Saturday, November 21, 2009

Architecture for Humanity

“We already feel these new ideas of this building have raised hope and confidence for an improvement of living conditions for the poor in our rural areas.”
-Paul Tigga , project partner METI building , Bangladesh.
In a country with continuously depleting arable land and increasing population, the funds for education in village’s remain scarce. Architect Anna Heringer and her team had a task of building METI primary school in Rudrapur. They had a choice of a conventional ,gregarious building vested in her, but she came up with a built form which was a part of symphony. A symphony of which the whole built environment and the natural environment are a part. A building was designed to the needs, cost and aspirations of the villagers. The METI School has given the children an identity, which they would need in this mechanised world.
Architecture is a social act and the material theatre of human activity. Often we disparage the efforts of Architects as modern citizens have become too naive to understand the conscious and sub conscious footprint of Architecture on their respective lives. The Architect’s aspiration to ameliorate the living conditions of human life in macro and micro scale are projected in the following flow chart.

Carbon Emissions:
Today’s world with great alacrity wants reduction in carbon emissions. Buildings contribute to approximately 40% of total carbon emissions of the world. Architecture community has avowed to reduce these emissions. Architects all around the world are trying to mint LEED metals for their buildings with innovative green strategies. Many of them have also tried to rationalise the present rating systems for better comparative studies. Architecture community is not only a part of solution but also they have been vociferous ambassadors for the cause. Our contribution may not be as appalling as a geologist’s discovery but we make a much larger impact which is at present outside the realm of Public thought.
A house at the cost of an iPhone is the aspiration of architect building for rural population. Centre for Building Research CBRI in collaboration with Architects has been transferring low cost building construction techniques to many remote areas. Architects have used non-degradable waste as construction material. They have built curvilinear forms made out of Ferro cement covering a volume of 50 cubic metres, which is financially most feasible. Architects can’t build ‘cheap’ but they can make it ‘cost effective’. Architects may be only such optimistic professionals who can see light even in a black hole.
Universal Design Environment:
“The only disability in life is a bad attitude” Architects are working to make this anodyne credulous.
American Institute of architects AIA has already bequeathed to make the building’s universally accessible to all physically challenged and older generations. A curb is a single step for the able but for wheelchair bound it is still a several light-years away. Architects have envisaged a war against such miniscule details and to make the built environment more conducive to disabled. Architecture community takes pride in its contribution and I feel they deserve it!
Pioneers of movements:
“When you look on one of your contemporary 'good copies' of historical remains, ask yourself the question: Not what style, but in what civilization is this building? And the absurdity, vulgarity, anachronism and solecism of the modern structure will be revealed to you in a most startling fashion” Louis Sullivan. From Art -nova movement to present day deconstruction architects either acted as visionaries or have shown solidarity in support to others vision. Like any other field architects too face resistance but still there current flows. Few visions are transformed to buildings and some of them are widely accepted, may also even get a cult adherents. Others stand as epitome for the freedom of thought.

The built form is a micro environment for set of users and at the same time is a micro element of the macro element as a whole .Hence architect has an responsibility of not only giving a character to an individual built form, but at the same time define the macro element as a whole .We have seen examples in the past of built forms which stand as independent forms without any relation to the environment it has been located in both functionally and aesthetically. It not only disrupts the aesthetical harmony, but also creates a problem of functional mismanagement of spaces. For example in cities like Bombay, slums near a residential complex for high income group. In addition to the aesthetics and functional problems, it also marks a huge irony and a humane question of income disparity. In cities like Shimla , the tradition of English architecture during the colonial time in India has been followed hence giving a character to whole city.

Economic upliftment through architecture:

Architect has a responsibility of creating spaces in tandem with functions .There are many examples throughout the world in which architecture has changed the economic course of a region .The planning of different economic activities is of vital importance for an economy to flourish .Poor planning has led to failures of various economic systems or at least hampering the growth till a certain level. For example, proper planned cities like Chandigarh, Navi Mumbai, etc. have attracted investment in industrial sector .On micro scale B.V. Doshi a pioneer in low cost housing and has incorporated elements such as special retail shops and economic zones ,so that people from lower economic section could be uplifted.

User Behaviour Analysis:
Functionally viable, psychologically pleasant and physiologically comfortable are the most significant results to be achieved by an architect in a designed space. Improving standards of living should be one of the most prime objectives of an architect .This could be done by first considering the basic human requirements for comfortable living . A designer should consider the miniscule details and try to eliminate most trivial factors causing discomfort. Hence, the aim should be to design a space for masses but still keeping its identity intact. Indian Habitat centre is a perfect example, of a place which has utilized the user behaviour analysis into their design. It is a space rather than just a built form which provides socialising spaces. It is an apt mix of heavy and light forms.
Sustainable Architecture:
An architectural space is a system of various functions and services. In any enclosed form entropy has to increase with time .As an architect one should take care to design in such a manner that the rate of increase of entropy could be minimized. Also with change in time, the demand and behaviour of users keep on changing. Hence a building should be futuristic. There have been examples when the primary function of building has changed completely with time but due to the flexibility in design it sustained .For example, the campus of Indian Institute of Technology was once a jail.

So where are we, as community of Architects we didn’t justify our standards by letting the harmony of the built environment to be destroyed. We have driven cities and towns to a point of collapse by callous approach towards architecture. There have been several inspirations in architects and architecture that have ameliorated the quality of living. All the above points are guiding principles for being responsible architects and respond accordingly to environmental factors during the design process. Cities are tending towards an urban blight due to overstrain on services. It is responsibility of an architect to relieve the cities and emerge as Messiah.

1. Sustainable Architecture White Papers: Essays On Design And Building For A Sustainable Future
2. Principles of Indian Architecture - a timeline study of her contributions to global patterns of civilization by Joy Sen (2008) ISBN 81-902768-4-0 (CYGNUS Kolkata, 2008)
3. U.S. Census Bureau's 1997 Economic Census
4. Architecture for Humanity(2006), “Design Like you Give a Damn”, Metropolis Books

Thursday, August 6, 2009

My Boss

“I have already informed you, there isn’t any work for incompetents in my office. I have already proscribed you to my clients. So don’t call me anymore”. Those must have been the worst-ever introductory words to trainee. The person who spoke the words was Rajeev and may gods pacify the soul on the other end. He was furious and I was perplexed. Only thought lingering in my mind was ‘Apni toh lag gayi Boss’. He spears me a look and with a twilight in his eyes “Hey, you must be Karthik”, amazed by the cadence in his tone like a Soordas after Metallica “Yes Sir”, Thus commenced my Designhaaus voyage captained by Ar.Rajeev Kumar Sharma.

Rajeev passed out from Kharagpur in 2002.He did get a campus placement but never got a job, 9/11 did impact a few lives. So he went to Mumbai and attempted tutoring mathematics to CAT aspirants but it turned out to be an ephermal stint. He searched for a career in Architecture which lead him to southern India. He tried bourgeoisie's till 2005 but his physic intolerance grew to obnoxious levels leading to the origin of Designhaaus Pvt. Ltd. Some of his batch mates inspired by his intrepidity championed his cause. A 100 sft small scale single employee firm grew to 1500 sft middle scale multi city headquarters. During primitive years, a small residence was not that ‘small’ but today you have to be a large scale builder professionally involved with the office for a consideration to residence design. Designhaaus has been consulted for projects worth more than 2000cr and have on-going projects worth more than 400cr.For many mortals its end of the tunnel but for Rajeev “Abhi toh shuru hua hain yaar”.

You must have read about a character like this on every fifth page of economic times and must have been a much more successful entrepreneur. So what makes Rajeev so special? First of all, he’s from Kharagpur!! Secondly, he has achieved everything without any patrimony and he’s just a twenty nine year old bachelor. Thirdly, his vision to ameliorate the whole natural and built design environment. So the next immediate question, what makes up Rajeev? He’s ardent passion and workaholic characteristics. He is at office when morning cock is setting up its alarm and god knows when he is out, never risked to wait for him. His acumen is incredulous, he can estimate the feasibility of large scale project with a glimpse of the site layout and at the same time can give you a tutorial on miniscule architectural details. He’s an apotheosis of Archi-science, if there exists one. His a ‘chalta-phirta’ inspiration for all budding Architects/Entrepreneurs. At the end of it, I wish his competitors all the luck, they will surely need it!!

P.S.: Sending a copy to Rajeev, kgp ke log treat ke liye kuch bi karengay!!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009


The word seems to be pretty vogue among all students. The word itself demands respect among us. The reasons which were offered to me-
1) They offer you real-time professional experience
2) Make u feel worthy enough to be paid.

So Is this post an epitome of internship credibility? No. This post is all about my frustness (frustration) that I experienced in all my past Internships. Why are they sooooooooo Highly rated among us?? In a usual classroom they are always people who inform us about the value of a professional experience. So what is this professional experience? Simply Its just working among more and more constraints. How can a constraint be good. Constraint is always bad. It CONSTRAINTS your brain. Let me put in some examples (to all those who didn’t experience it)

You can build a 20mt cantilevered space in a classroom. In real world money is a constraint. In classroom you can think of exact engineering in constructing a beam. In real world just copy the building codes. In classroom you can discuss your thought and if prof rejects it, you don’t have to push a panic button. In office be careful with every word you use. Classrooms are built so that you earn how to learn. Offices are built so that u learn how to earn.

Offices are better for those who live for bread. Classrooms are better for those who bread to live. Choose which category you belong to.

P.S. - Never abuse your profs. They were the one who taught you how to learn.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Development !!!

I have been wondering ' what is the actual purpose of my blog?'. The answer to that would be 'to make a collection of my randomly occurring not-so stupid meticulous thoughts'. I could however maintain a diary!! Yaa but it feels like a celebrity when someone reads your thoughts and even better if they comment on it,so please do. I also get a reality check. So todays post is about 'My strategic planning for the development of rural people dependant on Agriculture'. My dad is a Farmer, So that inspires me to think about it.
It is a well known fact that India has been achieving high growth rates and a more well known fact it is majorily limited to urban India. There has been rise in migration from villages. There have been many protests regarding this issue and many fingers are being pointed towards the authenticity of growth index. But I ask them WHY SUCH PESSIMISM?!! Migration from the field of Agriculture is the best thing that ever happened to this country. Land is constant but our population isn't. India faces the major problems in agriculture because of the small scale of farmlands . There isn't a market for heavy machinery oriented agriculture which leads to less economic output per person. So if migration increases and people are changing there occupations, its actually increasing the value output of farmer per unit land. If you look back into history, you will notice that there is no major economy which became 'Major' basing on agriculture. So my first point to future generations and potential parents of that generation to encourage migration form Agriculture
Second point has been much spoken about and has always been on the brochure of electoral campaigns of all the political parties. That use of science and technology to increase the yield of the fields. Yes! Once upon a time there was a green revolution in 1970's. India became self sufficient. But why such an OPTIMISM here. The government has been spending huge amount of economic and intellectual property on this cause only. The results have not been very encouraging,least of all mind boggling. I just wonder what the politicians plan to do!! They may be able to achieve higher yields but will that actually result in increase of income to farmers. The research should have been towards value addition of present output,ex- Ethanol manufacturing. This should actually impact the farmers economic condition. So my second point is value addition.
How many times have you eaten noodles?? Strange question. That is the impact of proper marketing. I cant comprehend the fact that our companies never tried to market our sweets or cuisines in packaged forms outside India. There has been beginning, all compliments to haldirams,ITC etc.. But still there impact is very localised. When Chinese could create a market for noodles all over the world,why cant India?? Third Point we should create a market for our products outside India. This will have a huge impact on economic condition of farmers. So to achieve this,first government has to encourage private companies into this sector. They will take this baton from the government. So to do so government should encourage companies to setup factories in rural areas. For government to do so we should not fall into the trap of opposition parties. To do so our people should have a proper knowledge of this happenings.

P.S.- This post was inspired by the lameness of Tata IDEA cellular operating services ad. If you remember 'JUNTA ne naa kaha toh NAA'.