In a press conference in 2016, the Chilean Pritzker Prize laureate said that he believed architecture’s potential to alleviate some of the world’s problems comes from a balance between practicality and intelligence. He also suggested that architecture should be viewed as a set of tools to understand society, rather than simply a profession.1As climate change is swiftly becoming a threatening spectre looming over the Earth, it is high time people across the world are led to a more sustainable way of life. Trained in the principles of design thinking and space manipulation, architects can find innovative solutions to the major global issues faced by governments all over the world today.
“Architecture is about finding imaginative, creative solutions to improving people’s quality of life. Our job is to gather knowledge from an often friction-filled set of constraints and restrictions and extract lessons from that”
Can architects solve complex global problems?
Problem 1: Large scale housing
Better job opportunities and a desire for a better life have resulted in a mass exodus from rural to urban areas, especially in India. Lack of space and worsening economic conditions lead to people living in unhygienic conditions for a prolonged period of time. Every major Indian city today has one or more slum areas developing a steady pace, causing issues in the overall city management. Architects can be tasked with providing low-cost durable housing options to the people of the lowest income groups so that the slum areas can be redeveloped keeping the genuine interests of the existing occupants in mind, and not based on the decrees issued by the authorities of the city.
Problem 2: Redevelopment of urban infrastructure
With the pressure of the ever-increasing population along with the expansion of urban area limits into satellite towns, infrastructure needs to be redeveloped in order to cater to the demands of the inhabitants. Efficient and safe public transport, hygienic and safe waste disposal tactics, better civic amenities, and a focus providing multi-functional space for the common public are some of the more important points that architects can help incorporate in the future redevelopment plans of our cities.
Problem 3: Reduce the large-scale production of Greenhouse Gases (GHGs)
India is a tropical country, and one with a rich culture of various methods of passive ventilation measures. As much as glass and steel might look grand and imposing, we have to face the fact that such buildings are a huge liability to its users as well as the environment. Artificial ventilation is one of the leading factors contributing to global warming. Architects need to take up the mantle to explain to their gentile clients the benefits of building using indigenous materials and incorporating the use of vernacular design principles so that their buildings can be more positively impactful on the health of its users and that of the earth.
Problem 4: Design for inclusivity
People are now living longer, and the boundaries between ethnicities, economical groups and gender identities, and disabilities are now blurring as the internet is slowly making the world a global neighbourhood. Architects can use their design skills to create an environment that is not only sensitive and inclusive but also creates awareness among the users as to the needs of each other. This can be instrumental in bringing about open-mindedness and general acceptance of humanity and its multi-hued personas. The architectural design needs to be mindful of these factors and devise thoughtful inclusive measures for the comfort and wellbeing of people across the various strata.
Problem 5: Creating and preserving the heritage
A beautiful comparison of Mumbai’s architectural development from the Rajabai Tower to the BSE building
Due to the large-scale urbanisation post the industrial revolution, there was a mad race to use glass, concrete, iron and steel to build the biggest and tallest buildings in the world. To match up, architects across the world began using the same tactics and a result of which the cultural fabric of cities across the world was torn apart. Pick any two urban centres from across the world, chances are they will look exactly alike in terms of style and material of the building. Architects need to use their knowledge of the past and their zeal for a better future to bring back the lost character of culturally rich cities particularly in India, before the urge to westernize robs them completely of their unique identity.
While it might be fairly obvious that architects are not a completely independent entity but they do hold a certain responsibility towards their users. Every student of architecture steps into the field brimming of dreams to make a difference to the world. But clashes with colleagues, peers, political powers and the helplessness can sometimes overwhelm the strongest of us. I dedicate this piece to each one of these students, hoping that this can inspire them to rise above the disillusionment and to try and find ways use their knowledge for the betterment of the society, in whatever big or small way they can.
- Source: UNSW Newsroom