London | Valencia

Updated: Dec 26, 2020

There are reasons not to be a fan of Xmas myself. No, I am not against the festivity. And no, I don't have any past trauma neither am a reincarnation of Scrooge. But how insanely the Xmas shopping is and its amount of waste generated in recent years seem not in harmony with the planet any longer. Ironically, this is year will be different. It is the year of the pandemic; and Covid-19 confinement will last, at least, for the entire Winter.

The idea of being restrained in the house, in the cold and having a few hours of sunlight could be daunting: able to give anyone the blues, not to mention the people who suffer from "seasonal affective disorder," or SAD. Nevertheless, the perspective of the Xmas can light us up, literally and metaphorically speaking. Adding colourful sparkles lifts the mood, warms the grey weather and makes us smile. I have no evidence-based stats to demonstrate the benefit of Xmas lights. Still, we all have experienced the changes in our mood once we enter our regular office with new Xmas decorations or the wow feel when seeing a lighting display. We can feel the joy, even if it's for the split of a second.

Colourful lights and bright sparkles are also used in other celebrations to signal happiness or special celebrations. In South Asia weddings, not only the party is decorated with glittering lights but also the family's houses typically cover the façades with a curtain of these sparkles.

The magic happens when the electromagnetic spectrum of light reaches the eye, converts into electrical signals to be sent straight to the brain so we can have an instant perception of the world outside of our body. Lights give us the vision.

Lights are in everywhere and part of our daily life, but why do we continuously marvel with the luminous glow? Firstly, there is a process of mental conditioning by associating a pleasant event with lights. Since our memory as a toddler can recollect, fairy lights in Xmas come with the enjoyment of receiving gifts, topped up with feasts. The glittering lights in weddings, for example, are related to the celebration of a union, party with lots of drinking and dancing. However, the opposite reaction can also work by association. Flashing red and blue lights can reflect the feel of danger and anxiety due to their adoption in police cars and ambulances worldwide. Our emotions are easily triggered by visual association.

Lights do spark us joy. Apart from Xmas light decorations, my recommendations are:


Introduce some decorative lights, such as uplights or indirect wall lights. Having extra lights will allow you to dim the ambient by switching off the main ones — common practice from bars or restaurants to produce a cosy and romantic atmosphere. You will then have the option to change the mood of the space, especially if you are spending a considerable time in the same room: well lit when working and dim lighting when relaxing.

Combination of different types of lighting in the restaurant: Floor lamps, ceiling uplights (indirect), coving lighting and direct spotlights.

The full brightness might induce alertness, but a long exposure cannot be abused. Supermarket lighting is an example of 'who wants to stay there longer than needed?'


Create shades by illuminating plants and large pieces of furniture from the ground or unusual angles. It is a form to distribute the light differently and define the silhouette of shadows, giving life to inanimate objects. The multiple shades happen similarly in the natural world, like shadows by the moonlight; therefore, the effect can bring back the sense of comfort. The toy industry has been using the same shadow technique in baby light projectors, gadgets that calm babies in the bedtime.

We are fascinated by the shadows, and, sometimes, they seem to have a life of their own.

Wendy had to sew Peter Pan's shadow back on.


Change the bulbs with different colour temperature. The easiest way to create a different ambient is to change the cool white light to warm light bulbs or the other way around. The bulb's temperature dictates your perception of colour, so it is like photoshopping your room with a new hue. Note that warmer lights are not as bright as cool white, so adding a table lamp on the working surfaces, desks, for example, can help to compensate the amount of light lost.

The colour temperature in Kelvin can be found on the light bulb or its packaging. This picture is a cruel but simple representation of the relationship between temperature and colour.

One thing is to endure being in the same space for a prolonged time, knowing there is somewhere else to retreat; another is to know there isn't. So spare some time to apply these new ideas before the blues kick in. Enable your room to switch to a different mood with the flip of a switch. And remember to keep your mental wellbeing well lit.

Photo Credits:

Restaurant Window by Michae Gaida from Pixabay.

Supermarket aisle by Oleg Magni from Pixabay.

Uplight lamp and the plant. Source:

Foliage shadow by Karolina Grabowska from Pexels

Light bulb colour temperature. Source:

Updated: Sep 23, 2020

This post is in Portuguese. And the reason is, for this month, I’ve decided to help Brazilian female architects living in London by offering free online workshops. I will be giving tips on how to do their CVs, portfolios, using job searching tools and guiding them to find reliable sources in building regulations and planning applications. It wasn’t easy for me when I landed in this country, so hopefully, my help can remove some barriers we all face at the beginning of the career, especially for immigrant women.

If you like to contribute to my work, please visit:

Olá Arquitetas

Todas são bem-vindas ao meu blog, seja você recém-chegada ao Reino Unido, ou terminado a faculdade agora, ou querendo voltar ao mercado de trabalho. Espero que encontrem aqui a ajuda que procuram e se não encontrar, me mande um email falando que tipo de dificuldade que estão enfrentando.

O começo da minha carreira não foi nada fácil. Além de lidar com a insegurança com a língua inglesa, também não sabia como e onde procurar por um emprego. Hoje vejo com uma certa facilidade já que há mais de 15 anos eu trabalho na área.

Com a pandemia e estou mais tempo em casa, e refletindo, decidi que neste mês poderia fazer algo de diferente, de ajudar as mulheres no mercado de trabalho e de poder abolir algumas barreiras que enfrentei, como mulher e imigrante.

É comprovado cientificamente que ‘kindness spreads kindness’ e espero esse meu pequeno esforço de montar os workshops seja efetivo. Os seguinte Zoom workshops focado para arquitetas brasileiras que procuram emprego no Reino Unido. Todos GRATUITOS:

Jul 24, 2020, 04:00 PM London

CV para arquitetas brasileiras na Inglaterra

30min: Como montar um CV. Vou falar sobre a estrutura de CV recomendada pelas universidades, diferenças entre Part 1,2,3 e as terminologias usadas na indústria.

20min: Q&A.

Aug 8, 2020, 11:00 AM London

Quais são os canais de busca de emprego no Reino Unido? 30min: Apresentação de canais de busca de emprego com planilha de ações.

20min: Q&A e networking

Saturday, Aug 22, 2020, 11:00 AM London

Legislação de Construção e Edificação na Inglaterra

45min: Conhecimento geral sobre Legislação Construção e Edificação na Inglaterra. Onde procurar as informação para tipos de detalhamento construtivo. As terminologias de arquitetura para não passar sufoco no emprego novo.

15min: Q&A.

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Thursday, Aug 27, 2020, 07:00 PM London

Básico de montar Portfólio de Arquitetura 45min: Infomação básica de como montar portfolio de arquitetura, como diversificar os tipos de mídia usada, ordenar, linkar com o CV e demonstrar seus skills. 15min: Q&A

Inscreva-se aqui

Ao se inscreverem no link, receberá um email de confirmação. E se não puderem participar no dia depois da inscrição, favor notifique (please) enviando um email ao

Talk to you soon!


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Updated: May 16, 2020

At the end of a regular meeting on a Victorian estate, I took the usual shortcut to the main gate. The feeling of pride strikes me as I walk confidently in constantly fluorescent-lit passageways. I know which turn to take, which door to open. At the end of each long corridor, there is always a door, and after the door, there is always a long corridor. It was how the hospitals were built: labyrinth-like. Have you ever been lost inside a hospital?

The hospital staff call the old building the 'Main Building'. With several buildings scattered on the estate, the name couldn't be more appropriate. Its imposing entrance, central courtyard with a large fountain, and hundreds of bedrooms ordered in its four wings like a palace, it evokes the Main Building with the unwritten status of 'the history of this place starts here'. And it all began when the Main Building was founded by the Victorians as the Lunatic Asylum in 1840.

I knew the building well. After two years working on the re-design of the hospital, I could visualise each floor plan in my head. I used to look at the façade, pick one of several windows that my eyes randomly lead me and then guessed what sort of room was behind it, like a game in my mind. Only one part was a blur in this game, and that's the abandoned wing of the building. The new survey we commissioned to measure the building couldn't provide us with a single sketch of where some walls could be. It was just not safe for surveyors or anyone to enter the three floors of this neglected wing. Floors and ceilings were in such a state of ruin that they could collapse anytime, especially when disturbed. Still, I will look up and see those windows, but instead of wondering the type of room, I imagine the stories behind them.

Leaving a regular meeting, I took the usual shortcut. A discreet door led me out of the building to the open sky. On one side, I could see the abandoned part and another, in contrast, a well-maintained courtyard surrounded by dense vegetation and mature trees. But something caught my eye in the greenery: the tiny white and lilac colour flowers sprouting out of the grass. It was Spring, as it is today, and it seemed that a few people had used the shortcut route too because the flowers were all bent by their steps. I wonder why those flowers are so resilient, able to withstand foot traffic, reshape and yet blossom. I wonder how the victims who suffer from mental abuse survive in harsh conditions. They might be imprisoned inside of their mind. Or sometimes, they are locked away, in their own house with the perpetrator,  as they are now, in the coronavirus lockdown.

I wrote a poem after seeing the tiny flowers on the grass and wanted to portray the resilience of survivors of domestic violence. And here, I would like to dedicate it to those whose cry for help yet cannot be heard.


This kick means no harm

Bears no intent

Heavily, it pressed me to the ground

Yet light, to leave my colour still unchanged

I would not rise after another

Could you have seen me?

Could you have spared me?

The strength to stop the foot before my face

I am fine, yes

Humid earth will decompose

My broken body


Ask me for forgiveness

Tell me how much you regret

I will flower again

In the coming Spring

As surely as your kick

I return

Bearing no intent

Meaning no harm.

The surge in domestic violence during the pandemic has proven that being home is not synonymous of being 'safe'. However, as each government begins to relax the lockdown, so too will many flower again.

Lyndon Ives edits my posts. He is the songwriter and singer of Short Empire. See Instagram @shortempiremusic for music video clips. Some are funny.

The poem was originally written in Portuguese and then translated into English in collaboration with my friend and poet Richard Marshall.

The photo was taken exactly on the day and the location described.

More poetry on @alicehsiehpoetry