By AR VAIDEHI GIRISH JAVADEKAR :
There is something extremely belligerent about the way development is imagined in today’s world. The intent of development is so consumed by individual measures of profitability that the greater good is hardly ever on the radar. Not only are these extremely myopic futuristic strategies, but also highly self-centered. The turning away of one’s focus from the bigger picture or simply by putting on blinders of ignorance will not push the problem away from the human race. In fact by doing so, the threat that looms only magnifies and accelerates its way towards us.
We are amidst a pandemic right now! To cut things short, all it took was a nearly invisible being to put man and his so called heroic endeavours to a grinding halt. The blind race that everyone was running in with the arrogance of having progressed and becoming vain with their intelligence abilities, was stopped by something you cannot even see! This dream of becoming the supreme most living beings on the face of this planet was snapped out by an enemy who turned out to be one of the worst nightmares of our generation. All this has only belittled the human race and challenged its capacity to simply even exist. The moment a sense of entitlement begins to seep into the psyche of a being or its race, there is a snap of fingers from a higher source and all are brought to a harsh reality check. The Earth in no way requires the human race to survive, it is but the other way round.
The mere stopping of human activities over a month across the globe has led to the planet frolicking with life and abundance. Well if that is not a huge reflection in the face, then I don’t know what should be! Amidst the list of wrongs committed intentionally or unintentionally by us, Urban - development and architecture are huge contributors to this catastrophe of earth exploitation. The lack of cognizance to the responsibility of building design adhering to the cradle-to-cradle process of development has become a transcendent preaching across the fraternity and any deviation from the same means getting off track from the “current definition of upbeat in vogue” development.
As long as the builder or the company are minting green, there is no question of going green in the design, construction or execution of buildings. The faster the better. As raw as it might sound, very few actually give a damn about the environmental impacts and implication or the greater good in any way. The role of a building in shaping a place, city, country and eventually the world is not only big on paper, but has tangible impacts in more ways than one. The pandemic in question might not have been a result of the architecture or urban development being carried out, but has surely given a perspective and probably a mandate as to the need to inject in sensitivity to the way the profession is being practiced globally.
The entire dynamic of the relationship of the human race with its surroundings has to be subliminally altered and revamped so that the very idea of living changes. Any architecture derives its main brief from the client and his requirements and needs. The striking of balance between the architect and the client is pivotal in the success of a project. Even if the two parties might not be on the same page all the way through, the main place where they are coming from has to stem from a common cause. If in all this ‘development’, the needs of environment take a back seat, the time has now come, that every mistake being committed by us, will have a backlash.
Architecture in its core shall need to now start addressing the likelihood of calamities, disaster s a n d pandemics in the future. Not to sound negative, but there is no way one can negate these possibilities now. The only way to have an optimistic approach towards dealing with such problems is to ensure that we do not create and craft more problems for the world. Every building, if treated like a living organism, can help in contributing to rather than extracting from nature. Just the fact that we have reached a point of having to discuss about the need for something like Post-pandemic architecture is something we all need to wake up to! So what will the Post-pandemic architecture be like? Will it be an entire reformulation and restructuring of the architecture and design standards where social distancing will be the new norm? Or will it be some new design revolution altogether?
Although social distancing might be a measure for a while, but life-long practice is something contradictory to the very social nature of humans. The essence of a civilized society and life is the human interaction, and buildings are designed around this FACT! So, it might not be that simple to figure a way around this problem, and there probably lies the answer. We have to stop finding ways around issues and rather face them head on! More crisp and macroscopic approaches of design wherein flexibility of space conversion into quick alternative spaces, such as those needed in times of disasters should be designed. This might only be possible in the design of larger public buildings such as malls, exhibition centres, community/gathering halls, sports arenas and hospitality, but even that might be of a lot of help in times of dire measures.
Careful planning, laying out and even density distribution of population is another paramount factor to be adhered to. High density buildings, colonies or development means a higher risk of disease spreading and contamination. Flexible models of human distribution need to be developed. The tapestry of the interweaving of the villages and cities along with the road network with the country fabric determines the efficiency of a sound and balanced human ecosystem. Developing self-reliant villages, village clusters and towns can help in lessening the pressure on the cities and the influx of people in search of better opportunities. Provision of necessary essential goods and services close to residential areas needs to be incorporated in township and urban planning projects.
Mapping and linking localities with the local farm and dairy produce can help the local farmers and empower them along with reducing the transportation involved. A conscious design of buildings that have larger open spaces, well designed circulation and optimum natural light and ventilation can help in better building and occupant health. Diseases spread in tight enclosed spaces. A well ventilated building with just the right amount of sunshine can bring good health in unprecedented ways. Designing schools, colleges and universities with open interactive spaces in place of closed built forms should be practiced. The more we embrace nature in our design and planning, the more it will embrace us. Buildings have to open up tangibly and intangibly.
Avoiding tight nooks that are dark and dingy, storing not stagnating water bodies, ample cross-ventilation, lush vegetation and a local material palette should be a common design basis. Public transport buildings such as railway stations, bus stations and airports need to be relooked at from a gathering, circulation and ventilation point of view. Decontamination of public spaces and ease of cleaning of them might be the underlining design strategies post Covid. All in all a new architecture is to evolve post the pandemic that is open, airy and lit! The constructive contribution of architecture in such times can help arrest a lot of potentially damaging ripple effects that a pandemic brings or might bring. The availability of large convertible spaces into hospitals, research centers, makeshift accommodation, fruit and vegetable markets, storage facilities, testing centers and the like can aid in lowering the need for constructing new facilities and help cut down on the expenditure for them. That money can be put to use in some place more necessary and life-saving.
It is said “money saved is money earned”. Just the fact that buildings in the first place can be designed in a manner that they are not only environmentally responsible, but also a national investment which gives returns in times of crisis, can be a huge boost to the economic and developmental fabric of a country. A fresh approach and a voice raised in unison can be just what we need as the first step towards developing Post-pandemic architecture. In this era of the internet and global community vision, the palette for inspiration and creativity is huge and of a big advantage to derive faster solutions. Collaborative systems of design and integration should be developed with the involvement of governments and governance and the common public in general. A coherent process can help in shaping the architecture which fulfills the current needs along with keeping in mind the future.
Such sensitive methods of architectural practice and development can paint a new picture of symbiotic association of human beings, their abodes and the main abode- The Earth. Symbiotic co-existence is the essence of saving and thriving of humanity on this planet. There is no other way for us to save us. It is time Architecture comes to the forefront of this revolution of constructive change and paves a path forward for the rest of the world and its practices to follow.