‘Brand India’ for Architecture
In our 20 years of existence as a practice, we find ourselves still seeking to answer through our work, the larger question of-what really is the Contemporary Indian Architecture. What is Brand India when it comes to Architecture?
Is there a need to develop a global discourse, on Indian Architecture? And if yes, then what is it that Indian architects are especially good at? In my opinion, what we are (or were) good at for a very long time was creating architecture that was not only highly sustainable but also adaptive, affordable, livable, socially and culturally responsive and above all, built with very limited resources. In a world on the brink of environmental collapse, this is a highly valuable skill and this is where we must focus all our issues related to the profession and education. The real question is how can we take what we were really good at and create a model for the future based on the present; where finance, globalization and pre-conceived imageability take the center stage.
Traditional Indian architecture has always been green, as interventions are always built within a localized context – usually in response to not having access to abundant resources of water and energy. This attitude towards green building has inherently been different from the western model which is equipment centric, responding to a completely different climatic condition.
Post the oil boom in the 60’s; with availability of cheap energy, there was an evolution of equipment centric, hermetically sealed glass buildings, disconnected from the environment. Today this problem has been further compounded by green rating systems which by and large tend to have lower environmental standards, presumably as a means of trying to address a larger audience. Although they aim to provide better environments, the methodology adopted by these systems is generally equipment centric, restricted and highly prescriptive, leading to higher costs of construction. This can result in limited application owing to the prescribed narrow definition of human comfort level.
Today, developments across India are designed with a superimposed layer of sustainability or ‘green’. However, there should be a conscious attempt to step away from this system and incorporate passive approaches to design, right from conceptual and planning stages. Optimization of all services is a pre-requisite to responsible architecture. Unlike other nations, local resources, materials and methods of construction are still easily available to us. The most effective approach is to build with local materials in a manner that responds to the climatic needs of the region while remaining economically viable.
The idea of sustainability should now move on from buildings to the cities as a whole as well. An assortment of problems of urban migration, traffic, pollution, water, electricity, sewage, public health, safety, governance and global warming are prevalent in most of our cities.
There is a hidden opportunity that lies within our organically evolved cities – one of establishing a green and sustainable network as an alternative source of engagement with the city, for the common man. The aim should be to reclaim the derelict, the forgotten, the recyclable and the toxic by involving all stake holders; thereby collapsing the boundaries of decades of non-systemic thinking which have generated unsustainable urban growth.
Looking at the Delhi Nullahs project, the aim of this initiative was to tap into the latent infrastructural network that city provided. In this case it was the 350km long continuous network of nullahs, built over 700 years ago by the Tughlaqs. The current state of this network system is dilapidated. However, with a relatively small investment these nullahs could be turned into valuable assets. With detailed proposal on how to revive this network, Morphogenesis hopes to bring to life an alternate transportation network, an environmental corridor and a cultural web that attempts to hold the whole national capital together.
This project seeks to establish a ‘green and sustainable’ network as an alternative and democratic source of engagement within the city of Delhi. In some sense, this exercise has the potential to turn the whole city inside out: it deprioritizing the automobile and restoring the nullahs as a major interface of the city.
Morphogenesis works towards implementing the idea of moving away from statistical methods of creating cities to one that relies on multi-dimensional interconnected networks around which Urbanism can organically evolve. One such example is Uttorayon, this master-planning model addresses issues unique to Indian economics, sociology, history, diversity within the larger philosophy of environmental protection & rejuvenation.
The project aims to be an exemplar for sustainable development of upcoming towns and cities with an embedded agenda for enhancing the socio-cultural engagement of the inhabitants. The cluster organization is designed for multiple configurations that can respond to changing social demands and this as a system, has successfully fostered a close immediate community. Resources available have been equitably distributed throughout the township to provide for uniform scales of development.