Just like the rest of us, design and architecture students have endured way too much time stuck in confined spaces since the coronavirus pandemic first struck. The only difference is that they have a unique perspective on how space can and should be used. So how might this wild year have changed the way they see their own homes?
A new book called “Interiors of Isolation” aims to find out. Conceived and edited by two candidates for Masters of Architecture degrees at the University of Toronto, the project calls on fellow students to create plans, drawings, and written statements on their spaces of confinement.
Jana R. Nitschke and Valerie Marshall won funding for the book through the University of Toronto’s COVID-19 Student Engagement Award, which recognizes unique proposals that contribute to building and fostering a global community during the pandemic.
“As students dedicated to exploring the relationship between people and the places they inhabit, we were profoundly impacted by the shift to staying at home which the COVID-19 pandemic necessitated,” say Nitschke and Marshall. “This shift has forced us to contemplate now more than ever, how we use the spaces we call home, and how we adapt, and adapt to, these spaces under unique circumstances.”
The duo is featuring submissions on Instagram @interiorsofisolation, including some of the best written statements. Successful applicants will be featured in the book, set to be released in September 2020, and the top submission will receive $100 on top of that. The entries include colorful paintings, detailed sketches, complex floor plans, and humorous interpretations of the students’ surroundings.
New York-based Sheena, @sheemeetscity, titled her own cheerful pastel drawing “The art of staying in.”
Designer @j_archo is seeing things in the power outlets, explaining that “Since the quarantine began, I have not left my property line in months! I spend almost 85 percent of the time in my bedroom in my parent’s suburban home. You will mainly find me at my desk browsing the web on my laptop or on my bed scrolling through my phone, but I always try to make some time to exercise my creativity.”
Nitschke’s own submission reflects feelings of frustration and determination. She writes that “We are experiencing a time of places full of disorder, confusion, and chaos. John Milton describes in Paradise Lost, the Pandæmonium as the capital of hell for Satan and his peers. COVID-19 has become the invisible devil that needs to be fought. However, fear and isolation turn this pandemic into our own personal Pandæmonium. We need to break free from our mental cage to keep our sanity to get through this time, together.”
The entries aren’t always focused on the students’ own homes, either. Instagram user @RomanRevival, for instance, chose to highlight a situation he found more concerning than his own. He notes that “for some, a tent is what you take as you afford the luxury of fleeing the city on your way to a camping site in rural British Columbia during the COVID-19 outbreak. For others, it’s a home, and there is nowhere to run. For homeless people in neighborhoods such as East Hastings in Vancouver, neither isolation nor the means to afford an escape as a ticket to survival are an option.”