We open at the close

Lockdown and Balcony

by Radhika Vikrant Bhamburkar

Supported by

During the lockdown, balconies became a happy space over the cities. It is fun to notice how grateful we are to have balconies, more than ever!

When the Pandemic struck in the 2020s, everyone had an obligation to stay at home. That’s when ‘we as an apartment’ decided to open our always-locked common terraces. We decided on convenient time slots for everyone in the building to maintain the social distancing. After that, the few hours of “out in the open time” were all we looked forward to throughout the day.

Balconies provide a peaceful escape during the pandemic. For centuries, balconies have been an important part of architecture. Being a simple platform creating a link between an indoor and outdoor space. During the period, it left its glorious days behind and became an underappreciated architectural component. Today, in apartments, the indoor-outdoor connections are often viewed as simple openable windows. The same, simple architectural element – the balcony – now enables us as a community to have a sense of participation in a world beyond the four walls. In the pandemic, “the balcony” is once again referred to and appreciated as a symbol of a new form of freedom.
There’s something wonderful about seeing how a simple protruding platform can become a household’s lifeline. People invented new ways of connecting. People in neighbourhoods gathered on balconies to sing, exercise, play, or celebrate frontline workers. At the same time, balconies became an ideal platform for social distancing and social interaction.

Image 01: a comic showing how people customised use of balcony over the pandemic, Source: Author
Image 02: Neighbours in Italy having wine party in a balcony Source: India today, April 15, 2020 UPDATED: April 15, 2020 16:12 Ist
Image 03: Residents interacting with each other through balconies, Location: Pune Source : Photographer – Ashish Kale

The balcony has many architectural forms and uses depending on the context. In the Shakespearean era, the balcony acted as a catalyst for conversation. It is well captured in the literature that lives through time. During the Mughal era, emperors would communicate through balconies with common people about ongoing affairs which made them a symbol of hierarchy.

Image 04 : Reference of Balconies and Mughal architecture Emperor Jahangir at the window of the Agra Fort, c. 1620, Aga Khan Museum

Along with its cultural and social importance, history traces back the origins of a balcony to Mesopotamian architecture. There it acted as an environmental filter for ventilation to protect the residents from harsh weather. It also serves as a passive cooling strategy in the Arabic context of “Mashrabiya” (the Arabic word for balcony). It holds a heritage value as it reflects intricate and delicate latticework by local craftsmen.

Image 05: Example of Mashrabiya Source : Getty Images

Balconies act as “eyes on the street”, a term coined by Jane Jacobs, has taken on a new meaning in today’s age and time. The retrieval of balconies allowed us to understand how humans adapt to the available architecture. It may serve as inspiration for the future design of ‘In between-Transitional Spaces’ for the community.

Radhika Vikrant Bhamburkar is a fifth year B.Arch student.

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