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


  1. endira proff avudamane plans unnaya??

  2. ledu raa...hehe ...not now atleast....

  3. Loved the line..... 'to make a collection of my randomly occurring not-so stupid meticulous thoughts'.(it universally appeals to all junk-heads like us).way to go dear...and the one under 'Architecture for Humanity' is nice but some how I feel it missed out ur personal touch of writing. Humor/paradox quotient is completely absent..I find it too bookish.Just for an Example, At the current Climate Conference in Copenhagen, all the delegates from 170 countries reached there to campaign about 'bicycle' without knowing how much of high-octane aviation gasoline was burnt to get their ass on that bicycle? ;) Moreover, isn't it easy to talk about climate change in a 24*C Temp controlled auditorium,when right outside the temp is almost below 0.

  4. sirjii yeh actual prof logo ke liya likha tah...toh zyada humour nahi daal sakta...