Globalized and competitive economic-driven cities are focused on innovation policies, often considering sustainable communities such as eco-centers performing the role of a social innovation laboratory. Innovation plays a vital role and creative strategies are sought to achieve their sustainability goals. However, sustainable communities are more often than not, motivated by a desire for a simpler life and are neither always market-driven nor innovation-focused.  Thus, to study innovation in these settings, a different conceptual framework must be developed, and here is where convivial architectural strategies of a social architect play a major role in bolstering urban resurgence. Social Architecture is a concept of “for the people – by the people”, a human-centric approach at the core of which is a synthesis of the singular spatial needs along with unique construction techniques. Driven by Social Architects, compassionate analysts address the systemic causes of world issues through convivial strategies. Conviviality Architecture’s main focus is creating friendly and lively physical spaces that are flexible and adaptable. The procedures and results are on equity, honesty, and democracy, as well as catering to urban uses and solutions that meet the requirements and aspirations of the users. The methodology intends to inspect and express views of best practices by stating an example of socially responsible and convivial architecture projects from the healthcare, housing, food, and social services sectors to highlight the challenges, aims, and goals of these projects. The article seeks to explore the relationship between architecture and social benefits to answer how social challenges can be looked at and solved architecturally. A wider geographical spectrum has been considered to focus both on national and international examples, conveying thoughts on various stakeholder approaches and policies supporting sustainability, inclusion, equity, and diversity.


The life of 59-year-old Lancaster, United Kingdom resident Ron Rambo, whose cerebral palsy from birth caused many obstacles and hardships. Having used a wheelchair since early adulthood, he faced difficulties in his previous apartment which was inaccessible from the front because of steep concrete stairs, lacked access to the laundry room, the bathroom was relatively small, and maneuvering through the hallway was a nightmare. To overcome these problems, he along with the support of his mother and Max Zahniser (a LEED fellow, sustainability consultant, educator, and green architect) through a special state-run home-ownership program gave rise to Project Rambo, known affectionately as Ramboland. The concept of a “regenerative-living laboratory” is to learn about the possibilities for the future of our built environment by grasping the deep interconnectedness of various elements that make up a house. The project aims to achieve six main objectives: providing universal access to all individuals with special needs; achieving energy grid independence by producing eight times the actual need; focusing on water grid independence through stormwater solutions, wastewater treatment, and rainwater collection; achieving food grid independence through backyard gardens and aquaponics systems; and promoting neighborhood ecological restoration by providing excess food, water, and energy to the surrounding community. The project has been awarded LEED Platinum and Living Building Challenge certifications. A Small House, Big Impact approach is interesting considering the outcomes, an example of which is the use of eight different roof profiles to direct airflow while maximizing sunlight exposure to solar panels, yet not compromising on the outdoor beauty. Healthy organic food is produced by Permaculture-style planter beds which are wheelchair accessible, the use of reclaimed materials for interiors eliminates the environmental impact and better inhabitants’ health. Reclaimed materials are better considering the lesser concentration of volatile organic compounds which would have already been off-gassed over time and the use of polished concrete for the flooring makes it a great surface for wheelchair maneuverability. Furthermore, green indoors and impressive outdoor views improve the inhabitant’s physical, mental, and emotional well-being. 

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Regenerative Demonstration Project_© Indiegogo


Alejandro Aravena, winner of the 2016 Pritzker Prize is a Chilean Architect who has risen from practicing architecture as an artful endeavor that meets the social and economic challenges of the global housing crisis through his “Do Tank” firm ELEMENTAL which has built nearly 2,500 units of social housing. It is the first time the prize has been awarded to an Architect from South America, a region that does not seem to take much interest in rising to the challenge of housing. The opportunistic approach of his firm to generate a powerful impact on lower-income communities is through active engagement in the public housing policies of governments fighting for a better urban environment for all. The Quinta Monroy Housing project, Iquique, Chile, conceptualized in 2001 is one of the most promising social rehousing projects by Elemental realized through their signature philosophy of ‘incremental design’ provides 93 families with better houses. Constrained by an extremely tight budget, a radical notion was sought by providing half of the entire house with a provision to expand in the future. The personal tastes of the clients were not compromised and at a later stage could expand their houses based on their convenience. The “half-house” concept has been lauded as a masterpiece for 3 reasons: first, ensuring the family’s economic connection housing sufficient density in a good location; second, a strategic plan where the first half is built by the architect and the other half left for self-building and third was the introduction of collective spaces for every 20 families through social agreements thus changing the usual standard of social housing. Another life-touching similar project that came as a result of the success of Quinta Monroy is that of the Villa Verde, Constitución, Chile, a much larger scale project in line with the signature philosophy.

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Quinta Monroy Housing project_© Arquitectura Viva


Is Hunger a Political Question or a technical issue? The global food system has been continuously under pressure needing support from all ends and, more importantly, Architects to design a system to address food insecurity. Human rights to food are being violated with impunity, especially in the developing and under-developed context, whereas the developed world is searching for measures to reduce its food waste quantity. Aquaponics, a green technology, has been on the rise as a sustainable approach to food security. The approach to rear fish and grow microgreens using less water in comparison to the traditional approach is being promoted for both its easy set-up advantage and as a commercial venture. The Pallipuram Service Co-operative Bank (PSCB) in the year 2016, launched a pilot project in a village named Cherai in Kerala. The sole objective was helping farmers grow chemical-free food and since then, the village has had a unique distinction of being India’s first aquaponics village. Aquaponics is a symbiotic mix of aquaculture and hydroponics (the raising, reproducing, and harvesting of aquatic organisms) (growing plants without soil using water solvent mineral nutrient solutions). The simplicity of this unique system attracts people from various backgrounds including Architects to explore its advantages. Farming Architects team, led by founder An Viet Dung is a young architecture start-up in Vietnam whose office balcony has been revamped with an aquaponic system to breathe new life and green space into the office. The team’s realization of the fact that the city’s omnipresent balconies were largely underutilized, most likely because of urban pollution, noise, and security issues led them to create an open and vibrant working space, known as the Urban Eco Balcony, with various multi-functional features.

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ECO-Balcony Handsketch_© Farming Architects

Social Services 

Bengaluru-based Architect Neha Harish won a global award for her design highlighting the plight of refugees exploring the architectural implications of forced migrations that lead to marginalization and loss of identity. The topic of her thesis, ‘Requiem for Tolerance,’ was ‘Placelessness,’ and the project was named Best Sustainable Design among 13 finalists from around Asia at Nippon Paint’s Asia Young Designer Award. Through intense research, subject reading, and conversations with army officers and Tamil-speaking civilians who were forced to leave Sri Lanka during the Civil War between 1983-2009, she got valuable insights into the psychological impact of being forced to flee one’s homeland. Following the lines of empathy and understanding, gaining knowledge from Jewish memorials of the Holocaust helped her understand how a resource center works just in terms of its functionality. The aims of her design which serves both as a memorial and a resource center were to create an emotional space allowing anyone to empathize. The design elements are abstracted so they don’t force anybody to form an opinion and anyone who has never experienced any of the displacement traumas is still able to empathize. The project (a museum combined with a research center) has tried to draw on all three associations to envisage an urban installation— the displaced Sri Lankan Tamilians having very strong memories of the forests, their relation to water as they were largely fishing communities, and their traumatized memories of hiding in rectangular dug up spaces during bombings. The associations have been achieved by locating the space next to the Cooum River featuring subterranean rooms and libraries leading to spaces where only one person can stand (as a replication of bunkers) and showing the claustrophobia faced in that tiny space, often packed with five to six persons during wars. The intention is to highlight connections between architecture, place, and living memory questioning how no one is looking for architectural expertise while getting resettled in a new place and why there is a need to solve these challenges architecturally, beyond meager emergency aid shelters.

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Displacement Project_© Neha Harish

Role of Policies

The relationship between good architecture and good society is a complex one. Piet Mondrian’s life belief of how his rectilinear, flattened paintings offered cues to the spiritual refinement of life has been overpowered by mass culture, and Le Corbusier’s design of an ideal setting enabling the citizens of tomorrow to lead lives of significance was flawed due to absolutism. According to Ranjit Hoskote, there is no necessary link between excellent architecture and a decent society; at most, the former might serve as a picture of the latter; at worst, it can imply the latter. Architecture as a result of its application-science-based approach of design and construction is meant for the community. The community is the end-user of the works of architecture and therefore, their preferences and requirements determine the nature of architecture. Space is organized by the community and every community transforms its surroundings through various aspects of architecture. However, the concept of sustainability in space-making has often been misinterpreted in today’s world with a lot of chaos and confusion in actually understanding the gist of this unusual concept. Many dimensions need to be considered to achieve sustainability like – transportation networks, environmental management, economy, architecture, social and cultural, etc., all of them working in tandem complementing each other’s goals and outcomes. The examples do provide us insights into how social problems can be looked at and solved architecturally. For these projects to be more successful, a reformed policy and governance structure based on the principles of decentralization, consolidation, and convergence involving architects is necessary. Several key areas such as health, agriculture, and social protection need significant short and medium-term interventions where good and convivial architecture can play a vital role.

Architects have vivid imaginations considering the interdisciplinary study course they are exposed to and the philosophy of it being an application-based science in practice. A collaboratively thoughtful architecture is what’s necessary for sustained future growth; quoting Sameep Padora, Principal Architect at sP+a ‘Architects must simultaneously and with an open mind engage with research, practice, collaboration, and advocacy if they are serious about converting opportunities to meaningful change’. Without this, Architects may through corporate or government sponsors tend to wrongly understand the concepts of sustainability and conviviality; an example of which is defending spaces from those forced to live in public spaces through defensive architecture. Is architectural policing techniques that include concrete spikes, excessive railings, and convex corners built in public spaces the solution to keep away homeless people, or is there a convivial approach for an inclusive social network? After all, what’s needed within the margins of cities is the co-creation of urban space and architecture which could break down prejudice, strengthen communities, kickstart local economies, and uphold good policies of inclusive placemaking.

Reference list

Bobulescu, R., & Fritscheova, A. (2020). Convivial innovation in sustainable communities: Four cases in France. Science Direct.

Coole-McIntosh, S. (2018, 4 4). The Regeneration of Ramboland. Retrieved from Susquehanna Style:

Franco, J. T. (2016, 1 13). Alejandro Aravena Wins 2016 Pritzker Prize. Retrieved from Arch Daily:

George, D. K. (2021, 8 12). Meet the Bengaluru architect who won a global award for her design highlighting the plight of refugees. Retrieved from Social Story:

Jewell, N. (2017, 7 14). Aquaponic gardens bring life to an unused balcony in an architect’s office. Retrieved from In Habitat:

SRIVATHSAN, A. (2016, 4 26). Towards an architecture for India. Retrieved from The Architectural Review:


Nikhil Ravindra is a passionate Architect, Urbanist and Academician, based in Bengaluru. His interests and expertise are on the topics of urban governance, climate action, land management, energy efficiency & digital innovations. He has several research publications to his name & also won awards for practicing sustainable architecture and urbanism.