London | Valencia

Updated: May 16


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.

SPRINGFIELD


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

Still,

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


#YouAreNotAlone

Updated: Apr 27

After changing my profile status to Stop sending me Coronavirus memes, a good friend from Brazil insisted that I listen to a WhatsApp audio. She said 'It is hilarious'. I wondered if she read my status or if I should remind her of it, but in praise of asking people to be more tolerant and humane in this unprecedented time of global crisis, I surrendered and clicked on PLAY. I couldn't stop laughing.


There was nothing unusual in the audio apart of the funny accent of a woman complaining about her working-from-home husband as now the kids cannot shout, kids cannot cry, and the television volume should be turned down.


For those who can only concentrate in a quiet environment, working with the entire family in the lockdown can be quite hard. Conversely, it can also be difficult for other members in the household. After all, not everyone is happy to constraint the freedom of making noise.


There are simple ways to minimise the acoustic problems you may experience by suddenly having to work from home. I will share some tips on how to tackle the issues, all of which are within reach of what you have at home.


First al all, understand that the sound is a wave.

When it hits on a hard and flat surface, it will bounce.

When it hits on a soft or porous material, it will dissipate.


Secondly, understand the difference between Acoustic Insulation and Acoustic Absorption. Both have different purposes.


To separate your room from the source of noise generation, you have to provide efficient Acoustic Insulation. The same way you protect yourself from the cold by insulating your room, you do for the noise, so the 'airborne sound' does not penetrate. If you have gaps or cracks around the window when it is closed, you will still hear the noise from outside. The sound wave will find its way in.


Acoustic Absorption is applied not to ensure the insulation or separation but to reduce the noise level, in a more simplistic way of describing.

If you have been in an indoor swimming pool, you usually find the space loud. You can hear the splash of each stroke (outside of water, of course) or loud and echoing cheers. This is because its walls, floor and ceiling are made of flat and hard surfaces, reflecting all the noises altogether. A sound recording studio, on the other hand, has the wall covered with foam panels so the sound waves, when hit the wall, can dissipate. The foam panels are used as acoustic absorbent.


What follows are some 'lockdown at home' scenarios.



SCENARIO 1


Working in the same room as several sources of noise generation, a technical term here for your kids, tv or someone in the open plan kitchen doing something.

Strategy: Acoustic Absorption


Room layout without strategy


Room layout with strategy

Cover the flat and hard surfaces of the room with absorbent materials:

  • Add carpets or throws in the room

  • Hang tapestry, rug or any artwork on the wall

  • Spread some cushions around

  • Draw up your fabric curtains

If you have timber, plastic or metal blinds, draw them to cover as much glazed surface of the window as possible though with the fins half-open, in angle, to allow the sound wave to bounce in.

If the window opens to a quiet garden, leave it open, then the noise can escape.

Consider these as a temporary measure and do not overlook the trip hazard and fire risk the objects you are adding can cause.



SCENARIO 2


Working next to the room where the source of noise generation is.

Strategy: Both Acoustic Insulation and Acoustic Absorption.


Make sure in the room where the source of noise is coming from has the Acoustic Absorption strategy in place (recommended in SCENARIO 1, so the sounds do not travel through the walls to your room.


Room layout with acoustic absorption and insulation

Second, improve your airborne sound insulation between rooms by sealing all the gaps. Use the same tricks as you would to keep cold air from coming through windows and door:


  • Use the draft stopper at door base.

  • Apply foam tape or weatherstrip around the door.


Acoustic tapes

These recommendations will certainly eliminate some annoyance, although far from providing the desired silence of a library. Still, small improvements do change the quality of the work environment, without having to do any building work. They are also the common sense tricks I concluded after years working on schools and hospital projects in the UK. Working alongside acousticians from Arup, Buro Happold, Cundall, plus several of the top engineering companies in the country, I could ponder the level of difficulties. The regulation for the construction of new schools, for example, is probably the most stringent when it is about acoustics, compared to other building types like hotels, offices and even housing. If you live in a new build, you might question why you are living in a paper-thin walls and having the displeasure of hearing your neighbours talking to each other or worse. Construction failures in housing development are extensively technical for this blog post. However, that can be a new topic for another day.



My friends around the world have shared their photos of their home office, homeschooling and home studio.


- The Hague, Netherlands. Profession: Entrepreneur & Travel Blogger. www.spendlifetraveling.com

- São Paulo, Brazil. Profession: Mom

- Valencia, Spain. Profession: Event Producer & Travel Blogger. www.marikotapelomundo.com

- São Paulo, Brazil. Profession: Business Manager

- São Paulo, Brazil. Profession: Editor & Director. www.tilab.com.br

- London, UK. Profession: Musician & Artist. www.guillermomonroy.co.uk

- Reading, UK. Profession: Joiner & Master of Capoeira

- Buffalo, USA. Profession: Architect

- San Diego, USA. Profession: Theatre costume seamstress & Tutor

- London, UK. Profession: Yoga & Mindfulness Teacher. www.lornamacyoga.com


Thank you for connecting and sharing.



When a digital nomad settles down, a new home is born. It might be against the nature of ‘keep on moving’, but even the hardcore nomad will grow roots in somewhere. I want to talk about this demanding new home, the digital nomad base. In the digital era, home is not anymore a house with an office, but an office within a house. Soon, a typical home layout will be reconfigured to fit the dynamic of this lifestyle and evolve to different design typology. The semantic of residential architecture might also transform as we reside and work in the same address. In a micro perspective, the conception of a traditional house that consists of separate areas for living, cooking, dining and sleeping will quickly disintegrate. Instead of a kitchen, it is a coffee break area. Instead of living room, it is a video call room - a place with more pleasant or orderly background for an online meeting. Instead of a bedroom, it is an extended workspace because you might be tired of sitting the whole day at your desk, so why not work from your bed? The workstation of a digital nomad has at least a computer with internet, a desk and a decent chair. And because of the COVID-19 pandemic, many are stranded at home under global lockdown and forced to work remotely. Setting up workstation has become a must. In Brazil, the working-from-home remotely space has been baptised with an Anglican name: 'home office'. The trend of remote work will soon apply not only to digital nomads settling down but also to most office workers. Remote work will prove to be more viable, safer or simply more sustainable. Corporations will review the need for physical spaces and realise the financial benefits of not having one. Cities will find relief in the transport system with fewer commuters. And perhaps in the future soon, the nine-to-five shift will seem just an archaic nonsense of the modern world. This might also represent the redundancy of office buildings and, as an architect, I cannot hold myself to think of what they can be converted to. Can the business district become a ghost town? Or a quarantine island? Before the pandemic, I was approached by a digital nomad who wants to settle down in Valencia, Spain, with the briefing to help in finding a property which can be renovated into his dynamic lifestyle, including the design of furniture to increase the flexibility of spaces. Say the workstation also as a bedroom, living room to function as a dining room and so on. We are in stand by mode When we settle down, we search for an ideal home, but the world is changing rapidly, and our way of living is not different. In thinking of a dream home we might no longer think of the ideal. The ideal now is adaptable. Will the digital revolution shape the architecture of our new homes? And from where we stand now: Or will coronavirus?




#homeoffice #workfromhome #remotework #officebuildings #digitalnomad #valenciadigitalnomads

  • White Instagram Icon
  • White LinkedIn Icon

ALICE HSIEH STUDIO

+44 7519 645933

studio@ahsieh.com