2020 was undoubtedly a year that turned out to be nothing like what I had experienced before. I’m not only referring COVID-19 but also taking a gap year and giving a go at various projects that I set myself in response to circumstances have been challenging but rewarding.
There were plans and recurring commitments for 2020 that I had to throw out of the window. However, I must say that I was one of the lucky ones who could retain jobs and work from home. Also, re-planning my everyday schedule allowed me to try something new.
Here, I’m going to highlight some of the to-dos I undertook this year that meant a lot to me.
After returning from the Summer School in Sydney, I realised that the ability to speak both Japanese and English is useful for making resources written in Japanese available to my friends and teachers here in Australia. I had never been trained to translate Japanese into English, so it’s been a challenge.
Nevertheless, I found a new interest in understanding the original text and attempting to communicate the same tone of voice, meanings and flow using appropriate terminology, idioms and expressions. It’s beyond just being able to speak and read English, and I need more practice and training. But I’m glad that I took a small but meaningful first step this year.
Work at the University
I was fortunate to be a studio tutor for Foundations of Design: Representation at the University of Melbourne in Semester 1 this year. The pandemic forced everyone to move to online teaching, and it was tough to see students getting affected by the need to adapt to the new everyday life (not just university, but impacts on families, work, relationships, house, etc.). However, I was lucky to be able to see the struggles of online teaching from the perspective of tutors.
Thinking about the new means of subject delivery and studio engagement through tutoring helped me be more (mentally) prepared with the workshop facilitator job that I was offered in Semester 2 for Design Studio Gamma. I’m thankful for the fact the subject coordinators of Studio Gamma found my workshops from last year valuable and offered me another chance. With new online workshops, I experimented with a new set of activities for weekly 90-minute sessions that can accommodate 30+ people at a time. I hope my work meant something to students, and I’m keen to continue developing activities for better student experience.
The pandemic hit the tourism volunteering program by the City of Melbourne hard, not to mention the entire tourism economy around the world. The visitor centres along with countless shops and services shut down during the lockdown, and the fact many volunteers are in the high-risk age group meant the volunteering program couldn’t be back for a long time. Until further notice, there’s no shift scheduled.
In the meantime, I looked for other volunteering work I can undertake, and I found the Japanese online counselling platform called あなたのいばしょ. I signed up, completed the online training and the supervised session, and I’m responding to chats whenever I can secure time. Messages are often very confronting, but it’s such a rewarding job to be there to listen to somebody’s concerns and assist them with finding a way forward.
The rehearsals for the Australian Youth Band had to be on hold due to the lockdown in Victoria, and it was very frustrating that I couldn’t practise the percussions (except on a drum pad). At least, I have had access to the keyboard, alto saxophone, drum pad and a bass guitar so I’ve been quite lucky that I could continue playing music.
The bass guitar is the newest addition to my hobby; I bought it as my brother got the electric guitar and I thought I could have a jam with him one day. Bass guitar has completely different ways of using fingers and wrists compared to the piano, drums and saxophone, so it’s been fun to learn something entirely new.
Learning new pieces on the keyboard has been a prolonged process. Schubert’s Impromptu in G flat major and Gershwin’s Prelude 1 are both technically challenging, and I don’t think I can perfect them by the end of the year. But Both were the pieces I held onto but couldn’t commence learning last year, so at least the fact I started learning them this year means a lot to me.
At the beginning of the year, I began a personal design project, but then I quickly found it challenging to sustain the motivation. Now I appreciate the university studios heaps more than I used to, as not having people to bounce off ideas and seek feedback have made it tough to make informed design decisions and move on. It all comes down to self-management, and it is something I need to work more on next year.
The ample availability of online architecture lectures was amazing after the pandemic made it almost impossible to hear public lectures in person. However, quickly I found that zoom fatigue (even webinars) wasn’t easy to deal with, and the architectural (often academic) discourse required greater mental capacity to comprehend thoroughly. I wondered if it’s how people without architecture background feel…
I began thinking about how we can make architecture and design accessible to the public without the perceived flair (the sense that makes people feel like it’s not for them).
I decided to make a video series on the laneways in Melbourne to propose a new perspective on the city, especially the spaces between buildings. I wanted to represent the impacts of spatial compositions and surrounding buildings on our spatial experience. It also referenced the importance of street activation by the hospitality and retail venues, and how city fabric engages with the topographic conditions.
I’m thinking about what else I can do to engage with the concept of making architecture accessible to everyone. There is a lot of ideas, but I still need to evaluate whether people are interested in them, or it’s just me wanting to produce. So it’ll be a new project for next year…!
Next year I’ll be back at the university for the Master’s degree, so it’ll be another busy year. I hope I can plan the routines so that I can continue working on the commitments I commenced this year, and also add new responsibilities and workloads as I set myself goals for the future.