Some of the most prominent design movements of the 20th century rose from substantial changes in how we live and earmark a period of time in history. The Corona Virus Pandemic and subsequent Lockdown has caused by far the most widespread change that I’ve encountered in my lifetime so what will it’s impacts be and could they to lead to a new design movement?
Pre-Lockdown we had all been craving a solution to the overwhelming problems and over productive, over stimulated lifestyles that our work centric society now consists of. We were a nation cash rich but time poor. Meanwhile brands, especially from the Retail, Travel and Hospitality industries, were working hard in a competitive market to get our attention and increase sales. They found a brilliant way to entice us, immersive design both experiential and digital. Not only were you buying a product but you could also immerse yourself into a story. It worked fabulously and beautiful spaces, events, locations and social feeds were designed!
This move towards experience was adopted by the public and transformed into a modern day movement of Escapism. Consumerism, travel, influencer media and immersive design all fed of our aspirations and became something we quickly bought into for an escape. And, whilst it is magical to experience something outside of ordinary life for a moment, it is something quite different to try and live it and this is what we started to see. We began to rely on these experiences to escape the stress and monotony of the modern world and persevere the present, possibly working more just to afford and maintain this lifestyle. The problem with escape is that it is superficial. Escape doesn’t fix or change our problems but distracts us from them and indulges us in a false reality. We got trapped in a cycle where we in fact started to negatively impact our lives in a quest for an escape from them. Environment, quality of life, wellness, prosperity and productivity all took a hit whilst we fed the phenomenon that indulged us in feeling better and not being better.
As Escapism rose, and we spent our money and leisure time out, home became a place confined to 4 walls, a pitstop for eating, sleeping, watching Netflix and doing nothing. We became desensitised and disengaged with reality, it became bland, tainted with ‘unmanageable’ issues and everything we put off that’s hard.
After being in Lockdown now for weeks however, we have all had ample time to reflect and I think many people, like me, have been surprised at the stark reality of life when escape isn’t an option and, for the 1 in 4 of us on Furlough, when work isn’t either. Restaurants and shops are closed, traveling is not an option and you are confined to your house. With Escape off the table, initially I found I was bored, uninspired and lacking in creativity which is certainly not who I thought I was! I, like many others, have had to tackle hard self-truths and face issues head on as we don’t know when this will all end. Without distraction, the influence of others and in the absence of FOMO I think we have all found peace to get to know ourselves better and acquaint ourselves with the daunting tasks, challenges and problems we had been hiding from, finding creative ways to chip away at them with no pressure or looming deadline. I’m not saying it’s been easy but from this I think we have all become really creative, have found joy in the simple things and instigated positive change in so many places.
We’ve invested in things we’ve always wanted, needed and dreamed of doing but never had the time or headspace to try. Home workouts, yoga, learning new skills, writing blogs (ey!), gardening, drawing, organising, DIY, baking banana bread…it’s all been happening! And I think the majority feel they are better for it, I certainly do! But self growth and wellness is not the only positive affect I think we have experienced whilst confined to our houses during lockdown.
Technology for me, and for a lot of others, pre-lockdown had been used as an escape from work, boredom and day to day life but it had also become a cause of anxiety, loneliness and negativity. Now during lockdown it has become something provoking wellness, unifying people and making everything more accessible to us. We have used it to share ideas, exercise, connect with loved ones, access online learning tools and WFH. Living in lockdown, without escape or distraction we have also used technology to tackle one of society’s biggest and longest standing issues, the divide and discrimination of people based on race. Using technology as a positive tool we have unified in a time of isolation to educate each-other and demand and incite change on a global, local and personal level. The power of technology in the absence of escape has been clear during lockdown and I think we will continue to integrate technology as a positive tool to better ourselves our lives and our environments after lockdown is lifted.
Another impact of lockdown life that truly shocked me was that on the environment. Our destruction of the environment is another one of the biggest and most overwhelming issues of our time. In feeling too small to make a difference we buried our heads in the sand and said it’s not such a big issue. We thought that if we couldn’t see the effects in our day to day lives it was ok to continue as normal, over consuming and purchasing for escape and reward rather than necessity. Since lockdown however we have realised the significance interacting with nature has in our lives, and that having outdoor space, be it a garden, a park or a hiking trail, is really important. In connecting with the outdoors for our allotted hour we have all seen first-hand the massive benefit our incarceration has had on the environment. Air is cleaner and clearer, there’s no litter, we can hear birds and wildlife has moved back in. Nature is bouncing back across the globe and I think I’m not alone is saying I was shocked that actually, other than physical freedom, we haven’t lived in any less luxury, we eat, we walk, we socialise, we have fun, we learn and we are spending less money and more time with people we love, doing things we enjoy. This lockdown has shown that actually we could tackle yet another of humanity’s biggest problems, and that to do so we don’t need to give up as much as we thought. If anything we may actually be able gain happiness, grow as people and be better at everything we do.
Living this new lifestyle during lockdown, I think we can see the flaws in the escapist and work centred pre-lockdown lifestyle we once lived and will want to continue the change we have experienced of late. We may also find that going back to life as we knew it before is impossible as the effects of the lockdown have a negative impact on the economy.
Economy to shrink by
Unemployment to double to
Predicted deepest recession in
-Bank of England via theguardian 2020.
Suddenly, even if we wanted to, we can’t fund an escapist lifestyle. We will become a nation time rich and cash poor. We will see spending habits will change, WFH will increase, home entertaining will rise and security will be found at home. It will be a space that we spend more time in, a space that we invest carefully in, a space no longer looked at as a pit stop but as a sanctuary. Our home will be a reserve for our wellness and the centre for our new normal.
The effects of the Lockdown will be the demise of modern day Escapism as we know it and the rise of Sanctuary Living, a movement towards a lifestyle that I think will have far greater and more positive effects than any expected escapist trends to. It will be the reality that supports and elevates our way life, not the escape that masks it. Perhaps the solution we were looking for all along, we just needed a step back to take a step forward.
But as our test run of Sanctuary Living becomes a reality, the current model of home design will need to be re-imagined, redesigned and revitalised as it wasn’t built for this sort of lifestyle (though many of us, me included, have been amazed at what the space could offer when needed!). Immersive, story-telling design will be applied in the home but it will be our life story that we are immersed in. We will create beautiful spaces with gravitas and personality that express and support us, that conserve our environment and will utilise our technological innovations to their full potential. But what is our life story and how can this aid designers in tackling the many challenges that separate our current model of home design from that of the ideal sanctuary home? Learn more.