Working in isolation is surprisingly productive, but I miss the buzz of the studio, says Chris Dyson


We all sit alone on the ship, sometimes at home, sometimes in the studio – at the moment always alone… strange times for a collaborative profession! My wife Sarah and I believe we have both had the virus but will never know until tested, so we have been careful.

My routine is an early rise – a 7.00 am yoga session with some weights, to save my body from shrivelling up. Walk Milo the dog and then walk one street to Fashion Street Studios, which are closed. I work through the morning, checking the server and computers are all working for our home workers – we have 16 at present, all working very efficiently I might add.

We were set up for this and are managing quite well as a team, but I worry that some of the younger members of the office have lost their ‘buddies’/mentors and may feel a little less connected and more isolated. To mitigate this, we all meet regularly using Microsoft Teams, and maintain our tradition of Gin Fridays via Zoom.

I get a lot done, so long as I don’t panic”

While in the studio I juggle financial management discussions with work all the time, as many small practitioners do – we have had to furlough my PA/ studio manager as there is no real scope for that role with everyone working from home.

I get a lot done, so long as I don’t panic. Steadily working through my lists for the day with the usual interruptions is still a pleasure. At the moment I’m preparing a pre-application for two wonderful historic buildings in Lincoln’s Inn and the first task has been preparing a thorough research paper on the history of these buildings, which involved the work of many hands – Inigo Jones, Sir John Soane, John Ware and Nicholas Stone, to name a few.

At least we have the technology that allows us to adapt our practice, and are not actually at war and can still be creative”

The afternoons are spent at home working in my study – a more reflective, quiet space that is ideal for sketching and free thinking. I’m progressing projects that would normally take longer to think about, such as a design brief for an eco-house in Epping Forest. As we all know, competitions require meticulous planning and foresight, so I reckon two years should do it!

Our plans for a new arts centre building for Harrow Arts are now being submitted for planning, following a successful public meeting just a few weeks before the lockdown, and we hope to progress to construction once we are out the ‘other side’.

That said, I do miss the actual presence of my staff and the spontaneity of bright, talented people sharing the same space. Let us hope we can rediscover the ‘buzz’ of that creative teamwork very soon.

I can only imagine how architects felt during the last war; at least we have the technology that allows us to adapt our practice, and are not actually at war and can still be creative. And the world may even come out of this a much kinder and more cooperative place – who knows?