Newsletter
16 August, 2020

Ready for an escape?

Image with playful and topical icons

Everybody needs to get away now and then. Unfortunately, most travel is not doable right now, and we don’t know how far off then actually is. If you’re feeling a bit stir crazy, we get it. So in this month’s “On Our Minds…”, we’ve put together a guide to how to get away, without going anywhere.


On our minds

We love—LOVE—travel. From the sparkling towers of Singapore to the unique charms of Barcelona, from Baton Rouge to Santa Fe, we are always excited to hit the road. Like many others, our wanderlust strikes hardest in the late summer. But this year, a trip to far-off lands is probably not in the cards.

A vacation is no mere trifle. Time away from work is essential—perhaps doubly so this year. It’s been shown time and time again that getting away is good for you—even at 40 second intervals! But with COVID-19 showing every indication of sticking around, it’s easier said than done.

Luckily, it’s easier than ever to experience something new—without even leaving your chair! To guide you through this lockdown summer, we give you: PLASTARC’s guide to getting away...even when you can’t stray very far.

Travel Blogs, Narratives, and New Media

Many of the world’s most accomplished writers and creative thinkers were avid travelers, and many of them wrote about their mind-broadening experiences. Take your pick from this list of the best travel books of all time to immerse yourself in a local culture without leaving the couch.

There is also a whole ecosystem of travel bloggers and vloggers that offer a window to the rest of the world. Take, for instance, the Divergent Travelers blog. It’s run by two professional photographers who travel full time, taking gorgeous images and videos along the way.

You can explore the many natural wonders of the United States through photo collections or books of park-related ephemera that also raise money for the National Park system. Or make an actual trip to a destination with plenty of space for social distancing, like one of the least-visited national parks.

Game On!

If you want to get a little further away, why not try a whole new world? Videogames offer opportunities to connect and have fun, even—or perhaps especially—at work. It’s not just for blowing off steam, either. Skills practiced in games, such as managing finite resources, solving novel problems and keeping calm under pressure are applicable to work as well.

Taking short breaks to play games boosts team performance too. If you’ve never explored gaming, there may never be a better time. The variety of titles and types on offer today is staggering. For an interactive experience that’s a little lower on the adrenaline, consider a virtual museum tour. Try the Smithsonian or the new Virtual Online Museum of Art.

Escape From the Office

Following the mass telework of the recent months, organizations are questioning if they’ll even have real estate in the future. Instead, they may spend that budget on things that are more experiential. Scavenger hunts and other activities by companies like Watson Adventures can help people to see a new side to their city. They have even adapted their programs to be entirely virtual.

Another popular group activity is literal escape. Escape rooms—in which clues must be followed to get out of an otherwise locked room—offer a new alternative to ropes courses and trust falls. These are thrilling tests of teamwork and ingenuity. If that sounds exciting, no need to wait to do it IRL. There are now virtual escape rooms too!

On a longer timeline, it’s not hard to imagine a shift in how office spaces are allocated and designed in order to incorporate this need for exploration and escape. Nap rooms, game rooms, and on-site dining are just some of the amenities that might take the place of desks in a future workplace that is more flexible and oriented to make the most of telework.

Free Your Mind

We’re reminded of the old self-help saw: "Wherever you go, there you are." It’s as wry as ever, but still rings true. There are plenty of ways to de-stress without going anywhere at all. In a way, even a typical vacation is more about the mind than the body—shifting one’s perspective matters as much as changing locations.

The other hot wellness trend of the COVID-19 era? Zoom yoga. Workplace yoga was already gaining traction in certain forward-looking firms. Now that people are looking for opportunities to connect and ways to exercise within small spaces, practicing yoga at a distance is taking off. Our client lululemon recently bet big on fitness at a distance by buying home gym company Mirror. Try checking in with your local yoga studio to see if they offer remote classes—ours does. Bonus: no jockeying for mat space.

A Musical Journey

In addition to being great for your brain, a song can take you around the world in just a few minutes. One of our favorite escapes has always been music—so much so, in fact, that we’ll be spinning new tunes for you with each newsletter from now on.

This month, start your musical journey in Ukraine with the traditional quartet DakhaBrakha. Head southwest across the Mediterranean and stop in for a groove session with Nigerian singer Burna Boy. At the bottom of the continent, lose yourself in the sweet acapella harmonies of the Soweto Gospel Choir from South Africa. Finish off your trip in the Antarctic with a musical meditation on climate change by our very own Content Manager, Mike Sayre.


From the archives

Today’s circumstances certainly add a new wrinkle to the conversation we had last year with Metropolis and Poppin: The Great Open Office Debate. If the open office favors extroverts, and telework performs well for introverts, how do we make space for the best of both worlds?

Speaking of getaways, three summers ago we wrote about the importance of getting away to enhance individual and group wellness and performance. And it’s still true!

That’s about it for this month. We’re wishing you a bit of R&R, whatever shape it takes this year. Send us a photo of you kicking back—even if the only palm trees are waving from your Zoom background. We’ll leave you with a sonic escape to Sweden, courtesy of NPR’s Tiny Desk and instrumental group Väsen.



The following sections were current at the time of publishing.



Looking Ahead

This month, we’ve assembled a slate of virtual events that will bust those late summer doldrums, including the launch of our new virtual panel series.


Your Workplace Why

We’re kicking off a new series of panel discussions designed to guide your return to the office. Our first conversation explores both equity and urban design in this conversation. Join us Aug. 20.

The Work of BlackSpace

This AIANY presidential lecture focuses on the work of this urbanist collective in Brownsville, Brooklyn. Happening Aug. 24.

ANFA 2020

Explore the neuroscience behind our human experience of architecture, both exterior and interior at this virtual conference. Conducted Sep. 14-25.

CMX Summit

Learn new techniques and hear from thought leaders in the community industry. Happening online, Oct. 6-7.


In Case You Missed It

CoreNet Hackathon Results

We joined teams from around the world to develop key recommendations for distributed work in the COVID-19 era.

Your Biggest Questions about Coronavirus

MIT Technology Review answers reader questions with the latest findings.

Celebrating the Americans with Disabilities Act

When this landmark legislation passed 30 years ago, it signaled that workplaces should now enable all occupants.

Real Deals Podcast

PLASTARC discusses the real estate implications of COVID, and more, with podcaster Chole Cohen.

Remembering Edward Allen

This well known architecture professor influenced students and professionals around the world with a unique perspective on hand drawing and structural forces.

Remembering Frances Allen

This computer pioneer was known for her groundbreaking work on compilers, and was also the first woman to receive the Turing Award.