Our design studio in Costa Rica became a homeschool - how is it going?
Just over a year ago, we took the plunge and opened our own architecture and design studio in Costa Rica. After many years working in other firms we decided to build out a space connected to our home and set up a design office called Inverse Project. Things started off well but then world events took us in an unforeseen new direction.
Around our first anniversary we had to send our staff to work from home due to the Corona Virus outbreak, something we could never have imagined. Now we had a space with empty workstations. At about the same time, our kids were sent home due to a directive from the Costa Rican Health Ministry. It was the beginning of March. So they promptly took up residence in our studio and from one day to the next, our 'homeschool office' was born.
Despite our reservations, it turns out an architecture office is a great place for schooling. We originally designed the space as an open collaborative and creative workspace so it included things such as a model making area, magnetic whiteboards, chairs on casters, plenty of natural light and lots of layout space.
These became great ingredients for the home school experiment. We are still adapting, but it has served our young students quite well thus far.
Despite the potential for distraction, it allows us to keep an eye on the girls (7 and 10). Online schooling is a big challenge for young minds to stay engaged from 7:15 am to 2:45 pm every day. Having us nearby allows us to help them stay focused.
The variety of work settings in the space allow for the girls to move around depending on their mood and activity. This mobility keeps them more engaged and provides a measure of variety that does alleviate some of the monotony that comes with a Google Meet overdose.
During break time we encourage them to get outdoors. The roof of the studio is planted with a lawn so it becomes a place to relax, snack, eat lunch and get some fresh air. As the house is built on a slope we carved a courtyard space out of the hillside that doubles as a tennis practice area where they can hit balls against a concrete wall and work on some hand eye coordination.
Other spaces in our home also give them the chance to escape. A hammock in the living room is a favorite for example.
Despite the fact that we have adapted to these times and have used the space to help us through it, we do look forward to the return of normality where schooling returns to a fully immersive 3d experience with real live students and teachers.
Having been witness to the incredible stamina and patience of the teachers, I think they'd agree!
Some things we learned:
Headphones with built in mics are essential in an open shared space.
Use chairs with casters, kids like to wiggle and roll about.
Allow them to sit on the floor from time to time - provides needed variety.
Provide a desk lamp of good lighting so their faces are illuminated. The more visible they are, the more likely the teachers and kids will engage with them.
Encourage as much time outdoors as possible with access to sunlight.
By Richard Hammond
Architect and co-founder of Inverse Project