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‘Homework’ is often associated with study of various kinds, but perhaps mostly for the education of young children. However, as we find ourselves developing an ever-increasing dependence of our homes as a place of work, the word is more strongly associated with the lived experiences of ‘home’ and ‘work’ for a range of communities.

When considering the multiple meanings of ‘work’, we can understood the word as ‘our most general word for doing something, and for something to be done’.[1]  Work is therefore inextricably linked to a kind of labour, paid or otherwise, domestic or not. In other words, to work is to toil, to exert, to craft, or to produce something. Understanding the role of ‘work’ in a time of pandemics, lockdowns and working from home, has seen the word take on new meanings within the rapidly changing landscapes of academic research, architectural design, and political, social, and environmental activism.

Forced into our homes by various forms of lockdown, today virtually all of us are doing homework in some form or another. As a cohort and as architectural historians, our homework considers what has been afforded to us through online learning and distancing – both socially and geographically – during the global COVID-19 pandemic, but also, what has been lost. Our experience as academics and students in classrooms and lecture halls has been replaced by split-screen video calls in an effort to maintain the expected experiences of university study.

While physical archives have lain dormant and inaccessible, as researchers we have been made to reassess how we approach the study of architectural history – replacing libraries and museums with virtual repositories of drawings, letters, photographs, maps and documents. In some ways we have been able to zoom into images in more detail, analysing pixel after pixel, word after word. In other ways, our research has been forced to change, adapt and invent alternative kinds of ‘evidence’, given our distance from physical sites. The range of work produced by the Architectural History cohort over the summer of 2020 has been moulded by how able we are to bring the outside world into our personal spaces, and how we can reflect this in our ‘homework’.

As Mary Douglas noted in The Idea of a Home: A Kind of Space (1991), ‘Home is located in a space, but it is not necessarily a fixed space’.[2]  The dissertations produced by this year’s cohort have been written all over the world – our homes have become our studies and our workspaces, and the home of our study moved away from the Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL, and London, also suggesting the validity of these lived experiences and spaces for our architectural and historical research.

This collection of excerpts therefore simultaneously shows the inability to access the physical materials of buildings and of objects is not a complete loss of material architectures, and how we have continued to find and embrace architectural histories in digital textures. As practitioners of architectural history, we have reimagined and repurposed interdisciplinary approaches and methodologies. Our ‘homework’, both individually and collectively, highlights how the events of this year have changed how we understand the spaces around us and the networks within which we live. What is lost to us from our homes has been replaced by new opportunities and methodologies – and our work pays tribute to how life is shaped by how we can continue to adapt our homes, communities and skills for our future intellectual development.

[1] Raymond Williams, Keywords: A vocabulary of culture and society. (London: Fontana Press. 1976/1983), 334.

[2] Mary Douglas, ‘The Idea of a home: A Kind of Space’, Social Research 58, no 1. (1991), 289.

A collection of abstracts offering an overview of this cohort's final dissertations, introducing the themes of 'HOMEWORK.'

This 2-part online symposium celebrates what is afforded to us by online learning whilst showcasing wide ranging themes from subjectivity and housing to food, landscape and art as well as health, finance, the post-war period and global cities.

Held over two consecutive evenings, talks from three keynote speakers will be followed up by a series of question and answers initiated by the cohort and related to their research, producing a dialogue between the students and speakers.

Read the collation of the cohort's abstracts for 'HOMEWORK' in book form.

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