Before entering the professional realm, students are just individuals learning to navigate the world of adults and contribute to society. It’s often believed that the younger generation lacks the experience to fully grasp the complexities of the world. Ironically, the field of architecture and infrastructure education challenges this notion, urging students to rely on their personal experiences as laypeople. They are encouraged to reflect on their interactions with their homes, neighbourhoods, and cityscapes, using these insights to inform their designs. They study functioning buildings, institutions, and campuses to understand how the world operates effectively and where it needs improvement. Thus, an architect’s journey begins by becoming a more observant and aware layman than anything else. 

THOUGHTFUL CREATORS 

In today’s world, space is limited, but our wants and desires are not. Architects and designers do an amazing job of making the most out of every inch. Take a normal-sized apartment, for example. Architects fit many rooms, like those in a villa, onto one floor for multiple families. They cleverly design spaces to meet various needs, like creating a quiet study corner or a dressing area next to a column, with windows and doors arranged perfectly.

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Luxurious use of small space in a small apartment_©Copyright Credit Photo from Interiorzine.com

It’s incredible how a single room can offer different experiences throughout the day. Designers ensure that the study area is peaceful, that the dressing space has natural light and a beautiful view, and that there is room to meditate or exercise on the balcony. They make sure every space is just right for anyone, regardless of their size or abilities, to move around comfortably. When moving things or hosting a visitor, one realises how thoughtfully the space is designed. It feels like the architect anticipated these needs and addressed them before they even arose.

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Cozy Public cafeteria designed by Charles Chores, JKK Jaipur_©Copyright Credit Photo from ashishbhonde.com

This kind of thoughtfulness is evident in our homes and public places. It makes users of a space feel comfortable and taken care of, whether we’re navigating large open-air theatres/exhibitions or enjoying the cosiness of our homes. Architects design spaces that are not only functional but also enhance the daily lives of people they have never met. In a noisy and distracting world, extracting their most humane selves to create spaces that work smoothly and beautifully is a significant achievement. 

COMMUNICATING CONCEPTUAL IDEAS WITH GENERAL PUBLIC

Not everyone who is intrigued by art, astronomy, history, science, or anything else gets to fully make friends with subjects they are curious about. There is a lot to do in life, like choosing one interest and following through a certain set of tasks day in and day out. 

And it is a good pleasure when we realise there are more people than just us, who care about such subjects. Be it the whole government, a set of communities housing a statue, museum, or community places like JKK, Laurie Baker coffee house. Anybody who comes in contact with or even hears about such a place is getting connected to concepts, beyond their time, either in the past or future. They are getting included in more ways than one, conventional or not, people get to experience the mindset of experts, opinions of the government which they use to judge and form opinions about, etc. A layman lives in between these concepts and sees the impact of lives being changed, be it his or many, like artists finding a place to showcase their art, that decorates a layman’s home or his life, while he and his family enjoy solace and comfort in tradition and culture. 

The layman no longer feels he is not included in public events or left out on facts he once cared about. He has the opportunity to know how important people feel about the subject he shares his interest in. It’s a gift to feel included in subjects that matter, to have a community, and to feel connected to them through the art of experience and infrastructural simple measures. 

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Exhibit area, JKK_©Copyright Credit Photo from ashishbhonde.com
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Conceptual Planning of JKK as per planning of old Jaipur, as per Navagraha in respect to geography of the city_©Copyright Credit Photo from Inditerrain IndiaArtAndDesign.com and Ankit Sharma LinkedIn blog and hiddenarchitecture.net

UNIQUE CHARACTER TO PLACES:

During the innocent days of childhood, most people remember how different their grandparent’s home feels from their own home. As numbers are added to their age, these kids start noticing the elements that make up the world of their best memories. The courtyards, windows, railings, swings, sheets, everything takes up a different character and personality. It’s not just the cultural and economic background that changes a family, but also the states and geography of the place add to the difference of elements that make up the character of a home and place. 

For example, the South of India experiences lush greenery, a humid climate, and a lot of rainfall, thus, the material used is such that one hardly slips on the floor, while the courtyard is a playground during rainfalls. In North India, the walls and floors are lime finished, or painted in lighter shades to reflect back the heat, as the surface stays cooler, which at night is for a combined bedding under the stars with all siblings and relatives. 

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Bracket cantilever North Indian Home Vs Sloping roof Courtyard from a Southern India Home_©Copyright Credit Photo from Instagram @jaipur.houses, Shree Niwas (L), 99acres.com (R)
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Windows from traditional North Indian homes. Panels and paint that need not necessarily expose the quality of wood unlike in the south. _©Copyright Credit Photo from Wordpress My time to travel (L), shaktihimalaya.com (C), Ami@thrillingtravel.in (R)
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Windows from traditional South Indian homes, covering from harsh sun. _©Copyright Credit Photo from P Rajaraman Carpenter, LinkedIn (L) and Bobinson, Krishnapuram Palace Darbar (R)
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Do you think, the thriving nature encourages craftsmen to be playful with the abundant resources available in the South?_©Copyright Credit Photo to Ar. Prahalad Gopakumar, from Forms and Spaces

EXPERIENCING FANTASIES AND LUXURIES – DREAMS COME TRUE 

As we proudly state today, the world is developing at such a rapid stage, and one of the best things that architects and designers have been able to achieve is bringing people and their dreams close to each other. 

In today’s age, architects, the space wizards, have taken it upon themselves to create a beautiful world of fantasy to make people feel their dreams are achievable. Do you have a small flat? Find it converted to your palace of dreams with the bar on the kitchen counter separating the living room and a cosy romantic spa just on your balcony. What can not happen in a small space when vans are becoming restaurants and cosy moving cottages in this day and age? Public spaces that both look like high-rise commercial plazas of an international market, along with a Zen Garden to give comfort to the eyes of city dwellers from Japan just out of their offices! Not a multimillionaire yet, need a flexible environment; alone but don’t want to feel alone, shared workspaces are here. What is not possible in today’s day and age? 

Cafe’s ho ho ha he, don’t get started because architects are already beyond the finish line. 😊  

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Café The Fort, picturesque click with early sun_©Copyright Credit Photo from Fort Restaurant Jaipur

Designers have taken the “make dreams come true to heart”. So, what if you are born in this era of pollution and city life, if you want a slow country life and like old Rajasthan, you can have your café converted into a Bawdi, and find yourself lost in the pages of history using elements in such a way, that forefathers are surprised to see the coffee – chai biscuit being served underwater, in the desert or a Bawdi run all from the back of your own home. Anything is possible today.

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The Fort Café, Jaipur, bringing an element of longstanding heritage blended with class modern world _©Copyright Credit Photo from Sultanate Café Fort

Today cafés are built in the heart of the commercial space, bringinging back Mediaeval era charm. When the café “the fort’s “banner was up, a group of young designers passing by the café lane of Malviya Nagar near World Trade Park, betted, some said, it’s again another waste of time and space, air pumped in hollow dreams only for the balloon to turn out fuska! Some still believed in the raised curtains and slow time-consuming process that something prosperous would pop out one day. Turns out one of them who was waiting to see how it ends, visiting this palace amidst the city, the Fort café’ on their family get-out only to find out the forty royal experience was affordable for the family, while all of their eyes were glued on how the masonry and it’s intricate long going efforts with thick walls sat on this new land as if they belong here from this age, but the steel frame windows, and sculptured roof, all of the innovation made it look not like an alien getaway just landed in their city, but citizens and the young architect’s was forced to wonder in awe of modern growth and character of the growing world and city, reflected in the luxury of heritage. Medium land, not a huge space, but the use of the given space was done in such a way, that it made every simple or elite family or a new couple or a group of friends walking in a foreign but comforting familiar ambiance as if the café itself was spoke, that it belonged here just as much the people did. They deserve a luxurious royal and unique experience, in their budget. People’s unique identity in this modern age shined through this modest yet elegant place. 

Not only such small places but every individual’s home is nowadays a reflection of such surprising stories. People house not only themselves in their houses, but also their dreams, wants, aspirations, and culture in their house. Thus, a Tamil couple’s house in Gujrat can easily reflect their backgrounds in a foreign land.

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Weddings themed royally._©Copyright Credit Photo Wedding Nama

The luxury of travelling back in time, marrying your daughter off in a palace, or taking your family out on a picnic and feeling like a royal family amidst the palace on water has played a huge role in bringing people close to their aspirations, and architects are the bridge to the creation and restoration of such wonderful experiences.

SPACES SPEAK BEFORE PEOPLE DO 

Kashi took her niece Vrinda to her school; she was a computer teacher there. The school belonged to the royal family of the state. Vrinda heard how the girls of the school were sassy, so she was afraid to get out and talk to other girls. Vrinda sighed a sigh of relief, as assembly was in progress. Someone sat her down, in the reception area, and as she looked out, the place felt nothing like how she was told. It was indeed an expensive institute, fairly due to beautiful fairy gardens, and heritage palace, buildings that emitted peace. These are some of the instances, where a layman finds a building speaking to them, this is the same kind of comfort a man finds in a foreign land when the alien buildings or landscapes speak to him, then he is no longer alone. 

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New city, streets, spaces and infrastructure speaking to a person._©Copyright Credit Photo from Dailygrog.com to Skylar Renslow

Be it one projecting their ambitions on a new city or their despair, or feeling in love at a newfound home, love for neighbours, romance, or just love for the city or their work. And sometimes, people are just able to feel the emotions of the place, like in public plazas or parks, neutral, tranquil at peace, communal one with life. At every stop in one’s life, any layman, even if he is an architect himself, experiences, and thanks the works of other architects, who have put together, what he calls his experience of a place. 

Of course, at last, people make the place and put feelings into it, but architects do draw the narrative. Thus, organic and traditional architecture is an all-time inspiring space for architects to draw intention and inspiration of how to bring people closer in a lovely structure. 

POWER TO IMPACT EMOTIONS AND WELLBEING

Only a few things done differently give landscapes, cityscapes, and all kinds of spatial arrangements character that makes spaces come alive and sing to one’s soul. 

Some corners of houses, offices, and neighbourhoods easily become many people’s favourite spots. How is that possible? Sometimes it is because the spaces speak to the mood of the people, while mostly the simple answer is these so-called favourite spots make people feel simply connected to themselves, their community, or something bigger than them. 

While some lanes, buildings, and public spots, seem dead and bare even if they are newly built. We, as humans, like to make use of our sensory functions, thus demanding texture to touch, fresh leaves and blossoms to breathe in, and chatter and chirping to be part of. It is very easily explained via neat sketches in the book,” Places of the Soul”. This book does not address architects or designers, even a common man reading it can understand what makes his surroundings soft and lively, once revisiting known knowledge clearly in the words of Christopher Day.

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Sketches from the Book Places of the Soul, showing how adding and removing lines, textures can make a place livable and soft. _©Copyright Credit Photo from Book Places of the Soul, by Christopher Day

Line sketches from the book “Places of the Soul” help to focus on spatial differences that make spaces softer or interactive without being distracted by colours or realistic images. 

This is how spaces are made to come alive, and many are responsible for it other than just architects, it is the common man of the community, Gardner, someone who just loves to do things around and make life beautiful for others naturally!

“Places of the Soul”, is worth a good read, it is indeed soulfully written in a way one can get lost in the beauty of the natural realm, bible to tickle one’s art and intuition, if you enjoy observing or getting your hands dirty in the mud to make beautiful creations. 

RESURRECTING COMMUNITIES 

The heritage structures of a city or place, such as Bawdi, Haveli, forts, and tombs, are often initially found in a state of neglect until the government decides how important it is to restore small or large portions of these forgotten civil structures.

To most of us, the first thought upon seeing a ruin is to not give it a thought! It just flies above our heads. We see, might appreciate beauty, and then forget! Consider that one might go as far as asking those around, to discuss the glamorous past and find pride in his/her culture. But still, while mentioning such structures in everyday talk, laymen refer to them as the property of kings, dynasties, empires, royal courtesans, etc. In such talks, it might not occur initially, to comprehend, how these built environments and ecological pockets are connected with a common man. 

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Water Channels and elements in Historic map of Shahjahanabad during 1850 AD. _©Copyright Credit Photo from Research Gate by Kamini Singh

For instance, let us consider the water channels and fountains of palace/forts, built by the intellect and craft of common craftsmen of older times, and maintained and tended by common gardeners or servants of the palace. 

For example, consider water fountains and channels used in royal palaces and pools, which were then connected to Sarovar/ ponds in the city, along with Bawdi, Kunds, and Wells in havelis. Drainage and water lines were crucial factors determining the growth, development ease, and abundance of an area. As it aided people’s and their livestock’s health, flood, and emergency security, trade, tourism, etc. 

If one of these elements is neglected in a certain part of the city, it might take years for the current generation to realise how it impacts interconnected water levels, ecology, air quality, and consequently, the living standards, health, wellness, tourism, and community dynamics of the area. 

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Bansilalpet stepwell in 2000 tone garbage dump before restoration project._©Copyright Credit Photo by Anand Dharmana, in Telangana Today

It’s important to remember that more than the royals, it was the people of the city who were the lifeblood of their surroundings. They were the ones who made the palaces and the city function. These architectural wonders were constructed, maintained, and flourished due to the intelligence and craftsmanship of the common people and the ruler’s dedication to the growth and progress of his people. These were the spaces where people found joy, created cultural and communal memories, and connected with one another. By preserving these structures, we breathe life into our city, its people, and their well-being. 

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Bansilalpet stepwell with 23 lakh volume capacity of holding water after restoration a proud community project._©Copyright Credit photographer Nagara Gopal, in the Hindu Article

For example, the 18th-century stepwell in Hyderabad, the Bansilalpet stepwell, has been restored and transformed into a community centre. The public, who once gathered around the water, will now bond over its memory. With increased awareness and the adoption of a mindset to preserve resources, including ancient knowledge, society will continue to flourish, building on its cultural foundation.

WINDOW TO LOOPHOLES 

Layman has access to more than the surface of the things, policies, and projects, than (s)he realises.

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A critiquing banner highlighting problems faced by laymen in India’s first AC railway station._©Copyright Credit Photo from YouTube Video Titled,” India’s first AC railway station: what went wrong?”
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Layman crossing over with luggage from the divider in front of one of the main entrances to the railway station._©Copyright Credit Photo from YouTube Video Titled,” India’s first AC railway station: what went wrong?”

For instance, a project built with pride and ambition, to be India’s first modern centralised AC railway station, showed a struggle to meet basic functions and aid that a transport station should provide. The prevailing enraged criticism points out that the project was under-designed since much of the space was wasted, without providing people easy access and visual connection to necessary amenities like toilets, and food courts along with a lack of proper waiting areas, etc. 

The building was built on scratch ground, without considering saving trees on a green patch of land. This shows how a large and important project was delivered thoughtlessly, in a rush, and maybe under some pressure wasting resources, and now when executed wastes the time of people, trying to navigate and use the space. It is good food for thought to question, what was the urgency to build in a rushed fashion, how much the real user gains out of it, and if it is less than what it should be, who gains what from such rushed decisions? 

Another example can be the restoration works at local heritage spots. It might be an interesting experiment to observe the craft made by old artisans, and the one restored by new artisans in the same campus or monument. The difference can speak volumes about the development of machines or the lack of encouragement of the legacy of generational artists and their craft. 

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Maharaniyon ki Chattri, Jaipur. Cluster of chattris along with one under restoration._©Copyright Credit Photo from telegraphindia.com

Or is it just that the land use plan, metros, and their efficiencies let in a layman’s a lot of information about the work culture they worship and want their kids to be a part of later on functioning currently. Sometimes to stop, observe and question is the greatest subtle way we can entertain ourselves while gently finding ways to steer and support development around us, for a better future.

It turns out that a layman is already experiencing the work of an architect, he only has to know that while he experiences these feelings at certain points on his journey of many experiences of life, these are few, when an architect’s subtle presence is unknown but very present! 

In the end, if we peep into an imaginary conversation between an architect and layman, we can assume an architect saying,” Dreams are of importance to us all, sometimes we can see as far as only our dreams let us, sometimes we try to help our family realise it’s dreams, but the work we do really humbles us as an architect.” It asks us to grow above and beyond and get our hands dirty to make something worthwhile. The discipline, and the sacrifice, sometimes enable us to create a large impact, and sometimes we have to push our boundaries to do better. We realise how small we are and how much there is to learn, so much so that we fear the responsibility we carry and fail to see the impact we make. This written piece is just an attempt to honour an architect and the layman. 

REFERENCES: 

Patiala Singh. [Photograph]. (Wikipedia)

Bengawalk. [Photograph]. (YouTube Video)

Nagara Gopal. [Photograph]. (thehindu.com)

Anand Dharmana. [Photograph]. (Telangana Today)

Kamini Singh. [Photograph]. (Research Gate)

Christopher Day. [Photograph]. (Places of the Soul, book)

Skylar Renslow. [Photograph]. (dailygrog.com)

[Photograph]. (Wedding Nama)

[Photograph]. (Sultanate Café Fort Jaipur)

[Photograph]. (Fort Restaurant Jaipur)

Ankit Sharma. [Photograph]. (inditerrain.indianartanddesign.com)

Ashish Bhonde. [Photograph]. (dailygrog.com)

[Photograph]. (interiorzine.com)

P Rajaraman Carpenter. [Photograph]. (LinkedIn)

Bobinson. [Photograph]. (Wikipedia)

Shree Niwas. [Photograph]. (Instagram @jaipur. homes)

[Photograph]. (99acres.com)

[Photograph]. (Wordpress)

[Photograph]. (shaktihimalaya.com)

Ami. [Photograph]. (thrilling travel.in)

Bengawalk. (2024). India’s first AC railway station SMVT: what went wrong?. [YouTube]. Available at: https://youtu.be/o5JQIjab8Bo?si=QWIGSUwfHTAl8GyG. [Accessed: 03/06/2024].