Promoting common good through innovation

Technological advancement and growing innovation are currently at the centre of all spheres of human endeavour, including architecture and building design. Many urban and suburban cities emerge with bold architectural designs and fascinating outlook. Newly developed building materials, methods and construction designs have also become popular in many parts of the world, including India. However, the call has been on architects and building technologists to invest in research in a bid to engender building designs for public good.

The world is gradually moving towards resource preservation and management as the move to save the planet takes centre stage in global conversations. This is also imperative in the built environment , even as players jostle for technical genius, innovation and progress in the construction of new urban cities. This movement for public centricpractices in the domain of architectural and urban design is not a critical subject just in India, but also in many other countries across the world – developed and developing nations alike..

A published Guide to Public Interest Practices in Architecture by Design Corps, 2011, Latrobe Prize winner and trusted voice in design and architecture, showed that public-specific design practices do not merely address a community’s needs, but also help building assets and capacities of such a community. The major conclusion is this: spatial designshould encourage social benefits and progressive outcomes for society. This can manifest through space optimization, adoption of sustainable construction techniques and collaborative design practices.

Design research and India’s architectural trajectory

The global building construction market is witnessing staggering transformations. With more than 1.3 billion people and around 20 per cent of the world’s population, India is expectedly a big consumer of housing and infrastructure. Rising population poses a challenge for the country, but also creates new opportunities and avenues for architectural design practices and construction companies to transform into a more sustainable industry. The Indian architectural design ecosystem is due for a revolution and there are some players at the forefront of this movement.

In their 2018 journal paper titled “Architecture Identity and Indian Cities: History and Transformation”, Dr Navneet Kumar and Ahmad Niazi explained that each Indian city has its own uniquely remarkable and important identity, which is often displayed in their physical and their visual structure. However, the authors stressed, recent transformations are seeking to alter that identity by introducing more service-oriented and public-interest structures. The question about what public interest means and how to define the public often comes to bare.

Experts like Sunand Prasad – in his review of Tom Spector’s “Architecture and the Public Good” – says such a piece of architecture is one that accommodates public purpose and one that serves public good. At the core of architectural design research and innovation is the proper utilisation of unused public spaces for public good. This involves constructing buildings and structures that maximise spaces and create the best possible benefits for members of the public.

Towards a more sustainable model

According to the World Bank, India’s population is currently growing at an annual rate of 1 per cent. This means there are more than 13 million more people in India every year. This doesn’t only put a strain on the already high rural-urban migration figures, but also compounds the housing deficit in the country. Hence, this rising urban population an increasingly scarce land only calls for a more effective and efficient utilisation of the available spaces. This is the solution towards moving away from the current norm, which sees design as an after-the-fact cosmetic treatment of allotted spaces which are originally ill-planned for public use.

The responsibility lies in the hands of architects and urban planners who must work to reintegrate both lost and unused spaces into the main frame of public residual use and benefit as well as identifying holistic ways to devote such spaces to temporary or alternative uses. Urban spaces are understandably versatile and this can contribute to the efforts at shaping urban growth and create a variety of places for communities. With the right approach and implementation strategy, these spaces can appeal to diverse communities, including entrepreneurs, activists, artists, etc.

The use of clever designs can help with the effective utilisation of such residual spaces. Specifically, restructuring the metro viaducts can serve as a multifunctional solution towards improving the welfare of numerous communities through designs that are simple and replicable. At the heart of modern architectural design are science and technology. Designs must be based on such technology and must be compatible with other features of the environment, including squares, parks, shopping malls, and bridges, among other spaces.

The Augmented Metro Research Project is an approach by ENIA Architects that seeks the exploration of integrated infrastructure projects such as elevated metros in cityscapes as well as the possibility of enhancing metro viaducts in India as a result of their enhanced integration within local communities. ENIA Architects launched the Augmented Metro Research initiative in 2020. As a patron of the Palladio Foundation, a Parisian think-tank working on the future of cities, the ENIAlab is working to improve cities through enhanced infrastructure.

Earlier this year, the company had achieved a ground-breaking feat by helping in the transformation of a waste dumping ground into a depot that now forms an integral part of Pune Metro. The plot acted as a waste dumping ground for the last 30 years before it was given to Maharashtra Metro for development. The legacy waste was treated to recover 60 per cent soil after segregation which was used as a filling material for various works of the metro project. The mega project, built at a total cost of more than Rs 11,400 crore, has been planned as an elevated depot for stabling and maintenance of metro trains.

For the group ENIA, architectural research should cover a large range of scales, from office furniture to territorial geography, and are oriented towards energy optimisation, user comfort, usage and the fight against programmed obsolescence of the living environment. Above all architecture must have to be in line with laws and regulations, concerning issues like personal security, safety and environment, and the important conversations around renewable energy and conservation.



Views expressed above are the author’s own.


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