‘Architecture has a special physical relationship with life. It is an envelope and background for life which goes on in and around it, a sensitive container for the rhythm of footsteps on the floor, for the concentration of work, for the silence of sleep.’ (Zumthor, 1998) People in their daily routine interact with the various facets of built form. They see public places, community spaces, housing, temples, skyscrapers, museums, etc. People relate to public places in different ways. Some consider it as a place that is accessible to the general public, while some consider it as a place where there is greenery and benches. The general public looking at the skyscraper thinks about the beautiful sight from the top and the number of floors it contains. When we talk about a building, they think about its shape. They try to relate every space with the experience it imparts to them.

Peter Zumthor says there is a hint of fullness and richness, not in any form but in the atmosphere of a place that people remember. They consider the built spaces as an art because it is an expression of human creative skill and imagination that leaves an impression on them while they experience a place. Science, engineering, and design create art. ‘There is a power in the ordinary things of everyday life, we only have to look at them long enough to see it.’ (Zumthor, 1998) General Public would only be able to notice its art, whereas the architects would perceive it as an amalgamation of art, science, engineering, and design.

Pavilion

A light, semi permanent structure placed in gardens, parks, or at the entrances of an office also requires the assistance of science, engineering, and design. An architectural pavilion of 5m, ‘Aguahoja’ in Cambridge, Massachusetts, designed by Neri Oxman in 2020, depicts the need to amalgamate art, science, engineering, and design.

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The Aguahoja Pavilion at the MIT Media Lab, 2018_©Yen Ju Tai

A biocompatible structure builds using biopolymers like cellulose, chitosan, and pectin. Pavilion, printed by a robot and shaped by water. The materials developed using organic matter dissociate with water and do not disturb the environment. Instead of using brick, mortar, steel, glass, and concrete that produces carbon fiber and plastics, the architect explored new materials with the idea of growth and decay. ‘In order to build big, we have to think small.’ (Abstract: The art of design, 2019) 

As few architects move forward with a perspective of climate change, few challenge the height limits of a building while also considering the environment. But there also, one can find a sense of exploration, invention, communication, and expression.  

Skyscraper

A 40-story tower with 180 m height called ‘30 St. Mary Axe Tower’ designed by Foster and partners in 2003 has an area of 64500 sq.m. It is the 1st environmental skyscraper in London. Its aerodynamic shape maximizes the amount of natural light and ventilation. Along with following the modern trends, the architect has also shown sensitivity toward the natural environment.

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30 St. Mary Axe Tower_©Ningel Young – Foster + Partners
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_Light wells in 30 St. Mary Axe Tower_©Ningel Young – Foster + Partners

Through light wells, the office remains naturally ventilated. The shape of the building and the light wells helps in getting the maximum amount of natural light in the offices. The smooth and curved façade directs air movement around the building. The office area façade comprises double-glazed glass on the outer side and single-glazed glass on the inner. It creates a ventilated cavity and acts as a buffer zone that reduces the need for additional air conditioning. Foster + Partners believes that different disciplines (art, science, engineering, and design) should come together to obtain the best output.

Architects’ perspective is now moving towards saving the environment. Thus, while designing public places and community spaces, they have started to look at it from a sustainability perspective. 

Meeting Place

The most important thing for a human to live on this planet apart from food, shelter, and water, is communication. Thus, designing this place becomes a vital task for an architect. Social interaction occurs when a space becomes a place for people to develop an emotional connection. Liang Jun (founder of Zhoushan Village Community Group) and the Zhoushan Village Community Group came together to create a place called ‘House of Dreams’ in Zhoushan, China (2002). The participatory construction technique allowed the retired villagers to build using recycled construction and waste household materials like plastics and bottles. As villagers were using the waste they have stored for generations for construction, they had stories to tell about each one of them. And these stories became patterns of the courtyard.

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House of Dreams_©humancitydesignaward.or.kr/en/winners/2021/house-of-dreams

A communal septic tank was constructed to feed a fruit orchard and to avoid water stream pollution. The trees were retained by making holes in the roof structure. 

The above-described projects clearly show the awareness architecture is trying to spread in the world regarding our environment. ‘If we do not survive as a human race, there will be no way, there is any performance in the future.’ (Climate Change: Am I Responsible!!, 2019)

‘According to the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP), over 300 million tons of plastic are produced globally each year, leaving harmful imprints on the environment.’ (Oxman, n.d.) Researchers predict that by 2050 if the earth’s land ice melt, our oceans will rise 216 feet. It means that Mumbai and Calcutta would be under water along with Bangladesh, which is home to 160 million people. Architects are the ones who build; thus, they play a vital role in climate change. Architecture makes us aware of the harm we do to our environment for our luxury. The architects like Sathyaprakash Varanashi, concerned about climate change, are questioning, ‘If we can reverse our change, can climate change reverse?’ 

As architects, it becomes our moral responsibility to think while we design. Architecture is not a piece of art but rather an amalgamation of art, science, engineering, and design. We can find a solution to climate change if all these fields come together. We have to build for survival, but the only question we have to answer is, ‘is there a way to build something without interfering and disturbing nature?’ 

References:

  1. Abstract: The art of design. 2019. [Film] s.l.: RadicalMedia; Tremolo Productions; Godfrey Dadich Partners.
  2. Anon., 2021. Architecture in Development. [Online]
    Available at: https://architectureindevelopment.org/project/1177
    [Accessed 7 July 2022].
  3. Climate Change: Am I Responsible!!. 2019. [Film] s.l.: TEDxGlobalAcademy.
  4. Foster + Partners is a global studio for sustainable architecture, urbanism, engineering and design.. 2022. [Film] s.l.: Foster and Partners.
  5. Oxman, N., n.d. Oxman. [Online]
    Available at: https://oxman.com/projects/aguahoja
  6. Pintos, P., 2019. archdaily. [Online]
    Available at: https://www.archdaily.com/928285/30-st-mary-axe-tower-foster-plus-partners
    [Accessed 7 July 2022].
  7. What Asia Would Look Like If All The Earth’s Ice Melted. 2015. [Film] s.l.: Science Insider.
  8. Zumthor, P., 1998. Thinking Architecture. Boston: Birkhauser.
Author

Nisha Dugar is a recently graduated architect from Nirma University (2022). She has an ambition of generating knowledge of architecture among the general public through her words. With an inclination toward urban and historical research, she is interested in architectural journalism and criticism.

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