HMWRK Conversations: Rhea Schmid

HMWRK Conversations
With Rhea Schmid
August 18th, 2020

Rhea Schmid received her B.A. from Barnard College in 2015 and completed her M. Arch I at Yale School of Architecture in 2020. In hopes of cultivating a more holistic approach and understanding of design, where the built world meets the planted one, she is currently working at Reed Hilderbrand Landscape Architects.

HOME WORK: We want to start by asking if you would elaborate a bit more on your Home Office drawing. How did you go about approaching the image?

Rhea Schmid: I completed the drawing right after my last final and just before graduating, and so I saw this drawing as way to reflect on the last three years of grad school, especially the last few months of it, and as a way to examine and give thanks to the space that supported a very specific and intense time in my life: transitioning to online school, transforming a small studio to accommodate two people, dealing with the times, and so on. Drawing the image by hand was cathartic in itself.

HW: Tell us more about your choice in framing the drawing, which shows the primary living space.

RS: A plan-perspective of the space helped me include the walls more prominently into the drawing. I thought about walls a lot -- how I wished for more of them at times, and also wanted to break them down during others. The walls (or lack thereof) determined new routines, made coinciding Zoom calls tricky, choreographed arguments, negotiated emotions, caused conflict, and forced resolutions. Windows became portals into other worlds. I was so grateful for the sliver of sky that I could see from my courtyard-facing window, and that light generously spilled into the space every morning.

HW: How has your relationship with your own dwelling developed during the time working from home? And were there any spatial adaptations that you had to make?

RS: Prior to quarantining, I had never worked from home before, nor spent all that much time in my dwelling space. So, in the last few months of grad school, I definitely developed a deeper, more intimate relationship with it. Integrating my work needs, as well as those of my partner, into my small studio was a tricky process. There were definitely physical as well as psychological challenges to contend with. We did our best and made adjustments along the way. For example, I attempted to recreate my YSoA setup by separating my physical and digital work spaces. I ended up repurposing an old MDF board that I had used as a drafting surface in the past and used it as my model making surface. Our bathroom became our official second Zoom conference room, and our floors became dining spots as our work spaces took over the kitchen table.

HW: Has documenting your at home work situation reframed the way you think about the work we do as architects?

RS: I think for me it just further highlighted the importance of spatial arrangements, especially their relationships to outdoor space, and their effects on our lived experiences. It became a real-life case study of minimal dwelling… I mean, I already briefly talked about the role walls and windows played during that time. I think it also challenged the assumptions I made about my design process, and how even those can and need to adapt when the times call for change.

HW: Thank you for the thoughtful responses. We really enjoyed the creativity in your drawing.

RS: Thank YOU! It’s incredible you all had the bandwidth to create this project! Truly impressed and thankful. I remember really enjoying knowing that other people were studying their spaces in similar ways, it provided another much needed sense of community during these isolating times.