I believe there is a need for professional concern with the environment and an improved quality of human life for all Indians. We have to go beyond buildings and work with programs that transform society.
An architect’s role and responsibility go beyond buildings. We have to think about many issues when we design and build. We have to protect the built environment as well as the unbuilt environment, whether it is open spaces or the natural landscape. I believe that India already has a huge number of existing buildings that we have to recycle, we need to retrofit and we should restore. We cannot always build everything anew because of the embodied energy that exists in these buildings, even in the most ordinary ones. So, that’s why I say that we, as architects, are guardians for the built and the unbuilt environment.
Our ancient scriptures have always told us to tread the land lightly, and that is a belief which I have had from the very first building I designed over 40 years ago. This was long before ‘green’ became such an important word in an architect’s practice. The architectural vocabulary should determine sustainability. The relationship between architecture and the environment has historically been (and continues to be) a complex interaction of site, technology, climate, and other natural forces, building materials and the human presence. For instance, we built a school spread over 12 acres without any air conditioning, by designing courtyards, using double walls, and planting trees strategically. I feel that responding to the context is the most appropriate way. The word ‘appropriate’ is more apt for a practice like ours.
India is changing, the scale of projects is changing, with more ambitious and larger projects. Lifestyles are evolving, and people have higher aspirations. Educational campuses are being constructed, IT campuses, institutional buildings, recreational buildings, shopping complexes, hospitals, and many new cities as well. Availability of new materials and technologies, and more money in the country, have resulted in this growth. Knowledge with the internet has revolutionised every profession.
Ar. Brinda Somaya Somaya & Kalappa Consultants
- MGS Architecture April 2021