Culture and traditions are the primary binding elements that ensure the survival of a community for future generations. Since ancient times, communities around the world have been looking upon their indigenous traditions for a sense of social unity and identity. For them, the sense of pride and the feeling of belongingness are the same, which is often reflected in the intangible components of their culture. Physically, this can also be seen in their art and architecture.
Architectural Identity refers to the cultural and social association that people have with their built environment. Built heritage is, therefore, an important part of a community, where people would at times go great lengths to protect it. For an architect, it is of utmost importance to understand the cultural context of a community while designing any building for it. Often spending time with the local people in their indigenous surroundings, offers a beautiful insight into the social practices that they cherish. In fact, just observing the regular daily routine of the people, helps the architect to come up with elements in his design that adhere to the traditional believes of the people. Such a design approach will help the people associate with the newly designed built structure as their own and will soon curate a unique architectural identity for them.
UNDERSTANDING THE ROLE OF AN ARCHITECT
Taking the instance of the Vernacular architecture which is influenced by the construction materials techniques and traditions specific to its particular locality; we might be able to understand the association of the architect with the social aspects of Architecture.
The Bhonga hut of Gujrat is a cylindrical structure that is climatically adaptive to the dessert environment and the earthquake-prone conditions of the state. The walls of the hut are made out of adobe blocks with a conical roof that is made of bamboo and covered with mud or thatch.
To provide better protection from the heat outside, the walls and the roof of all huts are additionally covered by a layer of mud using wattle and daub techniques. These are then also covered with cow dung which provides an additional layer of insulation from the heat. Cow dung also has many antibacterial properties and its application helps in keeping away insects and diseases.
Despite its innumerable antibacterial benefits, this practice of applying cow dung is often associated with certain cultural rituals, where women carry the cow dung on their head to use it their built structures. In addition to this, the walls of the Bhonga huts are also adorned with intricate designs, native to this region in different ceremonies. Any Bhonga hut that does not adhere to these rituals is often alienated by the people.
In recent years, these Bhonga huts have also been given a modern form by various architects in the state. Built as local resorts, these contemporary structures adhere to the cultural values of the region and hence have gained much popularity amongst the tourists as well as the native people.
The planning of the interior also plays a very significant role in representing the culture of any civilization and so as an architect, this aspect should also be given equal attention. The tribal museum is a well-planned architectural marvel in Bhopal that was built by Architect Revathi Kamath. It consists of six beautifully themed galleries that portray the rituals and social customs of all seven indigenous tribes of Madhya Pradesh through a repository of traditional art. This art is in the form of ornamental interiors and artefacts that are made by the tribal people of the state themselves. These portray events such as weddings and festival rituals, local folklore, mythological instances, and cultural association of the people with the natural elements. The well-lit galleries, ornamental interiors, and the organizational structure of the entire museum complement the entire traditional atmosphere of the museum, leaving all the visitors spellbound.
Another befitting example of the use of traditions in Architecture is the Louvre Abu Dhabi. Built as a ‘Museum City on Water’ by architect Jean Noveaul, its design has been inspired by the traditional Arabic culture. About two-third of this museum city is covered by a large dome made up of a perforated woven material with geometric patterns that render picturesque views of sunlight dancing in the interior of the museum.
According to the sacred writings of Islam, the dome is the sacrarium over the stone where Prophet Muhammad made his leap into heaven. The perforated dome of the museum gives a modern interpretation to the concept of the dome in the traditional Arabic Architecture, where it symbolises an ‘Entrance to the Heaven’ (Zhmurko*2, 2015).
In addition to this, the geometric holes of the dome that let in sunlight portray the palm leaves that were used for roofing in the ancient houses of the Middle East. As this contemporary structure marks the shift from the traditional to the modern architectural ideologies, the role of the architect in this revolutionary innovation is clearly evident.
For any built structure to be accepted by the people in its immediate surroundings, it is crucial that the building adheres to their cultural values and social norms. Failing to do so might result in resistance and eventually lead to the abandonment of the built structure. In addition to this, with the current trend of modernisation as more and more people are shifting their traditional roots and adapting to modern lifestyles, the architect’s role is extremely crucial. Instead of imposing the modern western prototype of the built structure on them, he/she should preserve the traditional spirit of the people through their designs.
Zhmurko*2, W. H. (2015). Image-Bearing Role of Dome in Traditional and Modern Arabic. IISTE, 26-33.
Tribal museum Bhopal- http://www.mptourism.com/blog/Bhopal-tribal-museum.html
Bhonga huts- http://www.dsource.in/gallery/habitats-kutch-bhunga