Learning the role of design in community

Bucks New University kitchen degree course student Natalie Peters has been writing for kbbreview as she goes through her studies, but with graduation fast approaching her final project has made her think twice about the role of design once the lockdown is over…

 When writing my last column we hadn’t long been in lockdown and I had some great plans on how I was going to use all this time wisely. However, in reality it’s fair to say I was a little naïve about how much ‘time’ I would actually have.

In between home-schooling, looking after my children, studying and reviewing plans for the business, life has still been pretty fast-paced and I don’t know where the time has gone!

I have managed to spend some great quality time with my husband and children and we have switched up home schooling a lot to include less stressful and more fun tasks such as baking and cooking, playing games, doing crafts and learning to ride bikes which has made it a lot easier. Home schooling has proved quite stressful as the children aren’t so focused at home and trying to do a full day of solely school work would have me pulling my hair out.

As I write this, I have just a few weeks left before final deadlines at the end of May and completion of the course and I admit my stress levels are reaching at an all-time high!! I think the pressure has hit me all at once with the realisation of how little time there is left and how much I still have to do.

I am currently working on two assignments (one being Project Closure and Aftersales in our Project Management Module), as well as the main final project which is our community kitchen. We have all been given the same spatial plan to work from which is approximately 50m x 20m and we are to design a space for our chosen community informed by all our in-depth research at the start of final year.

The whole space, including the other areas aside from the kitchen, should be a vibrant, flexible, multifunctional, accessible, multigenerational place where people can socialise, reflect, entertain and participate in organised activities. It is to be a melting pot for our chosen community.

It’s a complex, detailed and mammoth project with a lovely ethos.  It couldn’t have been more pertinent a project to work on, as we are all being brought together in community spirit to fight against this pandemic and craving socialisation, contact and friendship.

I believe society will be so much more receptive to this sort of project after the lockdown and social distance measures have relaxed. This situation has given us time to reflect and look at all things differently across our lives. What better way to do that than through food as a new form of commensality, bringing people together which is the whole basis of this project.

Initially I did all my designs by hand as that is what I was most comfortable with starting off, however now I am transitioning the design from hand drawn to CAD and things are taking me a lot longer than they should, especially as I have not made things easy for myself to transfer to CAD with my design. A big thank you to Claire at Compusoft whose support has been invaluable!

There have been some major changes to our course and finishing as I explained in my last column. Our final residential has been cancelled and we are likely to be presenting our final project remotely online and who knows what will happen about graduation in September?!

However, we are still receiving great support from our tutors at tutorials and in between as and when we need it. Just yesterday I had a phone call with our course leader over an urgent query and concern and we talked for a long time and she helped me greatly as she always has done throughout. As we are mainly a remote course anyway, apart from the residentials three times a year, the way our course is being delivered hasn’t changed too much as a result of the pandemic and lockdown.

We have many tutorials lined up over the next week with all our tutors and further final ones to prepare for our final presentations. Our situations as students and our lives in general may have changed greatly but it is comforting to have this level of support as a constant in what is a very challenging time.

In among everything else, we’ve had some time to discuss our family business and make a plan to return to work when the time comes. We have mapped out how we will implement social distancing, while protecting staff and customers as best as possible.

We have invested in masks for our staff in readiness and have worked out new procedures for operation including having the showroom go from completely closed to open by appointment only.

We’ve re-rearranged our offices and workshops to create more space and safe working areas between people. I work mainly with my parents in the office and showroom and it is going to feel very strange indeed working with them at a minimum 2m distance.  I haven’t seen them properly since lockdown began and after 20 years of working together so closely every day this has been very strange and quite sad but we know it is imperatively important in the fight against Covid-19.

We’ve also been looking at our marketing plan and adjusting this to respond to changing circumstances. Rather than cut costs, we are going to be more pro-active particularly with online advertising and social media but also with traditional print advertising in prestigious local magazines. We’ve obtained some great offers and premium cover positions due to other businesses deciding to pull out last minute.

I know how important marketing is and learned an awful lot about it during the marketing module in year 2. I think as a small family business though we are typical of many in our industry that we do our own marketing but when we are so busy it can get neglected and we don’t give it as much attention as we should. Lockdown has brought many challenges but it has also been beneficial for us to have time to reflect and re-visit different areas of the business and improve on things that we need to. Letting people know we are here and open for business is a priority for us.

Stay safe. Stay well. And good luck.

Natalie is sponsored on her course by Franke. To find out more about studying on the course go to https://bucks.ac.uk/courses/fd/kitchen-design-pt

If you’d like more information on supporting students taking the course go to https://www.tket.co.uk/

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