PROP UP: When staying home is the new going out

Published July 3, 2021, 1:40 AM

by Joseph C. Tay

For architect Jason Buensalido, architecture has always been an exercise in problem solving. Beyond beauty and aesthetics, his approach aims to translate his clients’ everyday experience into a design that enables them to transition seamlessly from one aspect of life to the next. But what happens when the entire gamut of life unfolds within the home? Buensalido offers some insights on what the new normal means for our homes and the spaces within. 

The pandemic changed how we define living in the home. “The home before was a place where you just lived after work and during the weekends,” says Buensalido. “Even then, we’d go to malls, concerts, parks. Today, the home has evolved to accommodate all facets of life—“it’s now the gym, office, factory, and warehouse. But these realities have also had a bearing on our homes, most of which were designed for a former way of life.”

So what new realities are we facing in the new normal and how do we respond to these changes from an architecture and design perspective?

The best investment pieces for the home depend on the user’s values. For instance, families that prioritize quality time should invest in lounge spaces and comfortable furniture.

According to him, there has been an undeniable focus on essentials, namely security, health, and safety. For home design, this necessitates more “transitory spaces” that allow the home to remain a safe haven from the virus. Whatever forms these spaces take, from entry foyers to a second entrance, they need to ensure that people can transition from the outside to the inside without posing a threat to their households. 

Another realization was that traits that were thought of as trends in contemporary design—glass, light, ventilation—have become basic requirements for the current reality.

Multifunctional spaces solve the problem of conflicting activities within the home. An office during the day could become a recreation space at night.

“We need to make sure that our spaces are healthy and lead us toward wellness,” says Buensalido. The concept of architecture to promote wellness isn’t new, he says. For example, modernism in the early 20th century promoted more windows and light as a response to the Spanish Flu, which was thought to thrive in dark spaces. But it takes on new meaning in the present day because of the belief that the spaces themselves should be healthy to promote the wellness of its inhabitants—if a space is bright and airy, it should only follow that the people inside emulate that lightness. 

An undeniable fact of life is that conflicting activities now exist within the home. As someone tries to unwind with a book, their companion attends a HIIT class. Children barge into their parents’ Zoom meetings singing and dancing. The solution is not to build spaces for every function but to create multifunctional spaces. “A library can be an office during the day, and a place for hobbies and crafts at night,” says Buensalido. 

Homes should be able to expand or overflow into spaces to accommodate the breadth of activities within the home.

This is a departure from the old ways of building larger homes with more rooms to house different activities. Instead, spaces now not only need to be multifunctional, but adaptable.

“Make the living room expand to the lanai, and the lanai to the garden,” he says. “Instead of fixed furniture, make them moveable and modular to adjust to spatial configurations. In this way, the home can expand, contract, and transform to accommodate the breadth of activities hosted within its borders.” 

The use of glass, light, ventilation – traits thought of as trends in contemporary design – have become basic requirements in the new normal.

With these new realities, the inevitable question is: “What new tools do we need to invest in to successfully adjust?” The answer, according to Buensalido, depends on your values.

“If your main concern is remote work, then upgrading your internet to the best plan is enough,” he says. But for a family that values quality time, “invest in lounge spaces and pieces that make you feel comfortable.” The best investment is the one that allows you to live out your values and deliver your work in the most efficient way possible, be it an industrial kitchen, gym equipment, or a garden full of plants.

Since the pandemic, the role of the home has expanded to cover all facets of life, from work and study, to hobbies and recreation.

In the midst of changing times, architecture and design have always been in a unique position to respond to context, he says. The most successful architects are driven by the same philosophy: “It’s not about imposing style, philosophy, or personality. It’s about us listening to you, where you’re coming from, and using architecture to be shaped by your specific context.”