A world without architecture seems almost unimaginable. Instead of being viewed purely as a discipline, architecture may even be considered a derivative of nature itself. Since the beginning of time, habitat has played a key role in ensuring the survival of various species, with caves used by early man being the closest example. There can be many others such as the innate understanding of birds for building various types of nests, the intelligence of ants and termites to build their hills, among others. In its basic form, the built environment serves the purpose of ‘providing shelter’, but a slight peek at the complexities of the field, will make one understand the influence architecture has on mankind and society. It influences the human quality of life, behavior, and well-being; it fulfills the human aspiration to ‘be civilized and comfortable.’
With climate change increasingly being identified as a critical factor for the growing trend of disasters in the world, it is imperative to safeguard human life by making habitats resilient. Without the discipline of architecture and its experts, this aspiration will not be realized, making the species more vulnerable. In addition to physical survival, the field of architecture also plays a major role in ensuring human health and physical wellbeing, with the covid pandemic being one of the most topical examples.
The pandemic marked a striking shift in the way we functioned as a society. A significant example of this shift was the need to work from home with most occupants of different age groups using the space simultaneously for their different and purpose-specific uses. Another example is how production units were forced to alter process chains to maintain a maximum threshold of users at a time. Such examples illustrate that not only did the Pandemic alter our habits and interactions, but also left us with valuable lessons concerning the design of public as well as private spaces. It forced us to contemplate the connection between the fields of habitat design and human biology, encouraging us to think in terms of interdisciplinary approaches, instead of looking at various disciplines as stand-alone and isolated.
However, the role of architecture in the survival of human beings may bring up the question, ‘we are capable of building basic structures, why do we need a specific discipline for it’. The answer lies in the concept of ‘mundanity of architecture’ postulated by Charles Correa. Construction without adequate analysis of spatial requirements, understanding of site context, and consideration of psychological impacts of design on the users can affect the mental well-being of the users and how effectively they use the building. Architecture, instead of being interpreted as a box-like enclosure of spaces, is more about the experience of the space. In addition to being simply functional, the space should serve a greater, psychological role to promote overall well-being and realization of user pursuit. Interestingly, human biology has shown that special cells in the hippocampus of the human brain have a unique ability to perceive the geometry and spatial characteristics of spaces we inhabit, largely influencing the habits and moods of the inhabitant. The field of architectural psychology aims to explore precisely this and further provides recommendations for the improvement of the built environment. Spaces also play a key role in enhancing our personalities and promoting a sense of well-being. Well-designed spaces contribute to promoting a sense of inclusivity among various social classes and allow the reduction of social disparities by making critical services such as education and healthcare accessible to all users.
Moreover, architecture has the ability to mirror the culture and traditions of a society and influences our day-to-day activities and habits. To illustrate this further, consider the example of traditional housing typologies such as the stilted houses in waterlogged areas in northeastern parts of India, Dhanis of Rajasthan and bhungas of Gujarat. They are climatically responsive and are in harmony with the site context. They use local materials and build upon the local crafts through construction. This, in addition to being aesthetically appealing, provides for cost optimization through a minimal need for artificial means of thermal comfort, lighting and ventilation and ensures maximum user comfort.
However modern construction that is mostly dependent on industrial materials such as cement and steel, are notorious for carbon emissions. Moreover, most modern buildings require support for ensuring user comfort such as air-conditioning, artificial lighting, forced ventilation, etc. These lead to huge requirements for operational energy, causing climate impacts that are now threatening the future of the planet itself.
Architecture may have been articulated as a disciple by modern man; it is as old as creation itself in the pursuit of living beings to shelter themselves in self-preservation. With new challenges staring at the world in the form of climate crisis and disaster events, the intelligence of modern man Is now required, once again for self-preservation, this time by reducing the impact on natural resources and the planet at large.
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|Website title:||University of Michigan News|
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