Sustainability- A Personal Encounter
By Ar. Kamini Badnore
Paritosh, my better half, had a major road accident and was admitted to the city’s best hospital. While he was in the OT, I found myself weeping amidst two chambers in a shadowed area with just a handful of oxygen to breathe. That space appeared so ghostly, I moaned, “such unthoughtful design”. Sensing my uneasy condition, my 6-year-old said, “if I were an architect, I would design a hospital”. Being an architect, I was surprised, and thought to myself, isn’t this hospital designed by an architect?! Thus, my story of architecture begins here.
This incident made me think; what kind of spaces are we designing for various functions? Is it serving the purpose of designing a space? Is the space fulfilling the requirements of the occupants as well as ensuring a healthy, happy and comfortable environment? A thoughtful design can definitely flip-flop the psychology of the users to make them more aware and happier towards life.
Sustainability through Social Connect
Pedalling back to my story, the hospital incident was like a tattoo on my skin, which made me think, we have to build a more lively environment, cheerful urban spaces to be happy and to help eradicate all the negativity. So, happy urban spaces can be achieved by the intertwining of happiness and urban design. Being an architect, I connect it with the system and norms of city planning. These designs influence our feelings and the way we treat each other. Few initial micro-level steps can be as effective for a whole urban level planning and designing. Thus, the roads, the gardens, the parks, the buildings, our neighbourhoods, the sidewalks all are emotional infrastructure that affects the heart and minds of people.
There are always two sides of a coin, as for the past few decades, our cities have transformed drastically. The infrastructure has expanded and elevated. For the mature minds, we say think rationally, but children are completely auto-dependent! Residing at one place, shopping at other places, schools at one end, workplaces at the other end, so most of the time we are just driving to reach these places. Source: https://www.conserve-energy-future.com/green-building.php
The urban area is always so busy that knowing even your immediate neighbours can be an achievement for the youngsters. This can lead to less interaction with each other, less participation in team sports, cultural activities, traditions, and so on. Thus, we need to realise the connection between urban form and social connect. People in the high-rise residential towers are more short-tempered and anxious than those staying in the countryside, who are happier and giving. This does not mean that we all have to start migrating toward the villages. This means that we need to weave more of nature into our designs, more nature into the cities, and more nature into the dense environment. We should be able to touch nature, hang out in nature. This will not only affect the social connection but also influence the behaviour and minds of people.
Few observations justify the mentioned situations more clearly. A street that has a more traditional overview with some local shops and maybe street food being sold out there, versus a street with a huge high-tech building with a modern façade, glass walls, and trendy appearance. People walking in front of these two streets felt a major difference. So, what is the difference? The street with more traditional glimpses, smaller shops, windows open, doors welcoming, made people happier. They connected with each other; there was a sense of oneness. People walking in front of these streets seemed more relaxed and lively. On the contrary, people walking in front of the street with a modern and trendy building seemed less happy. The totally blank glass walls tend to force people to walk more quickly in front of these structures, they feel less safe and more anxious. These spaces also have behavioural impacts on the users. It may change the way they treat other people, the benevolence starts curtailing. On these active lively streets, people are more friendly and helpful than on those blank and trendy places. This is what we are doing with our cities and our urban environment. We are big boxing our cities, by taking the entire block and killing the street edge. Not only the street edges, the spirit inside these huge trendy boxes is also going downhill. These big chunks of concrete and glass are affecting the frame of mind of the people simultaneously, slaying the overall character and identity of the place. As architects, planners and designers we definitely can fathom the gravity and the influence of designing structures with nature. Thus, the urge of the time is to build a better community, better environment, and better economy and on the whole, to award a character to the city, country.
Change is the only constant.
So, standing in that hospital, I thought to myself, now change is essential. Now is the time to bring back our identity with effectiveness. Now is the time to not only build spaces but also try to live those spaces with all the same emotions as the occupants. Building modern infrastructure is important in sync with the traditional feel and character of that place. Entwining more nature, green spaces, spaces where people can connect and socialise would help in enhancing the vibrancy and congeniality of the city. Change is the essence of life. Change is essential in every aspect to grow, to develop, evolve, and succeed. Time has shaped the architecture, enhanced it, and embellished it. All the novel ideas are replicated with self-expression. Sometimes, cloning the western culture we trespassed our own identity and roots. Moving towards the modern era adopting new technologies and automating every tiny detail is the new trend. In doing so, the ethics and traditions are slowly turning into the black moon. The identity and the character of the urbs are fading away causing them to lose the beauty and charm of the city. This is a matter of concern and provokes us to revisit the solid classical foundations of Architecture.
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An architect by profession, Ar. Kamini Badnore is currently employed at IPS academy, School of Architecture, Indore as a Professor. An avid reader, writer and poetess, her articles and poems have been published on various platforms.