Architects and COVID-19: emerging from the quarantine
Étouffée, perfect circles, and fresh air: Legat Architects employees share COVID-19 quarantine experiences
Legat employees have begun to gradually return to our Illinois and Ohio studios while adhering to CDC-recommended guidelines for reducing the spread of COVID-19. One thing we can’t refute (nor can anyone else): the last three months have been unlike any other.
During the quarantine, we’ve become more observant, more reflective, more appreciative, and more willing to try new things. Our employees’ newfound or revived hobbies range from cooking and puzzle making to birdwatching, carpentry, and gardening. One employee even took up the lute, while another started rating movies based solely on their architectural elements. Below we share a few of those experiences.
Tianye Zhou: You Are What You Eat
Tianye, an associate in our Oak Brook studio, allowed his inner chef to emerge during the quarantine. One of the best dishes he made was a crawfish étouffée. Tianye has an appreciation for distinct regional foods based on French, Italian, Mexican, and Chinese cuisines. He considers Cajun and Creole cuisine one of America’s most localized regional foods . . . and it tastes great. Étouffée reminds him of an East Asian cuisine called gaifan, consisting of meat, fish, or vegetables over a plate or bowl of rice. It looks and tastes just like étouffée.
Cooking helped Tianye relax and reflect on many good memories during the quarantine. It also enabled him to communicate with his family back in Beijing, China. “Since we cannot share a dish now,” said Tianye, “they started sending me a photo of their lunch every day. And now I have already received more than 30 photos! Sometimes, I would send back photos of
what I cooked (occasionally) or ordered out (a lot).”
Tianye agrees with the famous maxim, “We are what we eat.” He believes that cooking and eating are not just something we have to do every day. He said, “I believe what I cook and eat is an accumulation of experiences: the people I’ve met, what I’ve learned, and where I’ve gone.”
Of course, Tianye relishes taste, but he also values the story behind each dish. For instance, he still remembers the day when he decided to go to college in Wuhan, a city in south China. His mother made him a list of cooking recipes and told him he needed to learn them all before he left because “it is your identity as a northern man.”
Tianye also has fond memories of a chilly, rainy evening he spent in Ethiopia’s Semien Mountains, where he and his friends enjoyed fresh roasted coffee and Semien Mountains-style chicken goulash . . . all while surrounded by dozens of baboons. Good thing that baboons have a vegetarian diet!
Mardee Marden: Unexpected New Neighbors
One morning early in the quarantine, our Gurnee Studio Coordinator Mardee Marden and her daughter Ella looked out a bay window to notice two perfect circles carved into a tree in their yard. Initially, Mardee thought the holes were manmade. She and Ella soon discovered three tiny birds using the holes for nests. The holes were so perfect that Mardee still thought they were manmade . . . then she looked up woodpeckers, which she had never seen.
Mardee said, “To my embarrassment, I imagined woodpeckers would resemble Woody . . . you know who I’m talking about. To my surprise, I discovered the truth: my new neighbors are woodpeckers and they are great builders indeed.”
Mardee and Ella watched the woodpeckers throughout the quarantine and they suspect the woodpeckers were watching them. And the noise? It’s a muffled fast knocking. “We’ve come to love the sounds,” said Mardee, “as long as they stick to the trees and not my house.”
Loren Johnson: Neighborhood Exploration
Loren Johnson, senior architect and sustainability coordinator in our Chicago studio, has made a habit of walking his Lincoln Square neighborhood with his wife Krysta and their dog Olaf. According to Loren, Lincoln Square offers an ideal urban trek: it has a mix of commercial and residential including both multi-family buildings and single-family homes. Additionally, the neighborhood has a good blend of incomes and ages with single people, families, and retirees. There are also many fellow dog owners in the neighborhood. All of this adds up to great people watching.
“It’s been very nice to have breaks in the day to get some fresh air,” said Loren. “It helps me to schedule better and keep track of my tasks.”
Olaf mainly enjoys tagging along for the smells. Usually, he likes to greet the neighbor dogs, but everyone has been trying to keep the dogs apart too lately.
Eventually, Loren and Krysta started bringing a garbage bag and a pincher to help keep their neighborhood clean. Loren said, “It’s interesting to see what kinds of things end up in the gutters. We’ve been seeing a lot of fast food containers and PPE lately.”
Tricia Davis: To the Rescue
When she was cleaning leaves over one quarantine weekend, Legat’s Chicago Studio Coordinator Tricia Davis and her roommate watched helplessly as a hawk killed a robin that was sheltering her eggs. The roommates put the eggs in a box with a heating pad, then drove an hour to drop them off at a wildlife rehabilitation center.
The vet said the eggs looked good and were almost ready to hatch. They did hatch and the birds were hand-fed before being released.
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