Like a vision board, that is how human minds work. We are constantly framing ourselves into various circumstances, but do these frames abandon the spatial settings? Even in our imagination we always bear in mind the objective setting behind the subjective energy. This is where architecture comes into the picture when we are busy leading our lives. The stories of our lives are always molded by the spaces we arrive at, the places we engross at, and the faces we encounter along the way. Thus, the architecture around us is constantly influencing our way of living, way of embracing culture, and way of adapting to evolution.

How is this sub-conscious engagement with architecture rendering distinctive contexts? 

The Contradicting Characters of Hamlets and Cities

We are in a never-ending search of places that can fulfill our needs and our needs are commuting without a break. In this commute, people migrate from hamlet to village, from town to city, from megacity to metropolis, from conurbation to megalopolis and there is no pause. But can we slow down for a while? You and I right here, right now sheltered by the dusk swinging off the city rush enjoying a cup of chai (tea) and observing the farmers being called by their cattle, while earthy walls, mud, and stones await their return back home. And yet he breathes fresher air and greets every passerby with a heart full of love and care. From the threshold to the backyard every inch is nostalgic, and the context around is filled with abundance in life and sustenance with nature. This is what architecture does. It associates with an individual’s experience in a place, addressing the environmental, social, emotional, and cognitive factors all at once. 

While in a city like Mumbai, rushing for an auto-rickshaw and struggling to catch that 9:15 am local train. Masses all around but not a minute to pause and share a smile. The flashy rendezvous of skyscrapers seem to direct all the transits towards being stringent and urbane. This city has its own story of struggle and glory, and creators are the people who inhale its salty air filled with illusions of happiness while eating a pizza or shopping at Colaba. Joseph Campbell puts it very well, If you want to see what a society really believes in, look at what the biggest buildings on the horizon are dedicated to.”  

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An aerial view of the fast-moving crowd during morning peak hours at Churchgate railway station_©Suresh Karkera

Urbanites Early-life Crisis:

The city architecture clogged with highrise leaves us like a horse wearing blinkers. We navigate from point A to point B, get the work done, and depart without responsibly integrating ourselves with the space, time, and people around us. William Whyte, is a sociologist, collaborated with urban planners to mitigate these ‘absent in the moment’ issues. He termed the process as ‘triangulation’ where the designers were to install artifacts in public spaces in a manner that prompts the onlookers to interact. Such interventions trigger the city dwellers to think about what they are missing out on. The engagements generated in transit spaces or abandoned areas may attempt to re-generate a sense of community amongst these masses.  

The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic summoned all of us to change our way of life. It alarmed the planners and designers to think about the chaos in architecture failing to offer well-being to the users. The quarantine phase activated how visual interaction plays a role in building spaces to connect people. Social isolation hit us impactfully when we were enclosed and could only connect virtually. From senior citizens to working-class and kids, each had their challenges to face either emotionally, economically, or intellectually. Despite it all, living in a city is almost like having a love affair. One can switch from home to work to just strolling around but cannot get rid of any. 

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The Ghost of Covid. Each evening at 7 pm people appear on their balconies to clap, cheer and make noise for the Covid-19 first responders_©Alina Oswald

The Mystique of Our Senses in Spaces: 

Isolation made city dwellers realize how intrigued our senses are with the same space we called home but barely acknowledged. These little eye-openers lead us to the fact that the focus of architecture is not limited to the advancement in technology but is widely responsive when integrated with human psychology. Colin Ellard, a neuroscientist, author, and design consultant precisely explains the concept of neuro-architecture. He states that “Living among millions of strangers is a very unnatural state of affairs for a human being. One of the jobs of a city is to accommodate that problem.”  In cities where every individual is in a hustle to achieve materialistic happiness, one never makes an effort to understand which place makes you feel empathetic towards the built. Architecture has the potential to instigate senses and craft memories for city dwellers. It is not only the visual appeal that architecture contributes to, but sometimes also about the sounds heard, the textures felt, and the smell around comprise to make an individual’s experience ambient.

Such multisensory lived experiences mediate us towards feeling what we feel. Thus the city fabric requires to become perceptive to guide people to show affection and humane practices in society. Though architecture cannot be revised from scratch, designers could initiate this with public spaces – the observers of city evolution. These public spaces could be the go-to pockets for people to escape from isolation and engage themselves with the surrounding more happening and comfortable. The interactive public space offering multisensory experiences can make cities a better place to live by contributing to social and cultural sustenance.

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1936, Park Avenue. Midtown Manhattan._©Paul Sahner

The Alchemy of Tangible and Intangible:  

Some cities are traversed effortlessly like New York City, some have a strong influence of modernism like Columbus-Indiana, some cities develop because of their cultural and religious importance like Varanasi in India. The city narratives are governed by the socio-cultural evolution of the residents within. Thus, the tangible built environment is allowed to exist because of the intangible society’s progress. There is a chain of necessities parcelled with every change in the way of life. Thus, solving an architectural problem is always leading to evoking change in the livelihood of the residents.  

Bathing Scene at a Ghat (probably the Lalita Ghat) on the Ganges at Benares (Varanasi)._©Charles D’Oyly

This era of sustainability has a converse character. Architecture today is not about how it can influence us but how our needs can configure the places. The pandemic is the ultimate example of the spatial transformation which took place with time. The call is to get a piece of history back when one knew co-existing with nature and how their settlements could impact the surroundings. Consequently, when an individual identifies the control one has over space, the architecture of that time will be empathetic.


Online sources:

  • Michael Bond (2017). The hidden ways that architecture affects how you feel | [online]. Available at: [Accessed date: 18/02/2022].
  • Spence,C (2020). Senses of place:architectural design for the multisensory mind | [online]. Available at:[Accessed date: 18/02/2022].
  • Joseph Campbell. Architecture+Film | [online]. Available at: [Accessed date: 19/02/2022].

Images/visual mediums:

  • Karkare, S. (2013). An aerial view of the fast-moving crowd during morning peak hours at Churchgate railway station. [Photograph].
  • Oswald, A. The Ghost of Covid. Each evening at 7 pm people appear on their balconies to clap, cheer and make noise for the Covid-19 first responders. [Photograph]. 
  • Sahner, P. Before and After NYC. 1936, Park Avenue. Midtown Manhattan. [Photograph]. 
  • D’Oyly, C. (1840). Bathing Scene at a Ghat (probably the Lalita Ghat) on the Ganges at Benares (Varanasi). [Oil Painting]. (Accession Number- 70-1880, Geographical place: Victoria and Albert Museum, Published by Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya, Mumbai, in association with V&A, London, 2008).



Trishla Doshi is a philomath designer and an architect in Mumbai. She aspires to foster cultural resurgence among people through reaching out to them sometimes in the form of words and sometimes design. She is in the constant exploration of the space between herself and her illustrative narratives breathing history.