Living in quarantine: the journal

Whether we live in a shared apartment, in 35sqm, in the middle of nowhere, alone or in company, we are “locked inside”. Ideas, projects and stories for an ongoing journal about living in the age of Coronavirus.

Opening image: Fosbury architecture

April 7th

Escaping from one’s room

Laura Bonell and Daniel López-Dòriga founded their architecture firm in Barcelona in 2014, at a time when the effects of the crisis could have seemed over but that after all were not. On Skype, Laura tells me that, in the initial difficulty of building their portfolio as professionals, they felt the need to “make room for something that was ours alone, a research”. This is how the project A Series of Rooms was born in 2016 – together with its website and Instagram profile – a platform where they collect explorations of the image of the domestic space.

Today, from their home in Barcelona, they are carrying on with their work, and for their project they affirm: “last week we started to put together artworks that share the idea of confinement”.
With the style that distinguishes their online activity, Laura and Daniel have put in place a series of heterogeneous references, from Lucas Cranach the Elder’s Saint Jerome studio to Alfred Hitchcock’s “Rear window”. From a sort of dimensional analysis of domestic spaces, to the relationship with the body, to Saul Steinberg who – almost looking for company – transforms footrests into cats. It is but a short step from here to talking about evasion. Then Laura talks to me about two opposite approaches. The first is the analytically obsessive one of the descriptions of Xavier de Maistre (1763-1855), in his book A journey around my room, in which he recounts his 42 days of imprisonment in Turin. In the second case, the postcards-collages by the contemporary artist Zsofia Schweger (1989) appear as introspective interiors, and she covers the elements of a generic interior with excerpts from historical geographical maps. If we are not allowed to evade physically, there are many ways to escape reality mentally.

Bonell+Dòriga is an architectural firm founded in Barcelona by Laura Bonell and Daniel López-Dòriga in 2014. In 2019 the studio won the Début Award at the Lisbon Architecture Triennial.

Nature in quarantine

Isolation is a powerful catalyst. This state of temporary imprisonment in your own house, or in a house where you ended up or have chosen to stay in – your partner’s, your parents’, with friends – is a brutal synthesis of past conditions and choices. As we all understood, that chose a small house but in a comfortable area, or a hip zone of the city, because you stayed at home just long enough to sleep, or have dinner on weekends. Then, there are those like Tyler who followed a radically different path. “The city was not right for me”, he says in a video on YouTube. And then the rediscovery of nature: at first intermittently, then in a stable way. I knew Tyler, superficially, because he was the DJ of a tour of imaginative parties in Milan and all my friends and acquaintances used to participate. I can’t imagine anything more urban than this.

Today Tyler lives in the western part of the Elba Island, “the wild part, which is far from the ports”, he says. “I have fruit trees and a small vegetable garden. I live frugally.” The days of the epidemic stand for “many things”, he says, and adds that they represent also and above all “the world without us". The world without human beings always and everywhere. The other day a dolphin entered the port, where all the boats are now stationary. “He seemed to observe us amused by our absence, by our suddenly disappearance.” Nature will go on without us, but that’s not a pessimistic statement: simply, Tyler says, human beings should adapt to nature, and not try to abuse it. This is his lesson, and I keep asking myself what would have been Napoleon’s destiny, if he had decided to learn from this island instead of running away from it.
(AS)

Tyler’s Instagram profile is: @tylerovgaia

April 6th

Copenhagen, interior with a drone

The video records the work spaces of the studio CCO. Michael Christensen & CO, Copenhagen

A drone flies over the empty desks of the Copenhagen-based studio CCO in the multi-ethnic district of Nørrebro. “But we’ll come back,” remarks Michael Christensen, founder and creative director of the Danish team, which counts 50 members: “Of course now we’re all dealing with remote working, always connected to the network. But this situation made it clear that real, concrete contact with people and things, is an essential factor for our job as architects. In fact, creativity should always be shared. The quarantine experience has only shown us that we need to be together, to meet, in order to assimilate as many ideas and projects as possible. Today more than ever”.

Laura Ragazzola is an architect and journalist in Milan

April 5th

Real life will flow after quarantine

From the same and too few rooms of my house in Milan, I tried to make sense again of these surreal days on the phone with my friends in order to “transform the paralyzing terror into a softer fear” (as Ugo La Pietra used to tell me). Walking up and down the bedroom, drinking coffee in the kitchen or pushing myself to the balcony, always with the phone up to my ear, I heard my friends talking about this moment as an opportunity, as confusion, as total bewilderment, as anger. And always, in the background, the tragedy that this virus has brought to all our lives, but yes, never in the same way.

I can’t tell you when the future will come, I can’t tell you what it will be like, but we all know that it will be different. But without a possible horizon, the imagination struggles to work properly. Then again, there are times when I think it will no longer be possible to do things like we used to. So I think about the things that I want to focus more on, what I don’t want to neglect anymore, what I want to do differently.

I don’t organise them pragmatically, but rather depending on their value.

Looking for answers, I picked up a book I bought (and read) some time ago from my bookcase: The True Life by Alain Badiou (2016). Subtitle: A Plea for Corrupting the Young. Passing through Socrates, Plato and Rimbaud, the French philosopher draws a portrait of contemporary youth – both the object of his reflection and the recipient of his message – inviting it to subvert the pre-established order. A system, he says, born in the West, during the Renaissance, which was consolidated during the Age of the Enlightenment and culminated with a faithful abandonment to the idea of relentless progress.

“You find yourself in the midst of a society crisis that shakes and destroys the last remnants of tradition. It is of this destruction (...) that we do not really know the positive side”. It is undeniable that this opens up to an almost unconditional freedom in globalization, whose bewilderment risk is high for young people. Badiou – who was necessarily unaware in 2016 of what would happen in these days – therefore proposes to youth an alliance with senility: corruption is represented by the figure of the philosopher, the old man who is now disinterested in contingency, whose role is to lead the young back to real life, in opposition to the false life “of competition and success” and, I would add, of the new uncertainty.

This is not a war, this is a global pandemic.

Nothing has ever enclosed us and our world in our homes like this drama. But this condition will end, it must necessarily end, and young people will have to imagine a new future. We still don’t know when we will be ready to start again, and especially under what conditions, but sooner or later life will flow again, and my generation will have to be ready to question the world we have inherited because the future will need us.
(GR)

April 4th

The narcissist

But is this not the type of human that is now surrendering in our cities in the face of the Covid-19 epidemic? A subject that believed themselves to be free of all obstacles, nomadic by vocation and profession, devoid of limits and boundaries, satisfied with their global centrality and driven by the idea of continuous growth and scientific progress that guarantees all forms of care, eradicates all disease and theoretically allows immortality. Enclosed within the security of home automation, the narcissist controls everything, provides for everything and organises everything around their own ego; not sex, but love itself. Unshakeable convictions swept away in just a couple of hours by the pandemic, uncovering the fundamental elements of life such as fragility, mystery and the heart.

Excerpt from ‟From beauty to beauticians” by Walter Mariotti, editorial director of Domus

April 3rd

Antibodies against the economy of “phobiocracy”

An antidote. Not against the coronavirus, there isn’t one yet, unfortunately. I mean against the side effects of the pandemic: anxiety, isolation, paranoia generated by the amplification of the real disaster. This is what Analogique, an architecture studio and Sicilian “rhizomatic observatory”, defines as the “economy of phobiocracy”. Packed like a solution pill, BAZOOCoV is one of those cases where instructions are more important than the medication itself. In the information leaflet, under the guise of curing them, you can find all the social and existential outcomes of the Coronavirus: news overload, privacy reduction, depression caused by isolation, family quarrels, difficulties in changing daily routines and many others.

“We used to isolate ourselves in the countryside to work on projects”, says Dario from Analogique. “Now we are living an enforced and individual isolation, in three different places of eastern Sicily”. And they found themselves imagining something they would never have thought of a few months ago. The virus infects people through “handshakes, hugs, kisses”, you read on the information leaflet. “The virus feeds on conviviality and mobility. Sociality is therefore denied, meetings are forbidden, isolation is recommended, often required. The house is a bunker, social networks are the squares in which to confront each other and the internet is a whole world worth exploring”. And here we are.
(AS)

April 2nd

The quarantined artist

“As an artist, it feels inapt to miss this extraordinary moment. Suddenly, the acts of writing a novel, or a screenplay or a series of songs seem like indulgences from a bygone era. For me, this is not a time to be buried in the business of creating. It is a time to take a backseat and use this opportunity to reflect on exactly what our function is — what we, as artists, are for”.

Nick Cave, singer, songwriter, musician and much more. From his online diary The Red Hand Files.

Nolli me tangere

Small is an architectural firm based in Bari and Milan, founded in 2007 by Alessandro Francesco Cariello, Luigi Falbo, Rossella Ferorelli e Andrea Paone.

The 1st of April 🐟

Living in virtual reality/2

You wake up late, you eat your breakfast while reading. E-mails, cleaning the house, a walk in the garden. Then the immersion in the virtual world. This is the quarantine routine of Saturn J. Tesla, multidisciplinary artist and virtual holoessenza™️, as he calls himself. “I explore and walk through virtual realms: self-generated landscapes, parallel dimensions, the temporary fusion with another digital me”. A movie, a D&D session, dancing parties with avatars, games, karaoke on Discord, costume tea parties. All of that is virtual. And thanks to chats and videocalls you can chitchat with people. People you know in the physical world. Or on the net, “with whom I ironize how nothing has changed for us”.

Exploring the worlds of Mass effect, Dreamfall Chapters, JanusVR, Assassin Creed Odyssey, Tomb Rider. A little party in Fallout 76. And finally, exploration with imaginary journeys in Google Maps and through the eyes of strangers in Periscope.

Everything goes back to the end of 2013, when health problems confined her to bed. Thus, she begins her exploration “of all realities”, besides the physical realm. She records it with screenshots, photos, screen recordings, logs. She explores communities, especially those where belief and thought systems are very far from her own, such as Jordanpetersonians or alt-rights; and then those related to gaming and social anxiety disorders. “When I got back to health, it was clear that this exploration of online realms had become my main work”, and she composes artworks dedicated to virtual journeys in infinite and self-generated universes. She tells us about a relationship that began in chat and continued in the real world, using rooms inspired by The Sims. She creates an artistic identity based on a fictional essence that evokes Joi from Blade Runner or Samatha from Her.

And today she finds herself isolated again. With the difference of being one in a multitude. “I don’t know what it will be like for the community or for the individual when this situation ends.” Meanwhile, Saturn J. Tesla faces quarantine with a long-time experience. “I do small tasks to regain contact with my body”, in order to exercise the brain. Recently, he has also begun meditating again. Virtually, on Discord, of course.

The Instagram profile of Saturn J. Tesla is: @future_holograms

The day of Marina Abramovich

“In this moment it is very important to follow very strict rules which I made for myself:
7:30 am, wake up. Exercise on yoga mat.
8:15 am, shower, dress.
8:30 am, make breakfast.
9:00 am, have a walk.
10:00 am, go to theatre. Rehearse until 1:00 PM.
From 1:00 to 3:00 pm, go home and make a simple lunch.
At 3:00 pm, go back to theatre and rehearse until 5:30 pm.
6:00 pm, come home. Take a shower
7:00 pm, watch the news. Make the dinner
8:00 pm, speak to my office in New York.
10 pm, go to sleep.”

March 31st

On a construction site in Singapore

“It seems that this city is built to separate, to create a detachment from the ground” says Ling Hao, a Malaysian architect living in Singapore. From these tall, dense residential buildings of the city, he tells me that what he sees was created by builders and by the building development board, by virtue of the density that had to be embraced, as well as the urban form chosen to design it. He is working from home, he says: “I overlook the landscape and the city” and he continues, “I feel alone but not isolated”. He sends me some photographs of the playground that in the end portray a normal everyday scene, full of actions that surprise me for the simple reason that we haven’t seen them for weeks in Italy.

Until the time of our conversation, Covid-19 has not affected the place where he lives just like the other parts of the world and there are precise reasons why the virus has not spread there as elsewhere: since the beginning, very strict measures have been put in place to contain it, given the experience of the SARS epidemic, in March 2003. Apart from the cancellation of events involving large gatherings, small moments of panic at the supermarket, the health monitoring activities and social distancing in the city, his life has not changed much, Ling tells me


At the moment, the architect is committed to following one of his construction sites, also in Singapore, and it is there that a gap appears in our conversation. About 100,000 people move daily from Malaysia to the global financial center to work. The little quantity of water that separates the two nations is called the Strait of Johor and the two lands are mainly connected by two large bridges, used by the border workers. From the foreman’s place in Malaysia to the construction site, he tells me that it takes about an hour to arrive by motorbike.


Since mid-March and in one night, the two nations have put in place arrangements for the control of movements at the border, in order to prevent the spread of the virus. The measures currently stipulate that if you come from Malaysia and arrive in Singapore or vice versa, you must spend 14 days in quarantine. Faced with this situation, the workers have made different choices, the only two possible ones. The site manager, who has a family in Johor, has decided to suspend his work and to stay in Malaysia. Some of those who decided to stay in Singapore to go on working initially had to sleep in the public places of the city, outdoor, until the Singaporean government and citizens quickly arranged specific facilities. There are still people in the construction sites and in other work facilities of Singapore.
(GR)

March 30th

Traveling inside the house

Camilla Ferrari is a photographer from Milan, who explains the world through images and short vertical videos, used to traveling four, five months every year. Then the outbreak of the epidemic, the quarantine. And a series of photos taken at home: now they are doing the world tour.

Camilla supports a slow, meditative approach to photography; at the same time, photography is her wardrobe to Narnia, a gateway to something extraordinary. “When this terrifying scenario came to light, photographing my own house was my search for comfort”, she explains; she had the opportunity to look at the apartment where she is living for over a year in a different way: how the sun turns, the light that creates a small rainbow at 4pm, that dish that looks like a planet if you look at it in a particular way. And she started to photograph Fabio, his partner, again. “I tried to recreate the atmosphere of something in which everyone can recognise themselves: the sense of home”.

 

“I was very scared at the idea of crossing the threshold”: after a quarantine that lasted since March 8th, Camilla Ferrari recently left her house for work reasons. She saw the completely empty trams at downtown stops, “one, two, three trams in line: ghosts”, the deserted Galleria. “What scares me the most is the possibility that this distance will persist even when the emergency will be over,” she affirms: “I hope it heals before it becomes recurrent”. But the virus, besides tragedy and loss, is for Camilla a bearer of strong symbolic meanings: the need for slowness and the importance of physical proximity.

Camilla Ferrari was born in 1992, she is a photographer. Her Instagram profile is: @camillaferrariphoto.

Traveling standing still

For over two years I have written a column on La Repubblica of Naples entitled Narrazioni (narrations) – I Luoghi (places). Every Saturday I publish a story about the city of Naples with a drawing. I describe the experience of crossing urban and extra-urban places, not even the most famous ones, but which are set in the very personal mythology that everyone builds within themselves. To date, I have put together 130 itineraries with as many drawings, an emotional corpus about the city that has always needed a journey through streets and alleys, in monuments and palaces, along landscapes and hidden corners. The city has shown itself to be unlimited and generous, but in order to show its truest facets I was required to put aside every stereotype, every indulgence and every folklore. I met architecture, environment and degradation.

Davide Vargas, Viaggio da fermo, 2020
Davide Vargas, Viaggio da fermo, 2020

But when you’re stuck at home, you travel standing still. The landscape is my memory. I write recalling the perceptions of places and I feel the need to take stock of all the considerations, both written or even just thought. It’s as if the point of view has moved from immersion at eye level to an overflight that observes the rise of ignored meanings from above. With the distance of the geographer you can trace the trajectories of another map where links prevail over tangles.

Now it’s time for the flash mob, at twelve o’clock everyone applauds for their nurses and doctors on their balconies, hoping that the mild air of the day remains immune.

Davide Vargas, writer and architect, writes about journeys in the city, designs and draws
 

March 27th

’A Finestra (The window)

“How are you?” they ask me, “Locked inside,” I say. 
This pandemic is both good and bad for the world in 2020.
I moved from Ragusa to Milan 10 years ago, I’ve been a designer for 4 years, and I recently became professor. I am not alone, fortunately, I share a house with two other people in the Porta Romana district. Obviously, there are walls, a roof, two bedrooms, a living room and a bathroom, but there are also all the pieces of furniture you need.

We’ve been using them a lot lately: the couch sometimes becomes a bed and the bed sometimes becomes a couch, so we change rooms and continue resting. The table is big enough to work, eat and knead at the same time, the floor is not only used for walking, but sometimes it becomes flat for training, or, with imagination, a green lawn where we lie down and stare at our starry sky, the white ceiling.

Then there are the windows, television, computer and mobile phone, all these objects have more or less the same function in this moment of reclusion: to meet and greet each other, to look at the world, not to forget the sky and the sun.

‛A finestra (The window) di Carmen Consoli is my favourite song and the window is the object of the house that I am learning to use most during this moment of closure, where instead of forgetting I keep imagining.

Giuseppe Arezzi is a designer, he teaches Design System at IED in Como

Giuseppe Arezzi, 'A finestra, collage digitale, 2020
Giuseppe Arezzi, ’A finestra, digital collage, 2020

The designer and the disco on Zoom

Sara what do you do in quarantine, besides working? “I’m organizing a virtual disco on Zoom with friends because I need to let off some steam, I produce too many endorphins” Sara Ricciardi tells me. “I make the invitations, I give 15 minutes of time and you mustn’t speak – neither hello, nor how are you, nor acronyms about life, nor slogans, nor hashtags, just dancing. Astrid Luglio plays the music, everybody puts headphones on and we all dance like crazy. No words just shake your legs.” In addition, she was planning to open her new space, the Pataspazio, but for now it will only be virtual. Below there is a graphic preview of what it will be like. 
(Marianna Guernieri)

March 26th

Living in virtual reality

Some time ago a friend told me the story of an acquaintance of hers, a programmer who enlarged his small apartment using a VR helmet. A story that I’ve been saving in my mind and that I often think about in these days. “I am convinced that when the emergency will be over, we will take the rests of this situation, that will influence our behaviour", tells me Manuel Bazzanella on WhatsApp, CEO of Digital Mosaik, a company specialized in virtual reality. It is no coincidence that Facebook is working on Horizon, a social network that is completely designed for interactions in virtual space, he adds. 

Ford is among the first brands to use Gravity Sketch to design its vehicles in VR

Meeting people, attending events or classes; visiting a museum or a place; meditating; designing in 3D, with Gravity Sketch; traveling. These are just a few of the possible VR applications that Digital Mosaik is showing me by email. Activities that can expand our quarantine space, and stay with us tomorrow. All you need is a VR helmet. Bazzanella mentions a project he had carried out for tourism in Trentino and which ended up in the children’s ward of the Santa Chiara hospital, with virtual reality, exploited as a window to the outside world. And then there are fairs, with companies that want to build virtual stands to avoid the problems of these days. The problem, explains Manuel, is also cultural, like his fight for VR. Adding that China and the United States are further ahead, he underlines the opportunity for all creative people: “right now, whoever comes up with the right project has free space”.
(AS)

This couch is not a museum

It all started when they told us about the virus, about staying at home and my Facebook wall filled up with the nauseating rhetoric of the opportunities of silence and isolation.

It turned out that they closed museums and theatres, and they probably did the right thing. I say probably because I’m glad it wasn’t me who had to make that choice.

My wall was filled with online theatre initiatives, and museums that can be visited from the couch.

I have always watched TV on the couch, slept, read, smoked cigarettes and made useless dinners with toasts and Coca-Cola. It never occurred to me to watch a collection or the show I missed at the Biennale three years ago. And it never occurred to me for one simple reason: it is impossible.

Art begins before the actual exhibition. I cannot observe the Mona Lisa without looking at the Louvre, the hall filled with people, the time and space that elapses between me and that piece. Art doesn’t ask us to educate ourselves, but to experience.

I have never been to the MET and I do not intend to go there anytime soon: I am in quarantine. But if I can’t visit it, I want at least to be able to imagine it.

Opportunities in isolation exist, I think, but I have found only one: nostalgia for artistic production. If there’s one thing I want to nurture, it’s the desire to go to the MET.

Maybe I’ll try now, maybe I’ll pass through Forlimpopoli and as soon as I arrive, I’ll spend three
hours in front of the Mona Lisa. At the MET. Maybe I’ll give her a kiss, maybe I’ll have myself arrested, because this quarantine will end as well.

Everything ends, doesn’t it?

No, the Mona Lisa doesn’t.

Francesco Bressan, actor and performer, deals with theatre, dramaturgy and performing art. He is part of the duo Bressan/Romondia.

Parigi. Visitatori del museo del Louvre di fronte a La Gioconda. Foto Juan Di Nella
Paris. Visitors to the Louvre museum in front of La Gioconda. Photos Juan Di Nella

March 25th

The distance from the city

Vorrei sapere, quanto è grande il verde
come è bello il mare, quanto dura una stanza


(Fabrizio De Andrè, Italian singer-songwriter)

(
I would like to know, how big is green,
How beautiful is the sea, How long does a room last?
)

On the phone, my mother asks me: “Are there fewer people on the streets in Milan?”
That’s how I realize that I hardly ever look outside. 

The city is far away, even though I’m in there.
Maybe you too have the feeling that the time spent in your house folds back on itself, between the walls of every room. Perhaps you too find yourself in your room, among the folds of a strange substance that seems to be polyurethane foam, expanding slowly and inevitably.
There, that’s the time of your room. We are all decorating our own space-time tunnels, filling them, physically and metaphorically, with new body movements, books, Spotify playlists, sheets of paper and Excel files, online pilates courses and live videos on Instagram.

The city is there, somewhere in our minds, motionless and alone.

According to Francesca, the city is immersed in water, an element that measures the distance between us and the Velasca tower, the Pirelli tower or the Branca one. A distance that is not only spatial: water is in fact, first and foremost, a symbol of temporal suspension. In her illustrations, cities, human beings and nature are confronted with the sky which, she tells me, becomes “suddenly closer, bringing humanity closer to the world of ideas”. This abstract and mythological dimension that springs from the collection “La misura della distanza”, is for Francesca a means to understand “what we do now on Earth”, in our rooms, trying to make sense out of this feeling of inevitable suspension.

(GR)

Francesca Berni, is an architect and graduate student at the Polytechnic University of Milan. In her doctoral thesis, water is the main tool for the research about the shape of space. She studied in Rome and Milan, with experiences at ETSAM (Madrid) and SJTU (Shanghai).

Not alone

From time to time you’ll probably see little creatures wandering around your house. Spiders weave webs in the quiet corners of a room, ladybugs sometimes appear near windows where water condenses, ants find their way towards food left out by chance. According to the results of a biodiversity research published by Peer-J magazine in January 2018, there are about 100 different species of spiders, centipedes and insects living in our houses. Those we see are but a small part of a hidden (but precious) world of another life on this sick planet. A fragile life on which we depend.

Sottsass once wrote: “Wouldn’t it be nice if even architects had some deep knowledge of what is vague, hidden, comforting, precious on the planet, of what moves and lives, in order to give it to us, who sail on the distant sea of life?”
Let’s think about it.

Angelo Renna is an architect, he deals with nature and environment.

March 24th

Rethinking the city of the future

A sneeze, a cough. The droplet — the keyword of the emergency, an excellent starting point for the title of the next blockbuster about the virus — remains in the air, settles on objects. You touch it, put your hands over your eyes or nose and you get infected. According to the study published by the New England Journal of Medicine, in a room heated to 21 degrees Celsius and with a relative air humidity of 40%, the virus resists 3 hours in the air and up to 3 days on everything made of polypropylene, one of the most used plastic polymers in the world: bags, toys, chairs and ornaments. The Rubik’s cube, Tupperware. Polypropylene surrounds us. The Coronavirus survives 2, 3 days on stainless steel; about one day on cardboard.

Among the commonly used metals, the virus remains infectious for less time on copper: 4 hours, just one more than in the air. Copper kills the virus and Fastcompany recently paid tribute to it, writing a sort of hagiography, retracing the descending parabola of this material from the Industrial Revolution to the present day and quoting the critical studies of the researcher Phyllis J. Kuhn starting from the mid-eighties. Steel may seem cleaner to us, it may mirror the contemporary taste for translucency and lightness, but if we were to choose a material with which to rethink our private and public spaces, starting with hospitals, it would have to be copper and the alloy that together with zinc, composes bronze. How would you imagine a city covered with copper and bronze, where plastic and steel play a very small role?

Of course, that's not all. Adhesive tapes mark the size of a meter on the ground at supermarket checkouts; outside, people keeping the safe distance seem choreographed for a video of Romain Gavras; in deserted subways you travel standing or sitting on the side seats, leaving the maximum distance between passengers. Elevators have become a problem. In Hong Kong, keypads and handles are disinfected several times a day, or covered with a cyclically replaced plastic sheet. Planning a safer city means including these experiences in the design of what is new and in the re-design of what already exists. Starting from the problem of population density, vertical cities, which are the engines of contagion, on a planet where the population is concentrated in urban areas. Once we restart talking about the cities of the future, it will be necessary to take into account all these variables.
(AS) 


March 23rd

Adamo-Faiden: anatomy of a quarantine in Buenos Aires

Sebastián and Marcelo – the two partners of the Adamo-Faiden architecture studio – started teaching at Princeton University this year. They arrive in New York on March 7th but depart earlier than expected: on Friday 13th they manage to catch one of the last flights to Buenos Aires, just before the Argentine government put restrictions on flights coming from countries at high risk of Covid-19, including the United States.
Their return home, however, will end with the 14-day quarantine period, ending on Friday, March 27th. The two architects are living a bizarre situation, in fact they find themselves – after several vicissitudes – occupying two different apartments in two separate buildings, both designed by them: Bonpland 2169 building and La Vecindad in Plaza Mafalda. They would only need a 15-minute walk to reach each other, but their spatial and living conditions are totally different.

Screenshot della call: a sinistra Sebastián Adamo e, a destra, Marcelo Faiden dello studio Adamo-Faiden
Screenshot of the video call: Sebastián Adamo on the left and Marcelo Faiden on the right, from Adamo-Faiden studio

The law of the contrapasso
“In my case, the story is quite simple, I’m away from my family,” says Marcelo from the top floor of Bonpland 2169 building, from which he sees the city from above. He tells me that after having made several calls to find a housing solution for this period, he realized that the apartment was vacant. “I had the keys and so I brought my suitcase here (...) I feel like a monk: I have few things and a lot of time”. Marcelo found himself living in a space that he developed, designed and built together with his partner in their studio, but he also adds that he had never spent so much time in there, “not even during the construction”. Javier Agustín Rojas, a photographer who often works with them, has his studio just a couple of levels below and brings him what he needs. Marcelo explains to me that the photographs he sent to me are for him the most immediate way of telling “the experience of living in a space I have designed, where I am trying to discover new things” but, he continues, “it will take some time before I'll be able to draw conclusions”.


A highly normed space

“My situation is totally different”, Sebastián tells me on Zoom, “I stay in the basement of the house I normally live in, and I share a part of this space with my family”. This place is normally shared in total freedom by the three members of the family, but now, Sebastián points out, they have created three different categories of spaces: “we use some of these in a strictly individual way, then there are those we are obliged to share – like the main bathroom – and then there is the space in which we circulate”. He tells me that the basement where he lives in these days is part of his house, they use it as an annex, and that it has a bathroom with no shower. The two parts of the house are separated by a patio: “we do not share the same air and the same space”. He tells me that his son Aldo is too young to know how to handle these conditions. Both Sebastián and his partner, on the other hand, must “be very specific about the boundaries between our living spaces, about how we use the rooms and how we clean and sterilise them: the house was the main space in which our freedom unfurled, but now it is a highly normed space”.
(GR)

March 21st

Other People’s Houses: the story

That’s the drying rack back there. Or at least it looks like one. I get distracted trying to figure out if it’s socks or underwear. Yeah, that’s a drying rack. And those are blue socks.
Marco lives in a studio apartment without balcony, so it’s very likely that it is a drying rack back there. Luciana bought herself a wonderful penthouse last year, I remember the inauguration party. Behind her, there is light, a lot of light, and air, the greatest luxury during these days. It’s easy when your husband is an executive and you have your parents’ estate.
Then, there’s that new colleague who has a horrible house.  I don’t know him well yet, he arrived just before the quarantine, but that office chair (that matches with the brown wardrobe) tells me we don’t have much in common.
Filippo must be living in a basement: at 4pm he already has to turn on the light. I feel very sorry about that, it must be very tough for him in these days of reclusion.
Ruggero has lined up behind him a host of books, in a way that all the titles are clearly visible. I knew many of them and I searched the others on the internet. The arrangement that comes out is schizophrenic but interesting, I promised myself to go out a few evenings with him and his family.
Marisa must have my same fixation, she has carefully studied the background that frames her, with a corner of a window and an old family painting showing. The exact opposite of what Daniela does, connecting from the kitchen with all the dirty dishes in the background, without any shame.
Anna is passionate about plants, and I already knew that because she is the only one in the office who has a vase on her desk. The background looks like a jungle and her grey cat is the panther. In her audio I even think I recognize a bird’s whistle.
Benny, the Indian guy who works at computers, has six children and during the video calls I saw them all: they came in to ask him to open a fruit juice, to take them to the bathroom, they wanted a game, they cried because they were hurt by a brother.  He has a modest house, probably rented, filled with extremely big furniture for such a small space. Benny is great, stoic and always smiling. He deserves a pay raise; I’ll talk to his boss.
I can’t stand Vania in the office and I can’t stand her house, with garden gnomes in the living room.
Massimo makes video calls from his cell phone and walks all the time. Great thing for me because in this way I was able to study the whole house, I even drew the plan. It’s huge, giving the fact that it is a city apartment.
Alfonso’s room looked sad, even though he never was. Then I realized that he had moved into his old mother’s house, whose caregiver had fled to Ukraine as soon as the pandemic started.
My background is different from everyone else’s. It’s white.
In order to show nothing but the wall, I had to move the desk, blocking half of the living room, but in this way, I keep my privacy.
Meanwhile, I peep and zoom other people’s boxes to study the details.
I love working from home.

Giona Peduzzi, tv author, he turned 40 during the quarantine.

March 20th

The “augmented” window by Sovrappensiero

Artivive is an app that was originally created to “augment” art using digital technology. You frame an artwork with your smartphone and see it in motion; Actually, the device has simply been “trained” by the app to show a certain video instead of the image, in this way it creates the illusion. Ernesto and Lorenzo of Sovrappensiero Design Studio hacked into this system to get something different with “Somewhere”. Their project transforms a drawing that anyone can print and hang in the house into an open window overlooking a virtual landscape that can change every day. “We usually create products for big companies”, explains the duo, but the quarantine slowed down the work: “so we decided to do something related to this situation”.

“Somewhere” by Sovrappensiero Design Studio

“Somewhere” is a project that aims at creating a narrative and getting people out of the house. “We explained that the fastest way to do that was through augmented reality,” Lorenzo tells me, asking me if I tried the app. Some people printed the paper and hung it with a pin, he says; others taped it to the wall; a few even framed it. And then, I guess there are those who, like me, don’t have a printer and so looked at it on the iPad. “We like the fact that there is a material component and that everyone approaches it in a different way”, explains Sovrappensiero, adding that the inspiration for the drawing comes from Emilio Isgrò’s erased words: the only ones that still remain compose the sentence stay at home and go somewhere. “And we also like to think that this journey is shared”. When I ask Ernesto what he sees from his real window, the one at home, he talks to me about a lot of natural light, but also a landscape made of firm concrete, devoid of any visual stimulus. In this way even the thoughts stop. This is the importance of “Somewhere”, he explains, “small motions and a little colour that bring us back to the worlds we’ll crowd when the quarantine ends”.
(AS)

Sovrappensiero Design Studio was founded in 2007 by Lorenzo De Rosa and Ernesto Ladevaia. You can ask for the image that allows you to access to Somewhere on Instagram @sopensierodesign or by email.

7 years and 7 weeks, maybe

I have been working from home for seven years. An old-fashioned entryway, almost as big as a room with a window, fulfilled at first its original function: the space where we left coats, shoes – that belonged to my daughters and their friends – and packages. At a certain point, however, it became my work space with a desk, which came from an installation of la Biennale di Venezia, printer, modem, and a typical ’60s Chiavari chair I inherited from my father. In the back, instead of the floor lamp, there is a small table that was slowly filled with my daughters’ books and various paperwork – and no, I never cleared space on it and I never read Marie Kondo’s manual. I used to take my coffee break at the bar or putting my washing out.

That space holds now my working tools, even if I started working in the office again, for Domus, and I only use it occasionally. Today, I find myself working there all day long, with optical fibre instead of DSL, a slightly more innovative printer that I hardly ever use, an external CD player that I use even less. Eames’ fiberglass 1954 chair replaced the Chiavari one, but I don’t really know if it is more comfortable than the old one. From here, I also give lessons to my IED students, like all the other teachers in Italy are now doing. I take my coffee break in the kitchen, where I furiously cook – and yes, in all the chat rooms we share this extreme cooking. And every day tastes a bit like an abnormal Saturday. Will it last 7 weeks?
(Simona Bordone)

March 19th

Ugo La Pietra’s prophecy

Ugo answers the phone with a bright, living voice, from “a remote location, on a hill of the Ligurian hinterland”, he says. We exchange our impressions about the latest events related to the epidemic in Milan, the city he left 20 days ago, along with his work tools, his archive and his objects. He tells me that he is trying to reconstruct his home life on that hill, but not without difficulty. I tell him about my relationship with the desk in these days, I call him perhaps in the hope that he can give me those “instructions for experiencing the house” that I wrote about on March 17th. He tells me, however, that the first step to do in order to transform the domestic space cannot be found inside our houses, but just outside them: “since we’re stuck at home, the balcony is for us, the surrogate domestic object that stands for our relationship with the city. It is the only escape from our condition”.

However, it is difficult for him to imagine how the younger generations “accustomed to staying outside” are facing this moment. In the last twenty years “the new generations have lost interest towards home furnishing – except for the PC – and domestic space”.
In unsuspicious times, i.e. in the 1970s, with his research Inside/Outside – partly published by Corraini in the homonymous 2014 book – Ugo projected formal elements from the domestic interior onto the front of his ceramic houses (for Fusella, 1977). These pieces recall a postmodern imagination: the balcony takes the shape of an armchair, or a curtain softly rests on the facade. If we consider them now, during this quarantine, they seem almost prophetic.
The research, which followed the line of Living is feeling everywhere at home, illustrated the fall of the public/private threshold, and was based on “the house that opened outwards, by Gio Ponti”. In this situation, partly caused by a “globalization that got out of hand” according to him, the balcony is “our lifeline, the only possibility of still feeling part of the urban space”.
(GR)

Ugo La Pietra is an artist, architect, designer and Italian theorist.

Ugo La Pietra, “Ex-voto”, mixed media on paper, March 19th 2020
Ugo La Pietra, “Ex-voto”, mixed media on paper, March 19th 2020

The queueing theory

Italy is famous for many things. Certainly not for knowing how to wait in line. We associate this concept with other contexts, other countries. In 1909 the child prodigy of Danish statistics, Agner Krakup Erlang presented The theory of probability and telephone conversation, introducing a new field of study: the queueing theory. It is not only applied to call traffic, but also to transport and supplies sectors and, more simply, to the queues people have to wait before entering the checkout line of the supermarket or airport controls. The intention is to "draw" flowing queues, even if there are those who tend to manage them inefficiently, like Italians do. Have you ever wondered if behind the pattern of a Primark or Ikea queue there is a reasoning and an application? Now you have the answer.

Filaindiana.it

My house doesn't have one of those little terraces where now you do the macarena at 6:00 p.m. or you sing volare-ooo-ooo all together.  I don't envy those who have a room overlooking the street, except for a clear advantage: from there you can see in real time how long is the queue for entering the local supermarket. In fact, after the first stores being assaulted at the end of February, which caused the depletion of hand sanitizers, red meat and toilet paper, and a following dead calm, the entrances to the supermarkets are now curtailed. Only a few people can enter, and outside the others wait in line, at least one meter away from one another. These queues can sometimes last for hours. Luckily, the terrace is not the only place from where you can look outside: you can also exploit the digital world to do that. On the social street of my neighbourhood on Facebook, the angels of the queues share their photos, taken from privileged observation points. They guess the waiting times, fluidify the traffic, rationalize it by sharing data, giving an acceptable form to the burden of waiting during the days of the Coronavirus. And on the site filaindiana.it you can find all the waiting times. If there is an award in the name of Erlang, this year it should go to all of them.
(AS)

March 18th

Art stories in hard times by twenty14

In 1897 the American writer Stephen Crane condensed in a single story (The open boat) the terrible experience of shipwreck he had lived a few months earlier. Today, that narrative is recognized as his masterpiece. This is the first of many “Art stories in hard times” of twenty14, stories of “great personalities who left us with something precious after living a difficult situation”, published in the form of Instagram stories on the profile @t14contemporary. “These are original ideas, shown in order to make our days more creative and productive,” explains Matilde Scaramellini, part of the curatorial duo together with Elena Vaninetti. Above all, they explain, it is “a form of entertainment designed for an audience of art lovers and artists”.

The main activity of twenty14 has always been about managing the art consulting and the organization of exhibitions. Face-to-face meetings are crucial, “but this situation makes it impossible to work as usual”, explains Scaramellini; she also adds: “it is evident that these stories are something different from our everyday activity”. They are part of the tumultuous, varied flow of proposals, shared during these days of quarantine through social media, which go from yoga to comedians, to performance. There are many of them, maybe too many. Matilde observes how digital stories and events have taken the place of the “craving”, of the “presenteeism”, that was normal in Milan until less than a month ago. According to twenty14, in a city that is so accustomed to a concept of well-being that consists in the consumption of everything, even events, this new living situation is an encouragement to all of us to “look inside ourselves”.
It will also be interesting to see what will remain of this unprecedented experience in the future. The girls of twenty14 explain that “the diversification of the content is an issue we’ll face when it is all over”, notwithstanding the fact that “no matter how much we try to describe you a work of art, you need to see it to really understand”.
(AS)

Luca Molinari and time dilation

“Since I travel a lot, I’m used to seeing the world while I work through devices. Then, I share everything with the studio, through the server” says Luca Molinari on the phone, from his home in Milan. We are accustomed to having access to the network at all times: “you wake up in the morning, turn off the alarm and pick up the phone: the network is there in bed with you”. However, during these days he noticed that “what has changed is time”, which seems to be undergoing an interesting dilation, sometimes a real dispersion.
Right now, devices and networks are the only access to the outside world for many of us, and our relational tension is finding its expression there. According to Luca, their use has become “slower and more intriguing” and because of that, he finally manages to “enjoy those interesting contents that I finally have time to deepen”.
We agree, however, about the fact that in the chaos of trying to set rhythms for smart working, what seems always out of control is the length of the meetings and the proliferation of programs to have them: we connect via Skype, Hangouts, Zoom, Facetime, we discover new ones by the hour. In light of what he wrote in the book The Homes We Are (Nottetempo, 2016), I ask him if he has somehow arranged his house in order to accommodate these virtual meetings. He answers no, and adds that he is convinced that privacy - “the parameter on which modern society was built” - has been lost for years.
In all this virtuality, as a neo-nomad, he tells me smilingly that the thing he misses the most in these days is “the air that smells a little like sanitizing, that air you feel in airplane cabins”.
(GR)

Luca Molinari is a critic, professor and curator of architecture.

Orizzontale by Katia Fucci

Katia Fucci, “orizzontale”, inchiostro di china su carta, Milano, 2020
Katia Fucci, “Orizzontale”, india ink on paper, Milan, 2020

March 17th

Corolla, a self-isolation art project

Giuseppina Giordano quotes Kobayashi Issa’s well-known haiku: “A world of grief and pain: flowers bloom, even then”. The artist, who lives in Milan, was supposed to leave for Japan at the end of February. She was going to experience the Japanese hanami, the transient spectacle of blossoming trees. However, she had to return to Sicily, where her parents, both doctors, live. She has been quarantined in her brother’s room for 15 days. “It was February 23rd, the first cases had just broken out in Lombardy. I was in Florence and all the trains to Milan had been cancelled. Once I arrived at my parents’ house, I was asked to self-isolate and to use only one bathroom. They disinfected the handles and so forth”.

It is in that room, filled with his brother’s stuff, such as comics, books and his electric bass, that Corolla was born: a series of wearable sculptures made of long flexible coloured petals, designed to be worn by most people. “I missed the idea of being able to touch other people and these sculptures are thought as extensions of our bodies”: the artist explains that this project was based on the idea that feeling like a single human family, during a such difficult time, could help us to overcome the crisis.
You will find the international crowdfunding on Indiegogo.

(AS)

Is space created by objects?

During quieter periods, in Domus 1021 of February 2018, entitled Time, Michele De Lucchi wrote: “it’s the object that creates the space and not vice versa”. That was the month in which I joined the editorial staff, but that editorial returns today with a whole new perspective. 
From the day smart working was first introduced, work began to arrive directly to my room, as a giant computer, my constant companion during my days in the newsroom. At the moment it is both my window on the world and on my room. Since I had to deal with this huge piece, I involuntarily found myself exploring my desk, a jungle of objects. I didn’t need to consider their weight, colour and size before, but this week I decided to do it, in order to make them functional to this new dimension of life.

Giuseppe Arezzi, Gabbie, collage digitale, 2018
Giuseppe Arezzi, Gabbie, digital collage, 2018

I imagine Alessandro Mendini in his house, at the time of the Triennale, wondering about “The Things We Are” during the homonymous exhibition. I see him writing, while looking at the heterogeneity of the objects around him, as components of a “micro-system of life”. I imagine, as the former director of Domus did, that “if I move a few metres, I'll find yet another system, and then another, and then a thousand and thousand in all directions. Systems that belong to me and to others, to all of us (...) the totality of the infinite stages of our minds and bodies”. 
Our homes are slowly but surely taking a different shape, more fitting to our renewed existential dimension, that of the digital hermit. The multiplication of “the rules for smart working”, addressed to those who, like me, visit the house very little, confirmed it. More than “instructions for experiencing the city" (quoting Ugo La Pietra) - now we need to work out new “instructions for experiencing the house”.
(GR)

Giuseppe Arezzi, Gabbie, collage digitale, 2018
Giuseppe Arezzi, Gabbie, digital collage, 2018

35smq

I live in a thirty square meter little cube, on the eastern side of Nolo, the new “fancy district for fancy people” of Milan. At home I have both comfort and technology quantum satis: a 49-inch TV, large fridge, combi oven, three game consoles, record player, comfortable sofa, Alexa and Google Home, a soft carpet where I like to lie down every now and then, an extendable table. Despite this, if you ask me where I live most often and willingly, I answer that I stay at Marco’s and his family’s; Marco comes from China, from the Chinese mountains, and runs his beloved bar with pool table, that local seniors (and me) like so much; the Heracles gym, where the noble arts of boxing, music, theatre and more are practised; the supermarket across the street, where I nearly always pass by, on my way home from work, almost as if it was an airlock for me; the bar-library that has just opened behind my house, Anarres; the dehors of the municipal market, charming during summer; Mrs. Carmen, the chubby lady who sells absolutely everything and fills your head with chatter. Not to mention the restaurants, the Q Club, in Morbegno Square, crazy nights and beers. And then the Milan Metro Loreto stop, the green metro trains, tram No. 15 and buses No. 230 to Rozzano, home to Domus’ newsroom.
 All of that is now gone without warning. Wiped out. The supermarkets hold up, but people enter by rotation and there are stripes marked on the ground to point out the distance. Suddenly, I only live at home. From morning till night. I work there. I live there. Every once in a while, on my lunch break, I’d run out to the park for a run and some squats. As of today, I’m in strict quarantine. I just found out that on March 10th I had contact with a coronavirus patient.
(AS

March 16th

We entered the kitchen after dark, it took us a few seconds to realize that it was Chubby Checker’s voice bouncing off the walls of the courtyard. We opened the French window of the balcony, and there they were, all of our neighbours, standing there looking out the window, or on their balconies, waving at me and F., my roommate, to the rhythm of Let’s Twist Again. So, we found ourselves there too, smiling newcomers to a party that tasted like a new form of prohibition.
It was Saturday and, just before, I had metaphorically drawn the first horizontal bar above the first four vertical ones. One for each day I stayed at home, since the beginning of the quarantine, which for me had started on Tuesday, March 10th, together with smart working. Our house is a very long hallway, an apparently senseless space, where the rooms almost look like attachments. Sometimes it seems to be that the apartment has been carved, more than designed: on one side two bedrooms, on the other bathroom and kitchen. Since Tuesday, March 10th, all the floors of our lives have been squeezed into a single and inevitable space: our homes. All the people have suddenly become equidistant, and the distance corresponds to the still uncertain duration of this quarantine
.
(GR)

The balconanza: terraces, new squares

We’ve been calling each other these days, to tell one another what we’re doing in our homes lately. Giuseppe answers that from his house in Rome, at the Pigneto, he sees the aqueduct and, under it, the terraces and roofs of the Mandrione. He lives only a few minutes’ walk from the premises of his architecture studio, Orizzontale, but the extension of rules to the national territory soon reached the capital. For those who work around self-constructing building sites like them, this has meant a total rescheduling of the agenda.

Orizzontale, 8° giorno di quarantena al Mandrione, Roma, 2020
Orizzontale, 8th day of quarantine at the Mandrione, Rome, 2020

On the eighth day of quarantine, we found ourselves thinking about the ongoing rediscovery of terraces as “stages of relationship”. In the illustration of Orizzontale, you’ll notice people organizing a party on a roof, exchanging baskets from one building to another by using pulleys, cultivating the garden for the neighbourhood, some others offering their own garden for sports activities, all of this while a teacher is giving directions from the roof of the house across the street. Orizzontale’s drawing is therefore an encouragement to meditate on this moment that sees us all forced to stay at home, to overcome the crisis with a renewed sense of being together among neighbours: meeting from the terraces can be a new way to experience the dimension of “neighbourhood”.
(GR)

With Giuseppe Grant, co-founder of Orizzontale, a collective of architects based in Rome

Lidia

How does quarantine affect those who live their lives between stage and practice room? Lidia Carew is a dancer, actress and performer who lives in Milan. She affirms: “I’m staying at home and I’m coping well with it”. She also adds something you wouldn’t expect: “Maybe I needed to take a break from this world going super-fast”. 
Since August, Lidia has been living with her partner Matteo Caccia and their dog, in an apartment that she describes as “not too big but not too small, like any house in Milan”. In addition to the living room and the bedroom, there's a studio-wardrobe, and she points out: “it is more a wardrobe than a study, since we started to live together”. In these days, that room, which perhaps represents better than any other the delicate balance of a new cohabitation, has changed his identity again: Matteo must now work for Radio 24 from home, and so the space has turned into a small recording studio. Between clothes racks and coats.

Lidia and Matteo’s studio-wardrobe

The dancer affirms: “it’s a very big test for couples, especially in a city like Milan, where space is extremely limited”, explaining how the use of headphones helps them circumscribe both physical and auditory space. In the living room she does stretching and muscle strengthening exercises: “My purpose now is to stay fit”. She doesn’t always listen to music.
This forced break gives Lidia more time to manage the association Lidia Dice, founded 4 years ago. Lidia has not only rearranged the spaces at home: she is redesigning her entire life, and she tells it with the quiet optimism of a voice that, message after message via WhatsApp, never bends to fear. There is life after quarantine, new opportunities. “Let’s think like that, or we will all jump off the balcony”.
(AS)

About the journal

The first issue of Domus was published in 1928 with an evocative subtitle: “Architecture and interior design of modern homes in the city and in the countryside”. The magazine was born in Milan, but has always shown a strong international vocation. Almost 100 years later, all eyes are on Milan and northern Italy: the western epicentre of the greatest Coronavirus contagion lies, in fact, in the regions of Lombardy and Veneto. Since it was declared “red zone”, the Italian economic capital is living an unprecedented situation: people cannot leave their homes. Gyms, schools, museums, bars, and even fenced parks are now closed. The direction is clear: stay at home. Even the editorial staff of Domus is now starting to introduce smart working. It is a whole new experience, both for people and for homes. An experience that caught us unprepared: how do you live in quarantine?

Hence the idea of this work: a collection of stories, places and people, ideas and projects, but also of actions and reactions, told day by day. We will involve architects, designers, artists and more. Fully in line with Domus’ vocation, we start from Milan, keeping in touch with the world.

“Living in quarantine” is coordinated by Giulia Ricci and Alessandro Scarano. To contact us, please write to giulia.ricci@edidomus.it and alessandro.scarano@domusweb.it

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