Perspective Education

Sustainable design in architecture education

Stepwells were developed to cope with seasonal fluctuations in water availability.   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Since the beginning of civilisation, the need for shelter has been essential for survival. Beginning with cave dwellings, humans have used a variety of materials to design shelters for themselves. India has always been a pioneer in urban planning and design. With remarkably envisioned and engineered townships and cities, construction was carried out keeping factors such as climatology, topography, availability of local resources, among others, in mind. Historically, our country led the practice of green design. From the stepwells in Gujarat and Rajasthan to preserve water to the use of elements such as chhajjas and jaalis to help regulate daylight and wind, our ancestors designed structures as an extension of one’s living. Diverse material selection in different regions also helped define a unique design language.

Sustainability is key

However, few architects in post-independent India propagated values of vernacular construction. With India being a young economy, architects sought newer possibilities of design conceptualisation along with a familiarity of techniques and methodologies that worked well in the Indian landscape. Shortly after the industrial revolution, the creative acumen for design changed to mass production. The overall idea of a good design shifted from being thoughtful to blatantly copying western countries. In recent decades, however, leaders and governments across the world have realised the damaging effects of heedless architecture on the environment. Sustainability is the new buzzword.

While the world got busy with innovating techniques, material, elements, our country only had to go back to its roots. Despite the vast resources of history at our disposal, the idea of a sustainable design appears to be ambiguous in India. One of the ways to help resolve this is to empower people with knowledge and train young architects and students to understand the tools and techniques available.

Exploring ground-based projects in different terrains will encourage dialogues between communities and students. The faculty’s role is essential to push students and, through close interactions, work to make the definition of sustainability more transparent. It is also important to employ faculty with technical know-how in studios that can help students look beyond repetitive content.

Another way to do this is to balance the curriculum on-site visits as well as summer/winter projects where students can learn from doing. Involving professionals to interact with students and volunteer as visiting faculty and share their ongoing projects will help stimulate discussions and thought processes. Students should also be encouraged to interact with vendors from an early stage to be comfortable with as well as be aware of ongoing trends. This will also allow architects to be an intrinsic part of innovation at the ground level. Through continuous efforts, we can lead the way of change-making.

The writer is M. Arch. (Urban Design), Harvard University, the U.S. and Managing Principal, C.P .Kukreja Architects, New Delhi

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Printable version | Mar 5, 2021 6:47:40 PM |

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