“Mom made me go there, but architecture made me visit it.”
A lot of times, you pass by buildings and spaces just without noticing them until you are an architect. From the slightest details to the hidden implications, all public spaces, buildings, forms, materials, and the whole of architecture have a story to tell, which may be unique to each one of us.
Many social, political, and environmental factors have affected the architecture of different regions and different times. Equally true is the similar relation of the effect of architecture to its context.
With the belief that architecture is not stagnant and constantly evolves for the people, environment, and society, here are a few insights into what architecture and design do or what they mean.
Evolution: A symbol of time
As long as humans have existed, they have found a way to shelter themselves.
From natural caves to tensile tents, man has continuously found protection and formed territories. The early man grew from the sheer need of protection to trading in community settlements. The earliest civilizations have been one of the best users of natural resources.
But with the changing times, the purpose changed too. From building for society’s common highest aspirations, the changing political scenarios defined what was built and where.
From Kings to Star architects, the style of architecture made more sense than ever.
Today, architecture has hopped again into serving the very basic tangible and intangible needs of the people. With the more democratic, educated, and understanding world, many design decisions have started to include more and more people without any fear.
The 20th-century advancement brought a booming industrial revolution, automobiles, technology at the cost of a new set of problems. Architecture, however, had never been limited by any boundaries and offered tremendous solutions. The growing population’s urban sprawl gave birth to the high rises and skyscrapers, which soon got replicated as an urban solution. These days cargotecture, i.e., the use of shipping containers as living spaces, has become a trend.
Many European countries have seen the tiny house movement where people value the minimalist lifestyle they need. The idea of portability of homes and off-grid energy systems have benefited the environment too.
Any kind of solution may face obsolescence or irrelevance later (the current pandemic is a relatable reality); it is the retrofitting and rethinking that helps in the survival of the fittest.
A gift to the Community
What once just seemed a green land now seems a place for recreation. Rightly said by Jane Jacobs,’ no one likes empty streets’.The shared community spaces like public parks, streets, bridges, markets are what build a community.
Great community spaces shall always be full of activities and accommodate variety, where men and women go for work, the elderly sit and read newspapers, and where children come to play. It is the flexibility and open-ended planning of the community areas that let one use the space the way they want.
Areas where people come together to meet, share, interact are blessings for the city. They determine the liveliness and activeness of the space and speak about the community.
Spaces where people can walk, but also sit; where people can get attracted to food; where increased female and children ratio enables a safer environment; where people can express themselves and where people can come together maybe just to drink free water are the spaces that bind the community.
Several architectural and planning decisions like the built-open urban fabric, width of streets, formation of dark corners, etc., determine how usable these places shall be and how safe the people shall feel.
A lot of rules and standards made our pre-existing cities illegal. All high steep forts, stepped bridges without ramps got illegal with these global standards. A lot of combinations might be unimaginable but may turn out to be the best of examples for the community.
Copenhagen Hill, the world’s cleanest industrial project, an industrial building, offers a dog-legged accessible ski ramp for the city. So while most industries find their way away from the main areas, this building calls people to itself. The smoke rings produced are a symbol of emissions the processes produce and aware the users around.
Art of Simplicity
Light, Materials, color, scale, and form are some of the oldest yet most powerful weapons of architecture which can create numerous experiences for the user. These majorly decide the reaction of the human to the spaces and forms formed by it. Is the architecture fast, or is it something that makes you pause and reflect?
The Jewish Museum in Berlin uses these simplest concepts to create a museum that makes one experience the Jewish hardships. The labyrinth uses mathematical intelligence to create experiences in the sloped, open outside.
History of Elements
The seemingly most functional elements sometimes have the most profound meanings. Windows, for example, have changed cill levels for varying reasons. The function was not always just single and the same. For the Jaipur’s Hawa Mahal, the traditional windows, jharokhas were screens for the royal women to see day to day activities and festival celebrations. While once high cills ensured security and safety, most modern-day housings have full length sliding windows to provide rooms with extravagant views.
Another great example is a kitchen which was once closed. In the inner portions, a place exclusive to women is now considered in open layouts with views to entertainment areas like the television. Every single element of architecture has a hidden story behind it.
The best way to ignore your enemy is to be friends with them. Resilience, adaptability all point to architecture’s adaptation of the age-old theory of Charles Darwin, the survival of the fittest.
Rains? Let’s collect the water.
Melting Icebergs? Let’s channelize them.
A flood? Let’s use the water.
This is one of the most beautiful and sustainable forms of architecture, where architecture embraces the behavior of nature instead of fighting it.
“Architecture has its own realm. It has a special physical relationship with life. I do not think of it primarily as either a message or symbol, but as 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.” -Peter Zumthor