Everywhere today, be it a big city or a tiny village, there is a constant tussle between contrast and blend. The character of built and open spaces is sometimes a ‘modern interpretation’ of its culture and traditional style- completely detached from the existing historic fabric with superficial and sometimes almost unnecessary ‘vernacular’ details. At other times, to get ahead in the race for urbanisation the older parts of a town or city are abandoned for the more popular newer areas, bringing the development of the sensitive areas to a grinding halt. Is there another way to approach the development of towns and cities while incorporating the culture of the region?

Throughout the course of history, architecture has been considered as a distinctive feature of the development of a place. Built spaces have evolved differently and rather slowly, to respond to the myriad geological, social-economic and cultural phenomenon across the face of the earth. Architectural styles were unique; materials and practices indigenous to the region for the comfort and convenience of the local inhabitants. With global urbanisation, architectural development was suddenly accelerated, with taller blue-green concrete giants sprouting up as a mirror of the power and wealth possessed by the people.

Today, the International Style has become one of imitation and an attempt to touch the zenith with an enormous carbon footprint, and no distinguishing identity of its own. It is worrying to think that this architectural movement has almost singlehandedly managed to make cities across the world look exactly like each other. Not only that, in places like the UAE, large masses of land are being reclaimed to make space for newer, taller buildings without giving much thought as to how adversely that might affect not only the natural resources of the region but also its people and its economy.

HYPERLOCALIZATION
1 and 2: New York (l) and Dubai (r) are iconic cities, but there is not much variation in architectural character that can tell them apart. ©The Wallpaper Co.

Urban design and architecture have lost a part of its integrity through constant acceleration of time, events, connectivity. Cities have become a kind of temporary collages of structures and identities.

This rampant, uncontrolled growth has resulted in the emerging of a new style called contemporary hyper-localization of architecture; i.e. enhancing the local characteristics of a region to bring back its distinct nature. Hyper-localization involves the use of effective indigenous materials and practices in order to create a space that provides an authentic user experience. It is part of the critical regionalism movement gaining speed to counter the placelessness and identity crisis caused by the International style and embraces the individualities of local culture.

Hyper-localization is the up and coming trend because of a few important reasons. The most obvious is to address the lack of identity. In a global neighbourhood where everyone has access to everything at the tips of their fingers, it is important to stand out. Hyper-localization involves going back to your roots and reflecting on your cultural ideals for the rest of the world to see and understand. It is an attempt to create architecture that is not only tied to the site by an environmentally conscious design but also one that is a proud flag-bearer of a rich culture. The tall blue-grey concrete towers are the symbols of power and wealth today, but they are taking a huge toll on the environment.

The second and very crucial aspect of changing our architectural design approach is to combat climate change. It is too late to actually undo the changes we have caused because of our thoughtless actions, but with hyper-localization we can atleast prevent further damage and restore some balance in the atmosphere. The thing to note with this approach is that as with critical regionalism, there can be a mixture of modern as well as indigenous practices and it seeks to make its physical and sociological aspects more humane.

People across all ages today are buried in 6” screens all day; so much so that they remain oblivious to their surroundings. The biggest challenge for designers and architects today to catch the attention of these users long enough for them to notice and regain their sense of belonging to their environment.  Hyper-localization is also a movement that aims to inform people of their role in shaping up the character of a region, and how their response can help architects build a more interactive and accessible world. It is only with the help of the common man that we can regenerate a healthier ecosystem.

Hyper-localism allows for the creation of a statement or the cause for a movement about something the architect personally, or society as a whole feels deeply about. It seeks to bring the voice of the people forward and to show that it is the user and the environment that is most important when it comes to creating spaces. The hyperlocal nature of architecture seeks to tell a story to anyone who is willing to listen. It is a response measure aimed to give the land and its people the respect they deserve.

Architectural Journalist

Rethinking The Future

Ankita Sharma is an architect by training, and a writer by choice. Her love for books has given her a vivid imagination, and an eye for detail. A little impatient, a little lost, Ankita is trying to find her own voice amidst the world’s chaos.

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