways that we don’t often acknowledge. Colleagues and clients know the names and behaivours of family and pets, beyond what we would typically share anecdotally.
What impact has the confinement had on your perception of your workplace, and of your home?
Having spent several years overseas, removing the personal connections within the workplace – that allow you to see the breadth of the community outside of your day-to-day pursuits – is a challenge to replicate in the digital environment. Communication, that would normally occur organically, is scheduled and can feel very sterile. Collaboration thrives with the casual conversations.
We have stayed in the city for access to public green spaces and cultural institutions – it feels superfluous but I have mourned the lack of private outdoor space at our home.