First things first, we know you’re struggling with the current circumstances whilst in lockdown or quarantine. With universities being shut and finding yourself in this grey area of uncertainty, you might feel like you have no idea how to proceed. If your unit hasn’t already set up a Whatsapp group, weekly Zoom meeting or at least an email conversation, we get why you may be worried. Don’t be afraid to initiate things. If your tutors understand your situation in any way, they may try to put in a bit more effort to help you. If not, you will need to take matters into your own hands, and don’t be afraid to email them and stay in the know about what’s going on with deadlines and submissions.
We know nothing will compare to the atmosphere and size of a studio and the lack of resources you get presented with might not help. At this point, lockdown will mean you don’t have access to the workshop, materials or even software in some cases. Don’t fret, there’s things you can do to get around this. It won’t solve your problems 100% but we all need to learn to make do and compromise during these times. Many of you who have already got some kind of set-up, whether that’s a space in your room, a make-shift desk, it might not be fully optimised for your needs.
This period might even spark some unexpected ideas and creativity (look at our WfH design challenge for example). It’s not a bad idea to envision architecture of the future or even the impacts of this situation on the projects you are designing. Although it may be a little later in the year with final deadlines creeping up, you can always add minor additions or changes that show you are actually aware of what’s going on around you. These tips aren’t just for lockdown, they can help whenever you feel stuck, isolated and out of ideas. You could also check out some of our other similar articles like ‘Why Taking Care of Yourself in the Design World is Essential’ or ‘Guaranteed Ways to Gain Inspiration Online’.
It’s okay to be stuck
In terms of coming up with ideas or staying on top of your design work, it can be extremely difficult with the current news or your current living situation. We hope you’re all safe and have necessities. If you have little to no guidance or inspiration, it’s okay. Maybe you need to take a break for a few days and take the time to clear your mind. If you have deadlines coming up, this can be very hard, but it could be better than sitting at your desk with no ideas. You need to try give it time to get adjusted to the surroundings. Don’t beat yourself up if you’re stuck, it happens to the best of us.
Having a blank mind, no ideas or motivation can be frustrating yet common for architecture students so it’s not that different in lockdown. If you feel like you don’t know how to proceed with a project or have zero ideas, try and call up a friend, read a book or watch a movie. Anything and everything can spark the smallest idea. Try and have a specific place to keep all your weird and wonderful ideas together. Personally, I like using the Notes app on my phone or the back page of my sketchbook if it is directly related to my design. Try not to feel the pressure of constantly being productive because it doesn’t work that way in reality. If you think about it, being stuck is completely normal and happens even when we aren’t working from home.
On the other hand, if you find this change in atmosphere actually working out for you then by all means keep going! Ride the wave and get your creative juices flowing. For some people, a change in surroundings can be just what they needed to take their projects further ahead. Keep thinking about what more you can do and add because there isn’t a limit to your creativity.
Find yourself a dedicated space
If you haven’t already worked out a make-shift home office, think about this carefully before you pile on every piece of equipment you think you might need. If you happen to have an extra monitor, set that up and take a seat on a comfortable (but not too comfortable) chair. There’s also ways you can use an iPad as a second screen! Try and keep your desk uncluttered (we know it’s hard for us too) as this will generally make it easier to find things and prevent you from continuously cleaning up. We would suggest taking up a corner of a room that’s away from where your family might be. If you’re living alone and have no other option, try and make sure you don’t get constantly distracted i.e. right next to the bed or the kitchen.
If you find it hard to sit at the desk for long periods, make yourself a timetable, or even stick to your existing university schedule and do the things you would normally do but inside. For example, fit in other hobbies and activities alongside your work – this will make lockdown much more bearable for those of us who may be more extroverted. Currently, the weather has been so great in England, so you could most definitely take your desk into the garden and work there for an hour or so as long as there’s no obvious distractions. A change in space, even around the home might want to make you do work that you’ve been putting off. So along with a dedicated space, plan out timings keeping in mind an hour for lunch, some exercise, a quick phone call to give yourself a break. Try your best not to work on your bed since it’ll most likely make you tired and lazy.
At your desk, make sure you have everything but don’t keep unnecessary items. For example, a monitor, keyboard and mouse are valid options, but your handheld gaming console might not be a good idea for when you’re working. A clock, some easy to eat snacks and water can be a great idea and it means you’re not constantly getting up. Have a roll of tracing, your sketchbook and a pencil case too. We would also suggest keeping a box of modelling equipment. This can include tools as well as materials and it keeps them all in one place. Then, when you feel like making a model you can do so. Also, it’s good to mention that although you don’t have access to the workshop or materials, a model doesn’t need to be overly complication and you can do so with paper, card or cardboard lying around at home. Think basic and simple for the time being.
Another great tip to make yourself keep working during lockdown is to promise to do 20% of whatever task and you can stop after that. The trick here is, once you start doing something (like 3D modelling or portfolio work) and you complete roughly 20% of it, you might just feel like you can keep going. The key is to actually start, and this eliminates the majority of the problem. You might even realise that it really isn’t that bad. If you can, keep a timer at your desk. You might be thinking, why would I need a timer? The point of this is to emulate something similar to school lessons.
Every hour change up whatever task you’re doing and stick to it. For example, this could be editing some photos, planning out a part of your building or writing an essay. Over the course of a few days you’ll be able to gauge how much you can actually do in an hour and then plan accordingly. Plan a couple of hours, spread over the week to get a big task done. You basically need to treat every day professionally, as if you were working in the studio or as if it’s just a normal day. You also don’t need to slave all day long, work for certain periods of times, stop at around 5 or 6pm and take a break for a few hours then get back to it.
Try new things
The most beneficial thing you can do during this time is to try new things or do your mundane tasks a little differently. For example, I find it useful to list 5 things I plan to do the next day, right before I go to bed. This not only makes me think about it for a while, but I don’t wake up the next day not knowing how to progress. If you’re an avid model maker but find yourself with limited tools and materials, take this as a challenge. You could use recycled cardboard or plastic, use common tools like hairdryers, blue tac, wire to make small prototype models. Yes, this might not be advantageous for those wanting a really finished and clean model, but we’re sure the examiners will understand.
Another thing you could do differently, is to try out things you haven’t been able to explore yet. We love using Pinterest here at :scale, but I’ve never tried other visual organisation methods, so I signed up for Milanote (which allows you to save pins from Pinterest too) but mixes visuals with tasks lists and other texts or links. It’s basically a large mood board and you can use this for any kind of project. Trying out something new can’t hurt right now. It doesn’t need to be something huge either, try use a different note-taking method, change up the wallpaper of your computer or phone or get yourself a new set of pencils.
If you’re finding yourself with loads of extra time to spare or just want to do something different, why not check out our design challenge? It doesn’t have to take long to do and it lets you explore your skills in a new way. If not, just take the time to check out some of the entries instead. Here’s another competition we love at the moment.
Ask for help
There may be times where you feel absolutely stuck and if you don’t have regular access to your tutors, try getting advice from your fellow students. I’ve even found that asking help from non-architects proves to be quite eye-opening if it’s something quite simple. Often, other people’s experiences can prove to be a source of inspiration too. Not to mention, we’re here to help with any kind of advice you might need. If you wanted someone to take a look at your portfolio with a new set of eyes or are struggling with presentations, layouts, general ideas, feel free to message us on social media or email us with some of your work. There are also some independent architects and universities offering this sort of thing (check LinkedIn).
Links to other articles
Hope you’re all managing somehow and staying safe in indoors!