CEC WEEKLY TIES – In search of alone time

Dear colleagues, 

The pandemic has brought to the forefront the importance of balancing “togetherness” with “aloneness” in design. We are living in a perplexed state of mind. Before the pandemic, many of us craved time with family members. As it turns out though, too much time together and under stressful situations can negatively impact well-being. Women in particular, are being hit hard, with both financial and mental implications for their own and their family’s well-being. 

“Spend some time alone every day,” the Dalai Lama urges in his teachings. Being away from the gaze of other people is as important as being with others to our health and well-being. Spending time apart from others, provokes a kind of introspection — and freedom from self-consciousness — that strengthens our sense of identity and enables us to rebound. That is why, when I saw Stephanie Davidson’s (Assistant Professor at Ryerson School of Interior Design) IDEC presentation of drawing as a way to capture our experiences of lockdown, I was fascinated!

Below, I share examples of how we can better understand (and respond) to the need for alone time as design educators and practitioners. The question that remains is:

How would our approach to design change if aloneness was one of our design criteria?

If you have more examples, please email us and we will share them on the CEC platform. 

Tasoulla Hadjiyanni, Editor
[email protected]

Drawing as a way to understand our experiences of spaces in lockdown

In Search Of Alone Time Article

“This presentation takes a series of drawings made during the first 6 weeks of quarantine as a vehicle through which to reflect upon the particularly intense period of transition between spatial freedom to being confined to our own homes, in my case, with two small children. In my series of #coronamaison drawings, I seek to capture and emphasize the inescapable and challenging situation of working at home during a global pandemic with kids…..As design educators, how can we tap into the power of the impactful #coronamaison drawings in teaching interior design? For me, there wasn’t a better way to digest what was happening at the beginning of the COVID-19 lockdown than drawing. As a designer I’m used to drawing as a way to understand a space; measuring, drawing and 3d modeling gives me a full picture of a space and its geometric characteristics. What I’m less used to is using drawing as a way to understand a situation which is spatial, at its root, but which is also psychologically, emotionally, financially, professionally, mentally charged. And personal.”

#coronamaison is an instagram showcase and movement that includes artists and designers that used drawing as a medium to capture, express and digest the stress, peace, absurdity – a wide range of emotions, predicaments and responses – that came from all over the world in the first weeks of COVID-19 lockdown.  

Excerpt from Stephanie Davidson‘s IDEC Connecting for Change Fall Symposium
Image credit: Stephanie Davidson

Hygge and aloneness

Living space

Instrumental to the Scandinavian “hygge” is the ability to be both together and alone. A window seat in a home and separated “retreat spaces” in the workplace, provide opportunities to recharge.

Bathrooms as alone spaces

Bathrooms As Alone Spaces

“Keeping an orderly house was almost impossible with small and limited closets. Working and caring for children left little time to organize and clean out spaces. Chloe’s house was overtaken by boxes, plastic bins, and bags full of toys the children outgrew, shoes, out-of-season clothes, school supplies, etc. Boxes and boxes of stored items took over the attic, the space Chloe used to work from home. Amidst them, she managed to carve out a spot for her desk: “I do work on the 3rd floor in the den. After about 9pm when we’ve put the kids to bed, my husband and I pretty much close up the main floor and we go up; either to the bedroom or to the attic den.” Chloe conjured up a spatiality for each of her loved ones, including herself: “When I need to be alone, I go to the bathroom! I take a bath just so I can be alone. Other than that I don’t have a little sanctuary for myself.” Alone in the bathtub, Chloe could direct her thoughts to the present, feel her chest expanding and contracting as the moist air entered her lungs and the water soothed her aching body.”
 Excerpt from The Right to Home – African American Stories (p. 259).

 Sunrooms as alone spaces

Sunrooms As Alone Spaces

“With a graduate education and a six-digit salary, Maria had to juggle work and home obligations along with extensive volunteering and friendships. As more educated Mexican Americans have been found to experience more stereotyping and discrimination than their less-educated counterparts, partly due to their greater contact with Whites (Ortiz & Telles, 2012), the stressors in Maria’s life multiplied. Sherrie Bourg Carter (2011), author of High Octane Women: How Superachievers Can Avoid Burnout, extols the virtues of finding solitude in today’s constantly connected and demanding world. Philosopher Henry David Thoreau (2009) moved to Walden Pond to find the solitude he was seeking: “I have, as it were, my own sun and moon and stars, and a little world all to myself” (p.85).

But the home is where many people can secure time to be alone. An emerging body of research, particularly from psychology, suggests that carving out spaces for spending time alone is crucial to well-being. Instead of sadness and loneliness, solitude has benefits that include freedom, creativity, intimacy, and spirituality. When alone, Maria could feel free to act and think as she chose—she did not have to be self-conscious and distracted by how another person experienced her presence. She could also nourish and further her creativity by stimulating imaginative involvement in multiple realities and alternative identities. As her thoughts became more fluid and differently organized, she could experience self-transformation. This was the time when she could reflect on the meaningful connections that she had to other people and to God, the universe, or nature (Klinenberg, 2013; Long & Averill, 2003). With time alone in her home, Maria rejuvenated her selfhood on her own terms.”
 Excerpt from The Right to Home – Mexican Stories (p. 150).

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