Good Architecture

Sunil Nagari
We live in a box, actually matchbox, physically as well as mentally, although the outside world is open to nature but we are scared of moving out.. We are not ready to face the consequences of thinking out of our own box. The architectural style is perceived as style but its core is inspired by spirituality and humanity. We see its values worldwide not only for preservation or presentation but also for inspiration and innovation to achieve the best solutions built environment, strategically as well as holistically. Town Planners for becoming modern country masters, should be convinced that shifting the focus from building to the void will be a big step to have a better sense for creating liveable cities. When you shift the focus from building to the void – to open – to space – to emptiness – to spirituality – to humanity; you are automatically shifted to the common people.
The traditional concepts are forgotten in the modern building bye laws. The consequence is old neighbourhoods are discarded and legally replaced by gigantic building blocks throughout the country under the garb of these modernistic building bye laws. That’s what happened in almost all the big cities in India. This is sad story with a sad landscape. Of course, economy is the driving force behind all the construction industry. But architects and town planners act as complicit in professional immorality driven by economy. The fancy looks created by star architects are used as style handbook for new constructions and its radiating impact on education is even more frightening. So, what is good architecture – for sure, it is not about the looks, it is about its relation. It is about the relation created by the building with the setting and its contribution to the society and balance of ecosystem. It is about a person; it is not about how pretty that person looks but it is about how that person behaves with others and what is his contribution to the overall society and the world. Architecturally we need to unlearn the trends and reinvent ourselves.
As far as building bye laws are concerned, view to the open sky should be protected for public, which means the public streets and lanes should be protected as three dimensioned spaces to the open sky. Unfortunately, it is building volume which is being protected by our building bye laws framed by town planners, whereas it is a negative part of the space. The protection of the invisible is paramount. Public urban spaces need to be given importance and should be protected. The ancient concept of protection of vital locations should be continued. When public urban space is protected you can never demolish an old structure and replace it with high rise buildings. You can build high but the urban fabric should stay and human perception as well as scale and identity of city should remain. Certainly, the traditional concepts are forgotten. It is like silence vs noise. The recipe is that silence should be given importance over noise. The silent common spaces which cannot speak, should be protected then and only then the human perception of the city will grow.
The Indian architects of the past coordinated the coexistence with landscape, nature, biodiversity, ecosystem and the humans; spatially, functionally as well as spiritually to achieve the harmony between humans and nature at all levels. This is a science of harmony with the whole universe. This means harmony with air, water and earth. This is also being in harmony with void and emptiness which is actually not empty but infinite. It is invisible energy having dynamic flow. Ultimately void, emptiness and silence are the forces which shape a space. Building is understood as a link between interiors and the landscape in order to promote positive flow of energy between inside and outside.
No doubt, good architects give good solutions but there could be better solutions as well. The world does not need star architects but architects who have love for humans. The star architects are successful because they are captivating in their presentations and successful in expressing their creativity. Good architecture is selfless and not self-serving. It is all about making design in harmony with human nature and respecting the tradition and integrity with each context. Architects intend to put their names in history as each era tries to express itself through building volume and façade.
When you look at traditional Indian architecture of the past it has got changed over the centuries. Architects are insignificant in Indian architectural philosophy and has been placed at the secondary level. The names of architects are just not important. We can name many European architects of the past but we hardly know anything about the Indian architects. The truth is there have been great India architects in the past and history not interested in investigating and telling us anything about them.
(The author is an Architect)