Lockdown has deprived Gurmeet Sian of interaction with clients but taught him to value his neighbours and neighbourhood.

I stand at a threshold, neither inside or out, bathed in sunlight, yet casting a shadow. I am surrounded by old industrial units, brought back to life with welcome worker activity and the occasional pop-up fine-dining restaurant for weekenders looking for the “industrial-chic” eating experience in Instagrammable delight.

My studio is based within these workshop spaces. I am sandwiched between Jamal “the honey man” (he stores and sells honey) and Shumba, a recording artist who plays his music loud. Further down, there is a pirate radio outfit, blasting out from 8pm through the night.

Inside my studio, I design spaces, places, buildings, where communities can congregate, and homes where we can all feel safe. The pandemic has made this an even more important task, and yet the method of design alongside communities, with interaction and engagement, has been lost in recent months. I miss this.

Handshakes have become digital high-fives. Chatting and cheering has turned into the “chat function”. This is a loss, and yet I also know that in these last few months, the honey man, Shumba, Faroz the sandwich-seller, and the guys with an interest in radio have become my community. In designing spaces for communities, I had forgotten the spaces and people immediately around me. My community. Our community.

We do not always need an architect to create and define space. We can all create our home and our communities, as I had forgotten to do for myself. This power is within us all and, in this sense, we are all architects.

Gurmeet Sian
London E17