“Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody.”

– Jane Jacobs

The conscious design of public buildings with the human senses has a positive impact on user perception of the city. Well-designed public buildings can encourage social merging, participation, safety, recreation, and a variety of other social values. It can also benefit the environment and the economy by promoting environmental sustainability and public health improvements. The buildings, the built environment, and the overall quality of our cities and environment can be improved by conscious efforts to design buildings in ways that are more in line with human senses and needs.

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Sadar Bazaar, Jodhpur_©https://laterreestunjardin.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/Jodhpur-Sardar-Market-11.jpg.

Indian public spaces have more dimensions rather than physical ones, such as emotional, cultural, social value, and interactions with the public. While designing public spaces to cherish and celebrate life, this ethos should be nurtured. This public space can nurture a healthy sense of community and social interaction and encourage cultural and social values.

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Salt Lake City Centre, Kolkata_©http://thewire.in/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/malls-big-02.jpg

Architecture is the most visible art form. Regardless of its use or context, a work of architecture dominates the visual field. The controversial argument over public values in architecture is fostered by architecture’s visual prominence. From a practical standpoint, this discussion is driven by the need to use architecture to solve social problems, satisfy societal needs, and improve the quality of life. In addition, the values of architecture are inextricable from social values.

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Clocktower circle, Mysore_©https://cdn.downtoearth.org.in/uploads/0.62770800_1455534861_16689794013_eca68a1f10_z.jpg

William Gass’s “The Face of the City” portrays our reflexive correlation with architecture. Our consciousness influences how we read the city, and the signs that the city’s surfaces reflect back to us influence our consciousness. The cultural significance of architectural language is implicit in this relationship. Architectural discourse is a linguistic and rhetorical representation of the city, and it is a way that we can make connections and interpretations about the city.

The way the surfaces are ‘verbalized’, what they allude to or disregard, is as important as the scale and arrangement of the pieces in urban design. The city’s surfaces have the innate ability not only to shock but also to discreetly sculpt our daily lives. They are the most visible murals of the public’s inspiration or complacency. They are the most immediate and enduring reminders of the city’s character and the city’s history. Boring and uninspired architecture may be detrimental to a community.

But, if contextual criticism is so fundamental to public architecture, who provides it? The public? The critics? The public? If those three are to be taken seriously, who is responsible for the public’s perception of the place and what it represents? Are they the only ones who matter? Or should the place itself be considered central?

Criticism has traditionally been part of the architect’s ambit. Since architecture is the most visible and public form of art, this sphere presents a significant conundrum. As a result of this process, cities are no longer centers of self-organizing social life and public space, which is undoubtedly a necessity for a functional democracy.

Architecture design is a personal journey, a component of the creative process that is very personal in its heart. In contradiction, most of the time, context and culture define project design. The context is everything around us with the intention of the design.

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Architects need assistance in developing a thorough assessment of what best drives the essence of the design. The design process necessitates the understanding of the context, after which the designer transforms the known into the unfolding. The design process is an iterative, collaborative exercise, which in turn encourages collective knowledge.

However, the public voice frequently conceals the mirror in which the public image is reflected, resulting in ambivalence – which must be avertible for the architects. Architects must respect the system in which the structure is immersed in and evolves rather than creating flashy artwork that stands out.

The democratization of the architectural process has thrown the traditional relationship between architect and public into disarray. How might a fresh, mutually beneficial connection be formed? How might architects and the public be able to work together to achieve a common agenda?

The vernacular—that is, the particulars of a place’s form, memory, and rituals—is where a sustainable balance between public and architecture can be found. These specifics contribute to the public’s ability to frame an authentic cultural context in which architecture can be created. They also allow for a greater sense of public expression.

Revitalisation Of Bhadra Fort_©https://worldarchitecture.org/cdnimgfiles/extuploadb/7-14-.png

Instead of imposing an architectural solution, the public process should establish objectives and uncover the patterns of a place. Similarly, the architect should respect this knowledge by making it fundamental rather than peripheral to the design. This purpose emphasizes the architect’s role as observer and interpreter, rather than negating it.

If the architect is to be a provocateur, an actor, and collaborator in the creation of a crucial public sphere, they must educate the value of creativity and architecture’s potential to communicate a context. The public process provides the architect with more to think about, more to synthesize. It is an opportunity to learn about the experience of a community, to make an art form of the ‘experience’!

“In a strange way, architecture is really an unfinished thing, because even though the building is finished, it takes on a new life. It becomes part of a new dynamic: how people will occupy it, use it, think about it.”

– Daniel Libeskind

  1. Books

Gehl, Jahn. “Life Between Buildings.” Life Between Buildings – Three Types of Outdoor Activites, Updated ed., Washington, DC 20009, Island Press, 2011, pp. 9–51.

Lynch, K. (1997).The Image of the City. The MIT Press

Rossi, A., 2007. The architecture of the city. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press.

  1. Online sources

Journal. 2021. 13 Reasons Why an Architect’s Voice Is Their Most Important Tool – Architizer Journal. [online] Available at: <https://architizer.com/blog/practice/details/an-architects-voice/> [Accessed 17 November 2021].

Armenson, J., 2021. The Public Voice In Architecture | The Conventions. [online] The Conventions. Available at: <https://www.theconventions.com/articles/society/the-public-voice-in-architecture> [Accessed 17 November 2021].

California, A., 2021. The Problem of Architecture in Public and the Public in Architecture. [online] Aiacalifornia.org. Available at: <https://aiacalifornia.org/problem-architecture-public-public-architecture/> [Accessed 17 November 2021]. 


Kishan Thakkar is an architect based in Ahmedabad exploring creative outlets and entrepreneurship. He is an avid learner who has a penchant for research, analysis and understanding different fields within the architecture and aspires to promote sustainable development. Discipline is the key to balance his diversified interest and work routine.

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