The judiciously planned public spaces and magnificent built structures and skyscrapers are successfully enticing more and more people. The concoction of numerous architectural revolutions has defined the current stage of architecture and design. What does the present state of forms and spaces suggest about their character?
Were these broad categories of spaces (public, community, residential, commercial spaces) perceived differently in the past? How did we reach this juncture? It is a story that needs to be told, a journey from necessity to luxury.
Architecture was introduced out of necessity. People were tired of living in stone caves and felt the urge to design the look and feel of their own houses. The accurate origin of architecture dates back to the Neolithic period, around 10000 BC (The History of Architecture in a Nutshell | Widewalls, 2021).
The sheer belief in after-life invigorated them to make their structures sustain the passage of time which justifies why a few of these structures are still standing strong. The primary purpose has always remained the same—to provide shelter and address the needs of the people.
Streets, the most accessible and widely used public spaces, interconnect different parts of this world. A motor vehicle lane with footpaths on both or either sides was the mere definition of a street. Most of them weren’t even permanent roads. And now, every street has its own set of sections wherein each section serves a different purpose. Streets have been re-strategized and redefined by authorities. Vehicles and pedestrians are being considered at par while making design decisions.
The Smart Cities Mission started by the Indian Government is the epitome of changed perceptions of streets and public spaces. They have three major focus areas—liveability, economic-ability, and sustainability. By placing people at the heart of their intervention, they’re defining a new version of cities (About Smart Cities | Smartcities, 2021).
In some cases, standard design protocols are formulated and blindly applied across all cities without realizing the fact that each city, each street has a different context that needs to be addressed differently. Standardizing a blanket solution will fail to establish an equilibrium between the problem and the solution.
Community spaces are gaining immense traction. Back in the olden days, community spaces weren’t exclusively designed. They organically emerged between households and in the centers of villages and towns. Village panchayats were conducted in these spaces. Even a tree with a widespread canopy served as a gathering space for women in the evenings. The positive impact of these community spaces on the social well-being of the surrounding inhabitants stressed the need to weave similar spaces into the urban fabric as well. Most urban spaces are planned and hence the community spaces too had to be planned.
The need to have these kinds of spaces cannot be emphasized enough. They are the social glue that holds the community together. Most of the community spaces in villages are associated with religious purposes. Shrines, temples or other religious practices might be the usual delineating elements. Paradoxically, the community spaces in urban landscapes serve the intended purpose but also have isolated spaces for privacy.
Pods, booths, small gazebos dot these spaces so that people can be in their personal bubble while being surrounded by their community. This offers them a sense of comfort. Millennials ironically find these spaces a better escape from the real world than their own homes.
Presently a lot of focus is being laid on the narrative of spaces. What was the history of this space? How did it come into being? What kind of a vibe does it emanate? What feeling does it evoke? What kind of thoughts and actions does it evoke? The sensorial experience has a major impact on the planning and designing phase. Designers and architects are generating ideas that build up the desired space’s character and unique identity. Multiple factors lend to this practice.
Narrative of the space, materials, colors, meeting the requirements of the target audience and addressing context-specific inquiries are a few of them. Sometimes the narrative is dramatic and playful and sometimes it is straightforward and simple. This narrative eventually sets the tone for the space, thereby adding to the physical environment created. The renewed focus on spatial matters has instigated a healthy dialogue between the creators of the space and the stakeholders involved.
These narratives do not only live and breathe within the walls of the space but also confer to other spheres of this world. Artists and digital designers tend to use these narratives as inspiration. In an article on “Architecture as Design Inspiration,” Andrew Zusman said, “Architects, like digital designers, consider both organization and flow. For an architect, this may mean the flow of people from an entryway to an exit and from room to room, while for a digital designer this may refer to the informational flow or a user’s flow from, for example, a home page through a purchase”. They both invest in the creation of an ideal user experience, just in different mediums (Zusman, 2021). It is enthralling how spaces, both big and small, inspire artists and creators in different areas of life.
Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest freestanding structure attracts tourists from across the globe. Its magnitude, elegance, and sustainable nature conceals the intention of building a structure of this scale and opulence (Dombrowski, 2021). Skyscrapers reduce housing costs and create more room for residential and commercial purposes. This also addresses the issue of mass migration to urban centers (2021). The central idea is to use it as a tool to capitalize. These tall towers, piercing through layers of clouds with their extravagant steel structure and glass facade captivates the millions of eyes waiting to feast on them. Hence, the base narrative remains the same. Manifold layers get added to this base to suit the specific context.
It is evident that architecture and design are gradually becoming a statement. The focus has shifted from ‘providing shelter’ to building a holistic space that caters to the needs and desires of the target audience. In accordance with the design principle ‘form follows function,’ current spaces and forms are evolving to serve a dual purpose- functionality, and aesthetics, and becoming an icon in themselves. This ideology reflects the societal perceptions of the psychological epidemic. This epidemic has delivered luxury to the urban and the poor.
With the realization of the impact that spaces and forms can have on their inhabitants, greater attention is put into the detailed designing of public and community spaces. Spaces and forms are being perceived differently because the intent of designing them is evolving. Times are changing and so are the demands of human nature, thereby complexifying the design process. But this prudent balance between art and science is curious about what the future has in store for them.
Dombrowski, J., 2021. 10 Fun Facts about the Burj Khalifa – Luxe Adventure Traveler. [online] Luxe Adventure Traveler. Available at: <https://luxeadventuretraveler.com/fun-facts-about-the-burj-khalifa/> [Accessed 7 May 2021].
Dozr.com. 2021. [online] Available at: <https://dozr.com/blog/skyscrapers> [Accessed 7 May 2021].
Smartcities.gov.in. 2021. About Smart Cities | Smartcities. [online] Available at: <https://smartcities.gov.in/about-scm> [Accessed 7 May 2021].
Widewalls.ch. 2021. The History of Architecture in a Nutshell | Widewalls. [online] Available at: <https://www.widewalls.ch/magazine/the-history-of-architecture> [Accessed 7 May 2021].
Zusman, A., 2021. Architecture As Design Inspiration – Usability Geek. [online] Usability Geek. Available at: <https://usabilitygeek.com/architecture-design-inspiration/> [Accessed 7 May 2021].