“I’ve said goodbye to the overworked notion that architecture has to save the world.”
― Peter Zumthor
While architecture cannot save the world, it certainly can play its part in the betterment of it. Architecture is an extremely broad term inclusive of all various kinds of edifices differing in scales, uses, and contexts, what remains constant is the presence of an environment for the built form and the user who will be experiencing the built form. As architects and designers of permanent structures, there is a desperate need to include sensitivity in our designs. The essay below addresses significant issues that must be incorporated in the initial stages of design processes for a future that is more inclusive and aware.
Gender Fluid | Sensitivity
As the world is moving away from the conventional mindset of a binary gender distinction, we are still far from achieving it, especially in developing countries. The inclusivity of a gender-fluid design is what the future of architecture needs irrespective of the scale, or use, or even context of the building. Chris Gaul, a designer, in his blog, comments on the need for a universal restroom symbol that is just a restroom symbol instead of being a gender representative symbol. This can be a great start to creating a more gender-sensitive environment.
Accessible design is the one that focuses on providing facilities and provisions for people with a variety of disabilities. The future of architecture cannot be exclusively for abled people. There are a lot of bye-laws even in the present that has regulations for a universally accessible design but it often becomes a neglected aspect while designing, and if not ignored, then poorly taken into account. There are so many examples around us where buildings only have a ramp at the entrance in the name of a seemingly accessible structure, and it is not surprising if the ramp is too steep to walk. That being said, there are also good examples of well-executed universal designs in the country. One very good example is that of Delhi Metro which is fully equipped with provisions for all kinds of people whether differently-abled or visually impaired, for that matter.
Context and Climate Conscious
At times, over and again, we have failed as architects to consider the context of a structure while designing it. Any built form cannot be designed in isolation. Stripping off an edifice of its immediate surroundings is equivalent to stripping a human being of his growth over the years, both lose their meaning. It is imperative to note that context is more than the primary surroundings, it is also inclusive of the secondary and tertiary surroundings which can be streets leading to the built form or any other important structure around in the neighborhood, the existence of which may have a direct or indirect impact on the built form in question. The ignorance of context while designing may lead to disparity issues that can be visual, or economic, often resulting in neighborhoods that are not safe.
The context also refers to the geographical location bringing in the climate, and topography into consideration. Tall buildings with glass facades are not what we need in most parts of the country but yet they continue to exist and feed on the limited energy resources we have. It is not just those not professionally linked to the profession who get intimidated by humongous houses of glasses, it is us architects too who end up getting driven away by our artistic instincts to design a building that is not climate-conscious.
Sustainability | Sensitivity
A widely known explanation of sustainability refers to being considerate of not just the present, but also the future in regards to the general wellbeing of the ecosystem at large. Sustainable architecture is the future of architecture because it is sensitive to the issues of the environment on which we are dependent for every breath. With ever-increasing concerns over global warming, greenhouse effect, endangered biodiversity, and other environmental concerns, it is only inevitable to proceed more towards the design of structures with a conscious effort of reducing adverse environmental impact, and not just while considering construction materials but also while designing the life and functions of the building, and its needs for existence and performance. We can no longer afford structures that exist in denial of environmental issues.
While one may argue that the above-mentioned points are already existing in present-day design, are they? Whether you live in a tier-one city or tier-two, if you look around and trying counting the number of buildings, let alone roads that are gender fluid, accessible, climate-conscious, aware of their context, and sustainable in their existence, it will not be surprising to note a single-digit number in the best-case scenario. The future of architecture, therefore, whether on Mars straight out of a sci-fi movie, or on earth in repetitive buildings, lies in addressing sensitivity with growing concerns over a range of global issues affecting the environment and the user, and is more than a mere part of aesthetics of the city skyline.
(Peter, 1998) Zumthor, P. (1998). Thinking Architecture. Netherlands: Birkhäuser.