How Architecture Can Shape The Process Of Nation Building

Anatomy of Nation Building

Nation Building is a multifaceted concept. It involves an active participation of its citizens. A healthy and powerful nation is built on the foundation of smart planning. Nation Building, presently, is in dire need of looking forward to tapping the potential of its human resource, mitigating the economic and social disparity prevalent among its inhabitants and creating a habitable environment wherein it’s dwellers can live freely and achieve their best in life. Can architecture be one of the medium through which we achieve the above? Being an architecture student, sometimes I do get a feel of being a saviour with cape and a roll of drawings, with hypothetical desires. But then, it is moreover because of far reaching impact that architecture is potential of making by touching the various facets of a nation.

Look Back to Move Forward

If we go back in time and dig deeper into our ancient past, the vast ancient Indus Valley civilization was able to flourish and survive in an efficient way because of their strategic town planning and construction system. Their town planning proves that the life of its people was highly civilised and developed. They were the first to incorporate scientific drainage system. They planned the cities in grids with efficient network of roads and transport. Thus, they are one of those finest examples to look up to when it comes to relate between architecture and a nation’s progress. This further resonates well with Abraham Lincoln’s quote, “We shape our buildings and thereafter they shape us.”

Deciphering the Essentials

Frank Lloyd Wright quoted, 'The mother art is architecture. Without architecture of our own, we have no soul of our own civilization.” It might sound pompous coming from the mouth of an architect. Perhaps, our ancient civilizations prove Frank’s words to be factual enough. Architecture made domestication possible and helped the people to protect themselves from the frequent need to deal with the elements around. This seems to be the very basic need for humans to thrive. According to one of the most influential psychologist of the twentieth century, Abraham Maslow, if we are spending all of our energy to stay warm then we won’t be left with much time for higher levels of development. Thus, without architecture, which focuses on human comfort, we would not be able to spare time for the development of essential aspects of mankind which in turn, help in overall development of the nation.

Into the Details

After understanding the broader impact of architecture, it now narrows down to exploring the many ways in which architecture touches the myriad facets of a nation and helps in its progress.

Architecture affects the society on a more delicate and personal level. When it comes to built environment, everything from the layout of a space to the material finishes used, impacts the user’s productivity, mood and health. Studies have found that people who work in well-designed spaces tend to take less sick-leave, have better focus and thus contribute more towards the company’s success. Well-designed architecture and the impact it makes on the users is not something that can be easily quantified. But then, we all can sense the feeling of stepping into a space that feels just right. It is not just functional but it also resonates with the user on a different subconscious level. While designing spaces as per their functions is certainly essential, it is equally important to touch that emotional connection as well because they both relate to the sense of experiencing architecture.

The climate is changing and so must architecture! A nation is progressive when it is healthy. Else, it succumbs to the very miseries that climate change brings in. Climate responsive architecture is the need of the hour like never before. Architecture plays a major role in determining the state of not just the built environment but also in sustainable development of the nation as a whole. The construction industry largely depends on fossil fuels and hence there is mounting pressure to look forward to green practices in architecture. In response to this, there has been progress in terms of using alternative design techniques coupled with refreshed methods of thinking that are environment friendly. By using locally sourced materials, a building project ultimately results in leaving back less carbon footprint. Using building materials which result in lesser carbon emissions and incorporating renewable energy sources into the building construction so as to make it efficient throughout its life cycle can help in sustainable construction movement. By incorporating passive building techniques we can reduce our dependency on energy consumption. Also, by using local labor and local building techniques, architecture can thereby create job opportunities for the locals and help them to earn for their living.

The COVID-19 era has brought in renewed design requirements for our built environment. This pandemic has expedited the need for incorporating adaptive reuse and has flung the architecture community to rethink about designing spaces with a more multi functional approach. This in turn helps the nation in overcoming the pandemics and helps in getting back to normalcy in much better way.

Architecture plays a key role in disaster prevention and disaster management. Natural disasters like earthquake, forest fires, floods, landslides, tsunami, etc. result in high economic, environmental and human impact. This leaves the nation in a devastating state. The Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004 killed more than 200,000 people. Following which, the first question asked was about the role and responsibility of architects in disaster risk management. Architects have been slow when it comes to respond to the needs of disaster management but recently there is growing engagement. In recent times, with increased awareness and acceptance, there have been progressive efforts undertaken in regard to disaster management. This includes, introducing innovative and sustainable building methods to fight disaster impact, land-use planning by incorporating preventive planning and design principles.

The Way Forward

Given the key role that architecture plays when it comes to how cities are envisioned and designed, the architects should divert the outcomes of their design process towards the betterment of the nation’s well being, better quality of life for the citizens, sustainability, societal equality, health and resilience. Looking forward, it is evident that architecture is equipped with much required tools to better tackle the complexities of a nation. The collective outcome of all architectural possibilities can result in creating more socially just, economically prosperous, environmentally sustainable and resilient communities.  

16 December 2021
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