Narratives are an inseparable aspect of human existence. Stories have existed since ancient times and they’ll continue to exist long after we’re gone. A narrative is copiously potent in its characteristic to spread thoughts, ideas and helps communities in sharing views on complex unanswered questions that bug us every day. Also, the terrifying yet liberating characteristic of narratives is that they constantly change. The concept of architectural space and the notion of architecture as an entity in the course of our existence has been evolving. And my understanding of architecture and the public realm is not immune to this change. 

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The Course of Empire: Destruction by Thomas Cole. Oil on canvas, 1836_

So much of what we’ve known as history is surrounding major architectural entities and cities where civilizations have both blossomed and fallen. To see that everything that occurs, takes place in the setting of what architects, planners, and designers create; these notions are incredibly fascinating. 

All the world’s a stage, where we imagine, create and suspend environments where life happens. Architecture is an inseparable aspect of social and public life. Whether we contemplate on this or not, historically speaking, a huge chunk of architecture has had socio-political implications and continues to do so. 

Architecture and design is a field so vast, it’s difficult to comprehend the versatility required to carry out the task of creating a physical manifestation entirely out of your thoughts, keeping in mind the socio-cultural-economic factors, with a flair for form and spatial design. 

Numerous buildings by architects and planners across the decades have prompted shifts in the paradigm of architecture. From before the Renaissance to the Modernist and Postmodernist era now, there have been innumerable transformations in architecture and the public realm. 

The public spaces we see, the community centers we use, the houses we inhabit, they’re essentially made of tactile materials. But are the spaces we occupy merely a combination of structural elements and voids? The idea behind any architectural entity ultimately is the experience it elicits on the user inhabiting it or moving through it. 

Experience is something that’s both spatial and temporal; that is, the space we occupy is experienced in terms of the time we spend there. Spatiality and temporality are two indivisible aspects of understanding and designing spaces. 

How does a building or a space change with time? What are the implications of a space that existed beyond its time on our psyche now? How does a street change with the movement of the Sun, from the quiet sun rises to the bustling sunsets? How does this make one feel as a user, walking across the street? What does the road we walk across, adorned with trees and its cobbled pavement invoke in us? How do the public spaces which we can trace like the back of our hands inherently influence us?

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Streetscape_@larasophie996, Public Realm

Each of us experiences the space around us through intrinsic lenses, but some observations are visceral enough that we experience it as a collective conscience. Architecture innately helps us build our imagination. It may even be an unintentional unmistakable muse that prompts us to stretch our boundaries and explore something beyond us; so much so that people can imagine eventual realities and alternate dimensions where the imaginer themselves don’t exist anymore. 

The constant evolution of the human species has a multitude of impacts on not only the climate-changing, planet-destroying present conditions of the natural environment but on the built environment where most of us live as well. 

Various studies are showing how some spaces and designs make people both physically and psychologically sick and discoveries are being made using potent technology to improve the state of well-being through the fields of architecture and design.

Public spaces have a long way to go in terms of creating inclusive spaces. The Accessible India Campaign was launched in 2015 to prompt the provision of barrier-free safe and inclusive public spaces for people with disabilities. Yet currently only about 3% of the public spaces in India are architecturally inclusive. 

Considerations in designing public spaces are downright detached from the safety and security of minorities who use said spaces. It’s high time this state of affairs needs addressing by architects and designers, and especially by the local bodies that dictate the practical terms. World views on what architects should have to design and not, and what architects can do in terms of engaging politically are more relevant than ever and are being prevalently voiced. 

How the design of public spaces influences the day-to-day lives of everybody while managing to not disrupt public life is something architects and designers must be aware of in terms of thinking and designing spaces.

Inclusive Toilet Spaces_

The belief ultimately is that as architects and designers, creating something habitable in both comfort and adoration, without overlooking the needs of minorities and the marginalized population, while understanding the longstanding consequences of building the public realm is vastly terrifying and at the same time, an exhilarating affair.

References | Public Realm