Is architecture important? Indeed, it is, Architecture is an art form that reflects how we present ourselves across the earth’s landscape. Just like other forms of art, it changes with styles, technologies, and cultural adaptations. It is a conscious practice and cannot be abstract. Architecture is not just designing buildings; it’s designing an experiential environment. Every person is consciously or subconsciously driven by it.
Studying architecture can not only help in broadening one’s perspective but also in understanding the surroundings better. Every individual has his/her narration of a space. Here is how my perception of my local surroundings changed after taking up architecture.
Parks and gardens are proven to sustain ecologies within towns and cities. These are not just spaces where children can play and enjoy the greens around, but it is much more than that. As an architect, one can understand the beauty of landscape elements and how it affects our mind. Gardens and parks can be spaces where we can take a pause, reflect on ourselves, absorb the energy from nature and resume.
It is proven that being connected to nature has a positive impact on our body and mind. The use of landscape elements, textures and colors bring a sense of calmness and positivity. An example of this is Saras Baug (garden), which is a local landmark in Pune, Maharashtra. It has a Ganpati temple, a lake and lush green lawns all around it. Being a Pune local, I was always attracted to this particular garden because of the significant water body within which the temple is situated. This was a unique thing that made Saras Baug different from other gardens.
But as I took up architecture, I understood what were the factors that make Saras Baug one of the significant landmarks in Pune. It is the landscaping, the focal point of a water body, reflection of trees in the water, the pathways and the color of the temple which complements the surroundings. As an architect, we look more into the details and can understand the essence of such places.
Pu. La. Deshpande Garden, Pune
Temples as Public Spaces
In India, public activities were connected to religious practices which aimed at community gatherings and interactions subconsciously. Temples were not just places of worship but a source of knowledge and community development. With changing times temples lost their essence of these aspects and are now just places of spiritual activities and idol worship. Khajuraho Temple in Madhya Pradesh has numerous carvings which depict the lifestyles of our ancestors which is an example of how temples were a source of knowledge.
As an architect one can observe the details carved and painted on walls, floors, ceilings and columns. These details aren’t just an aesthetic addition to the temple but have a deeper meaning. These details tell us about ancient historic stories, experiences, cultures and traditions. Temples act as a connection between the present and the past. With an increase in urbanization, temples have been neglected.
Traditional spaces like temples can be incorporated while developing new modern public spaces. The addition of such spaces can add value to society and help us in being connected to the roots.
Activism through Architecture
Architecture is a tool that has the capacity to bring about significant change in society. Effective urban designing should be a key focus of the policymakers which will help in the betterment of cities. It has the power to change the lifestyle of the people. For example, the Prabhat road neighbourhood in Pune, which is a significant residential area, still lacks street lights.
As a woman, it feels unsafe to travel through the area at night. Before taking up architecture, I used to blame the local governing body for the lack of the facility. But now as an architecture student, I believe that I have the scope to change the scenario using my profession, and it is not just restricted to blaming the governing body. There are many grey areas in the city.
Grey areas result in women harassment, robberies and mugging which affect the wellbeing of the neighbourhood. Providing proper street lights can help in improving the safety of society.
Courtyards are a significant element in traditional housing typology called ‘wada’ in Maharashtra. Courtyards are central open spaces surrounded by built masses. Being brought up in a wada; as a child, the courtyard fascinated me as I got ample open space to play. Playing in the courtyard with my friends was an activity which I used to wait all day for.
As I took up architecture, I understood that courtyard is a passive climate-responsive technique used for natural airflow and light penetration. Along with that it also has a social influence on the neighbourhood. Courtyards are perceived in different ways by different user groups.
For some, it’s a place where you can park your vehicle, for some it’s a place where you can sun dry cereals and spices while for some it’s a place to meet each other and have conversations. Wadas are user inclusive planning typology that also creates a local context for Maharashtra.
These are a few of the aspects which I look at from a different perspective. Taking up architecture has made me aware and sensitive towards the surrounding, from a micro to a macro scale.
“Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder.”
There is a lot of hidden beauty in the surroundings and one can experience that only when he/she gets curious about the place around him/her.