“Life is Architecture and Architecture is the Mirror of Life.” – I.M.Pei
Architecture is defined as the Science of Space Making. It is also the fabrication of shelter, the third primary right of mankind. Hence, the impact architecture has on mankind cannot be expressed, but can only be experienced.
The ecstasy of peeping below from the twentieth floor of a high-rise building, the rough texture of earthen walls, remains of ancient structures of ancestors leave an indelible mark for centuries to come.
Experience of Floating in the Air
In 1871, the American city of Chicago was ravaged by fire. The violent flames lasting for over two days killed three hundred people and destroyed over seventeen thousand masonry buildings. As a result, approximately one-third of Chicago’s population became homeless overnight!
Following this tragic event, in 1871 when William Lebaron Jenny was commissioned to design a fire-proof building for the Headquarters of Home Insurance Company in Chicago, the engineer proposed a building that would change the fate of the world. Contrary to the two-story masonry houses, Jenny proposed an eight-story lightweight steel structure where the load and walls only acted as an enveloping element. Thus, the world’s first skyscraper was born.
Today, overlooking the streets in metropolitan cities, skyscrapers mark the peak of human intervention. Amidst these consolidated vertical volumes, one is reunited with the sky. The subtle experience of floating in the air perceiving the vacuum around is indeed enthralling. Hence, skyscrapers enable us to appreciate the magnificence of the world while dictating skillful use of available resources. (Skyscrapers from Past to Future, n.d.)
Experience in Humble Abodes
One with the land.
Before the inception of skyscrapers, communal settlements built by the community using local materials served as popular modes of shelter. Bhunga Houses of Kutch in Gujarat is a noteworthy example of cooperative encampments. These earthquake-resistant, cylindrical volumes topped by conical roofs merge with the sands and the undulating terrain. These abodes quietly educate both their observers and inhabitants about the marvels of nature.
The Bamboo Conduits, Thatched Bristles of the Roof, and the Wattle and Daub Walls narrate a rustic feel. The cultural motifs imprinted on walls using natural pigments, convey timeless principles holding the community together.
The front porches colloquially known as Otlas, are a source of shade where a weary traveler experiences immeasurable delight. These modest and unpretentious settlements express humility, the wholesomeness, and simplicity of life. (D’source, n.d.)
Situated in the center of the city, the Incremental Housing in Belapur, Navi Mumbai is an organic arrangement of simple forms. Spreading across five hectares, the expanse consists of winding pathways leading from larger Open to Skyspaces to smaller ones, establishing an easily recognizable spatial hierarchy. The smallest cluster comprising seven houses intertwined around a courtyard, a congregation space residents experience a little humor and playfulness that adds a little color to mundane lives. (Architectuul, n.d.)
As the name suggests, the clusters behave as widening membranes—allowing the building to expand as the number of people in a household increases. Hence, this architectural marvel is a paradigm of flexibility in architecture as well as in life.
Experience in Cultural Conclaves
Ancient Indian Architecture evolves from Sites of Worship, Rock-Cut caves, and Fortified Regions with emphasis on ornate detailing. Stepwells are one such model of efficiency and ornate carving. Step wells are indigenous leveled voids used for storing water in desert regions such as Gujarat and Rajasthan. Chand Baori, Baori meaning stepwell is one such stepwell located in Abhaneri village, Rajasthan standing the test of time.
Constructed during 8th Cen. CE using stone, the Baori has four sides with a temple on the rear side. Descending downwards via intricately carved narrow steps extruding from the periphery of the Baori proves to be a captivating experience. As one advances towards the tranquil reservoir one experiences the presence of an immortal entity pays homage to it.
Furthermore, perforated windows are provincially known as Jaalis and elaborate sculptural details emanating from years of patience and perseverance fill us with a sense of awe and grandeur. The remaining present-day ensemble encompassing the colonnaded arcade and the adjacent pavilion is a result of extensions added by various rulers including the Mughals in 18th Cen. CE.
Thus, via this ensemble, architecture educates its pupils to accept and appreciate the value system of precedents. (Travel-Tour-Guide.com, n.d.)
Nature at its Best
Deriving its form from the contoured land, the M.A.C Community Centre in Tiruvannamalai is a contemporary contribution to the culture of the country. Before entering the carefully protected performance area, the spectators travel through a meandering inner court. This journey imbibes a sense of mystery and amusement in its passengers.
Fabricated from handmade, hollow concrete blocks, the punctured walls of the edifice impart shelter as well as a feeling of Openness. Within these semi-transparent barricades, the passerby witnessed rays of light scattering on the ground. The soothing breeze enters the complex from the perforations in the concrete blocks. Thus, this architectural masterpiece offers an opportunity to experience the wonders of nature. (ArchDaily, 2020)
At times, by the means of form and facades and at other times by material and construction, architecture invokes emotions of joy, wonder, and mystery. With the myriad range of buildings from the contemporary experiments in proportions to a continuation of simple settlements, architecture influences all. It continues to inspire individuals to stay connected to their roots and teach timeless lessons of immense importance.
ArchDaily. (2020, 12 31). M. A. C. Community Center / Made in Earth. M. A. C. Community Center / Made in Earth ArchDaily. Retrieved 02 27, 2021, from https://www.archdaily.com/870856/m-a-c-made-in-earth
Architectuul. (n.d.). Belapur Incremental Housing. Belapur Incremental Housing Architectuul. Retrieved 02 27, 2021, from http://architectuul.com/architecture/belapur-incremental-housing
D’source. (n.d.). Habitats of Kutch – Bhunga. D’source Gallery on Habitats of Kutch-Bhunga. Retrieved 02 27, 2021, from http://www.dsource.in/gallery/habitats-kutch-bhunga
Skyscrapers from Past to Future. (n.d.). WILLIAM LE BARON JENNEY AND THE HOME INSURANCE BUILDING. WILLIAM LE BARON JENNEY AND THE HOME INSURANCE BUILDING. Retrieved 02 28, 2021, from https://skyscrapersfrompastofuture.weebly.com/william-le-baron-jenney-and-the-home-insurance-building.html
Travel-Tour-Guide.com. (n.d.). Things to see in Abhaneri: Chand Baori stepwell. Chand Baori Stepwell in Abhaneri (with photos). Retrieved 02 27, 2021, from https://www.travel-tour-guide.com/india-rajasthan/10-chand-baori-step-well.htm