When one tends to find direction or specifies a location for delivery, what is that question always asked – which is the nearest landmark? One answers using a public building like a hotel, a bank or a restaurant; a sculpture; the park or a roundabout with the old banyan tree. Architecture is not only about creating a physical or built environment, but it also is intertwined in one’s daily lives by representing the social culture. It is stationary but still organic and stands there transforming itself as the years pass by. Revisiting any place after a decade, one feels nostalgic or is astounded to see the change. Once what was new is now old to many.

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Aerial View of Flora Fountain at Mumbai, India during present days. _©https://www.architecturaldigest.in/content/flora-fountain-fort-mumbai-restoration
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Old View of Flora Fountain at Mumbai, India. _©https://www.architecturaldigest.in/content/flora-fountain-fort-mumbai-restoration

The monuments built centuries ago express the culture of the time, how humans saw the world and who they were. For example, the Pyramids of Egypt narrate the ruling system and building materials used to determine the quality of the land. Like the Great Wall of China, built out of fear of being conquered, showcases the skill of masonry using numerous bricks with sticky rice mortar. All revolutions – industrial, political, technological turn to architecture instantaneously to create their most prominent monuments. The birth of modernism using mass-produced steel, concrete, glass, aluminium exemplified in cities. Like the multi-span cable bridge built in 2004, Millau Viaduct over the valley of Tam, in Southern France, 343 mts high, is indeed a marvellous engineering wonder.

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Millau Viaduct (2004), Southern France_©https://www.azobuild.com/article.aspx?ArticleID=8133
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The Great Pyramids, dwarfing the sprawl of modern Cairo (far right)_©https://www.nationalgeographic.com/history/history-magazine/article/egypt-great-pyramids-giza-plateau .

Examples set by buildings like Empire estate, Petronas Towers, Burj Khalifa, have altered the canvas and skylines of many cities. Unlike other creative or artistic professions, architecture must always reflect the age and cultural context that produced it. Some people feel empowered way up in the sky or feel connected at the ground. The industrial revolution and advancement of technology are sprouting architecture on socio-economic conditions of density, business growth, government-driven policies and now some unprecedented situations.

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Many industries generated employment which created a paradigm shift from age-old rural areas to the new emerging towns and cities. It is a known fact that people flow where money flows. Every human thrives for a better living, strives to settle around with the resources available to them and builds a communal living through places to sleep, gather to eat, surround to talk, trade to shop. Beyond just shelter, architecture emerged as a stage showcasing the context of human lives. As William Shakespeare says in his play, As You Like it – “all the world’s a stage, all men and women are merely players”. 

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Bustling life of New York City _©https://www.alessiotrerotoli.com/urban-melodies

As per the article dated 2018 by the Department of Economic and Social Affairs at UN, today, 55% of the world’s population live in urban areas and this number is expected to increase to 68% by 2050. Higher density living does and will have consequences. The balance of demand and supply are market-driven by developers or builders; storeys put up moving lateral or vertical, many low rises are restructuring themselves into skyscrapers. The buildings have to sell themselves, reap publicity and entice users to achieve the real estate goals. The competitive edge to be distinguished from one another is nerve-racking. As new construction keeps progressing, the economy also needs to grow or be self-sufficient to afford the higher land and construction costs. It results in recurring the cost from the consumer that further daunts the users with an increase in overheads. Consumerism and competition are inevitable.

“Life is divided into three terms-that which was, which is, and which will be. Let us learn from the past to profit by the present, and from the present to live better for the future.” – by William Wordsworth

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Nowadays, everyone is aware of the brand or product available which are resourceful or other alternatives produced. However, the surrounding buildings are just another stacked layer of monotonous façade or are shimmering reflective glasses; or aluminium panels meant to suffice the desires. Skyscrapers in cities like New York, Shanghai, Mumbai and several others have reformed the architectural grammar and the skyline canvas. The banks or shopping arcade elevated themselves into towers instead of occupying just the ground. Closed doors of offices have transformed into open floor designs. Some companies are occupying the see-through buildings, while others are occupying the old ones. Several branches are opening to serve the community around with ease, to reduce cumbersome travel, breaking the norm of being restricted to commercial areas or SEZ. Cafes, restaurants, retail shops, rather than being main-street players, are spreading across the sub-streets as well. Communities are formed within and around at the behest of architecture, and architecture expands where the communities travel.   

Public places like parks or museums are places to visit over weekends with kids or as tourist destinations. While some visit to capture a perfect snapshot, others to understand the dynamics of the space, the light penetrating through, or some try to escape for a sigh of breath from the taxing bustle. Fredrick Law Olmsted, a pioneer landscape architect, wrote in the article- Public Parks and the Enlargement of Towns in 1870 about how the parks affect the betterment of health for the urban class, whereby trees in parks do help in shade and purification of air in the overbuilt cities.

The varied lens can capture the essence. Although an artist or an architect has a creative edge, with an eye for detail as the only tool to sense the oblivious aesthetics behind, they can zoom in & out and even go panoramic. Achieving an insta-worthy picture or admiring the wonderful beauty while walking through the spaces, is subjective but in the end, both result in developing emotion in the human mind. Many researchers are working on the relationship of architecture with the psychology of the human mind. Forms and patterns have long been a subject of human curiosity and have been adapted successfully for use. Architects understand that any design will work frugally if the built environment is in coherence with the idiosyncratic build-ups of cultural values, the human needs, the materials available, economics, geographic location and climate. Hence, the style unfolds with a series of adaptations in the relationship between the interior, exterior. These variables are slowly evolving architecture than other fast-paced professions. Still, it is futuristic by building or creating new ways to live, work and play.

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All agree that architecture & humans are in a bilateral relationship. The pandemic of 2020 has defined the spaces with a different meaning. Some did get noticed; some left bare, some buildings gained temporary essence; some lost them for a while. Many limited spaces converted themselves into an office or the school and few schools into nursing homes. Buildings that went unnoticed in a speed car or the scheduled hustle eventually did get a stare through the sidewalks or by the windows. It seemed like when human lives hit a pause, the world we never saw around did hit the play.

Currently, the world is gaining momentum to dust itself through covered effects from the pandemic situation – economically and emotionally. It reminisces what Ar. Renzo Piano said- “One of the great beauties of architecture is that each time, it is like life starting all over again.” 

References: 

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  • https://www.un.org/development/desa/en/news/population/2018-revision-of-world-urbanization-prospects.html 
  •  Wordsworth, W quote , visit https://internetpoem.com/william-wordsworth/quotes/life-is-divided-into-three-terms-that-14600  
  • Olmsted, F (1870) Public Parks and the Enlargement of Towns. Available at www.jwhite.faculty.unlv.edu/AAD 202/Public Parks and the Enlargement of Towns.pdf
  •  Piano, R quote, visit https://www.azquotes.com/author/11636-Renzo_Piano 
Author

With a practice background of over a decade & founder of NJ Archstud/o, her quest is to explore & believe in being a lifelong student as education in architecture never ends, rather always begins. She is constantly working to inculcate the extensive journey behind any design to reach people through words.

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