A Change of Perspective
By Nur Arisyah • Oxford Brookes University, United Kingdom
Someone once told me about a life hack that changed my life. “Move out of your hometown in your 20s”. I didn’t quite understand the true meaning of that until I left the country to pursue my postgraduate studies in England last year. Basically, life happens wherever you are. It doesn’t really matter where to make the most of it. After 3 and a half years of studying architecture in UiTM Puncak Alam, I realized all this while I was preparing myself for this opportunity of switching my environment. It’s not necessarily about leaving behind people, but more about having a different breath to things. A reminder that our body is not just one thing, it comprises multiple beings intertwined. Looking at ourselves as a porous matter rather than just a mere finite entity, and allowing the environment in which it resides to define it. Being away from home means every next step you make is by you and can only be done by you, which keeps you more focused than ever.
Getting here was a feat itself! Definitely much easier said than done, but planning is the absolute key. Trust me (or anyone who knows me) when I say clumsy is my second name. But I always try to have a monthly planner close to me. Keeping track of university application deadlines and interviews, scholarship openings, visa, passport, health check-ups, et cetera. I was lucky my seniors and lecturers were there to give me a heads up for tackling that mess. But juggling that while working full-time would not have been possible without staying organized. And with the constant changes in International Travel Restrictions, I felt like an emailaholic, never leaving any email unopened.
When I accepted the offer to Oxford Brookes University, it wasn’t much to aim for distinction or top of my class anymore (my financial supporter would say otherwise). Instead, it was more about what I can take from this incredible window of opportunity. Arriving in the UK in the peak of a pandemic didn’t help either. But safe to say, opportunities always find those who seek it, and before I knew it, on days off from class, I found myself working as a bookseller at a local bookstore and starting my small business selling watercolors of brick homes I passed during my long walks in lockdown. We had a rough winter in isolation, which took a toll on many students, both local and international. I found my refuge in strangers I befriended, all of whom have now become mates I wouldn’t know how to live without.
This year on my birthday, my flatmate gifted me a book titled, “The Architecture of Happiness” by Alain de Botton. Funnily enough, he says, “Architecture is perplexing, too, in how inconsistent is its capacity to generate the happiness on which its claim to our attention is founded. While an attractive building may on occasion flatter an ascending mood, there will be times when the most congenial of locations will be unable to dislodge our sadness or misanthropy.” In a way, Botton argues for us to change the way we think about our homes, our streets and ourselves. Starting from the idea that where we are, essentially influences who we can be. The book questions the task of architecture to stand as an eloquent reminder of our full potential as students and designers in this life, similar to shifting your environment for a fresh outlook.
Architecture somehow often shows me these serendipitous moments. For instance, joining an architecture workshop, and the crowd pulls you into a dance break that leaves you in the middle of all these amazing creative people, all from different architecture schools, and they inspire you to see work outside that little bubble of your studio. Or joining a startup design company during semester break—without you realizing—introduces you to a totally different side of architecture you never knew about. Simple moments that could easily be missed or overlooked by someone can open up a whole new journey for another.
I’m in my fifth year of architecture now, and these moments remain the engine that keeps me going. Be it visiting different architecture schools, working freelance with clients from different time zones, learning with and from studiomates of diverse backgrounds, or just getting excited when I see a design section at the bookstore. For now, I look forward to exploring the role of design and philosophy in shaping our relationship with nature as a regenerative effort and architecture as a device for that change. But perhaps, that is for another blog post.
Special thanks to: My Parents, Family, Friends, My Beloved Lecturers: Puan Nikki, Ms. Kartini, En. Ikmal, Dr. Faridah Adnan, Dr. Zalina, En. Wan, Puan Sharifah, Prof Dr. Sabarinah, Dr. Esmawee, En. Bakar, Puan Harlina, Puan Nakiah, Pn Mazuiyah, Ar Suhaila and everyone who constantly inspires me to strive for excellence.
RIBA NORTH National Architecture Centre, Liverpool
Winter 2020. South Park, Oxford
Sinnet Court Student Accommodation
Spring 2021. Queen’s Lane, Oxford
Raya 2021. Cardwell Crescent, Oxford
City of Dreaming Spires, Oxford
Summer 2021. Blenheim Park Woodstock, Oxfordshire
Selected Work of My Watercolour Series
School of Architecture, Oxford Brookes University
Autumn 2020. Littlemore, Oxford
Westminster Bridge, London, 2020