I removed my mask and all hell broke loose

The girl in the posh soap shop put her right arm out, palm flat in my face, and shouted: ‘Stand back! Step away from me now if you are going to remove your mask!’ I had been advancing on the Vetiver handwash, having failed to make myself clear through my mask to the assistant in her mask that this was what I wanted to buy and, being prevented from picking it up myself as the shop had a no-touch policy, I was driven to the brink of lawlessness. ‘Vetiver!’ I had begun pleading through my face mask as the girl lifted the wrong product off the shelves, over and over

The rise of blocked-off design

Plexiglass bubbles hover over diners’ heads in restaurants. Plastic pods, spaced six feet apart, separate weightlifters in gyms. Partitions of all kinds are creeping up in workplaces. As offices, restaurants, bars and businesses reopened after months of lockdowns and closures, a new phenomenon emerged, one that I’ve come to think of as ‘blocked-off design’. It’s design and layout that aims to construct and enforce distancing in a somewhat makeshift way. It’s characterised by partitions, sheer walls, six-foot markers. As a visual language, it’s defined by barriers and blockage — physical reminders that spaces where we once went to mingle with others are now fraught, and that even in public, isolation