For many of us, our daily allotted walk is one of the only things getting us through lockdown right now. It was during one of her rambles in the early days of the pandemic that Stefi Orazi came up with the idea for a walking guide to help people beat the sheer boredom of lockdown.
Orazi’s background is rooted in the aesthetics of the built environment. Her eponymous studio has created print and exhibition graphics for cultural institutions including the V&A and Design Museum, while the blog that she runs on the side, Modernist Estates, has a cult following on Instagram, and has led to her writing various books on Modernist architecture.
“I’ve been interested in Modernist architecture since I moved to the Barbican when I first came to London in the late 1990s,” she tells CR. “During my studio’s early years, I spent quiet periods illustrating Modernist buildings – such as the Barbican – and producing limited edition prints and cards. I then began selling them through my online shop, Things You Can Buy.”
In many ways, Orazi’s lockdown project feels like the culmination of her creative interests up until now. “During the beginning of the lockdown in 2020, I began walking around my local neighbourhood in Hampstead and Highgate, which are rich in Modernist houses,” she says.
“I posted pictures of the buildings on Instagram, and people asked me to share my routes. My design work had pretty much dried up by this point, and I wanted to keep the wheels going by commissioning an illustrator, a copy editor, etc. So I had the idea of producing printed guides of my walks.”
Aptly titled Perambulations, the series of handy folded guides feature a map, charming illustrations by Jay Cover and informative text about the Modernist buildings along each route, ranging from post-war developer Span Developments’ influence on Blackheath in south-east London, to Patrick Hodgkinson’s Brunswick Centre in Bloomsbury.
“The guides all follow the same format: a cover illustration, a map, a few photographs and text with the route and history of the buildings,” says Orazi. “I make a list of interesting houses in an area, and then work out a good walking route. I walk it several times, to make sure it feels the right length. I also get friends to to road test them. I then write the text, send it to the copy editor, brief Jay on the cover illustration and then put them together and send to print.”
Currently on its seventh edition, Orazi is releasing new guides roughly every six weeks. So far, the reaction has been hugely positive, and the designer plans to continue developing them as long as they keep bringing a bit of joy to Londoners’ daily rambles.
“Pretty much all we can do at the moment is go for a walk, so I think people have appreciated having something to do with a bit of a purpose,” she says. “They’re not very expensive, so they are accessible to most people. I hope they are a nice balance between learning a little about the area’s architecture and going for a nice walk!”