Empathy. Empathy is the sensitivity one has for another person and feeling what they feel and practically be in their shoes. The world has lost compassion, they do what they think is right for them. Rapid Western Urbanism has made us forget what we are, how they are, and what it should be. Mostly what is best for us?

Ancient designs and buildings roared the culture and contexts of the place; the beauty, the ornamentation, and the aesthetics were everything, which reflected their Culture and silently the Context. For example, in Rajput Architecture, the Jharokha was also used as a cultural, ornamentation, and contextual. Culturally because women in medieval Rajasthan were not allowed to be open, thus experiencing and being present Jharokhas served as the way through.

How to add cultural and contextual elements to your design
Image 1 – Cultural and contextual elements ©The Architectural Review

The façade of the Jharokha was ornamented and added to the exterior architectural beauty. Contextually the latticework also lets in cool breeze into the area due to the Venturi effect, creating almost an air-conditioning like effect during peak summers.

The ancient architecture has also evolved with the culture and the context. Therefore, adding the elements of culture and context to today’s designs must be followed by the dedicated study of the same. Architecture is also ‘of the people, for the people and even by the people’, at least in ancient times, it was by the people. 

Subjects like History, Psychology, and Contextual Analysis should be taught in Architecture School with the intent of making Sensitive Architectural graduates. Talking about empathy, people have gone unkind towards their peers. Architecture, which is used to convey feelings, empathy, kindness, and compassion long down the road, have only gone stale, harsh, and insensitive. The first intent of architecture should be awestruck, however much small; it should move you. Moreover, it does only when it is carefully fermented.

With sensitivity and empathy, one can and will always try adding culture and context on the table. Because culture moves, you and context make you feel something. When you grow empathy towards habitué, French for the client, you would instead run a background check, quantify desires and make subtle dialogues in every respect. When something has a tinge of compassion and incredible passion, it will undoubtedly be a revolution. 

The desire to make someone feel what they can adequately result in a sort of individual movement. This paradigm will result in the rapid spread of thoughts, which eventually will be contagious—constant reminders to young architects from as early as their initial days will have a thought process directional. 

During the course, add a contextual element. One has to run a background study of the climate, the direction of the wind, and the sun’s movement. This analysis will help orient the building such a way to use the empathetic feature of self-shading and wind arrest. Using mechanical supports will be an active measure of comfort. However, orientation will use the passive step for human comfort, and it is for long and free. The generous decision of giving fewer fenestrations on the sun-hit wall and more towards the opposite. This will minimize the heating load of the building interiors.

During the course, add the cultural element. Learn about the vernacular architecture of the surroundings. What did the ancient architecture of the place look like? What were the techniques and practices which were carried through time and until today? Learn about the habits of the people around you. Learn about their life, their beliefs, and their ideologies on how they go about their days. Do they follow a particular trajectory, which fluctuates their moods? What do they enjoy? What makes them sad. Their routine will be derived from the culture they come from. For example, what do different people do when they wake up? Some use their cellphones, some fresh up as soon, some drink warm water, some drink tea. Others have a bath and meditate or pray. Different cultures, different activities, and different preferences of their upfront. All these have to be dealt with. Culture also influences space designing. Do festivals at their house come with large gatherings? If yes, a sensitive multi-spacial design has to be thought of. 

Culture has influenced architecture since time immemorial. Everything was designed, keeping in mind their beliefs, their ideologies. A part of the fort was for the queen and her women, and it was indirectly connected to the courtroom with jharokhas. Contextually, the past architecture was well thought of in the times of no air conditioners and mechanical fans. People used to live amidst harsh climate and extreme weather conditions. Their ordinary practices are what made them survive the lengths of time. And this is all that we forget to mix during the fermentation of our process.


Sana, an architecture undergrad at Jamia Millia, is a staunch believer that the world owes it's beauty to architects. The ever-expanding concrete jungle is aesthetics, from the thoughts of an architect behind it. Foodie by nature Sana loves traveling, music; and an empty canvas is all that makes up an ideal day for her. She can binge-watch documentaries in sweatpants nights down. She aspires to live a life less ordinary.