September 8, 2020

The city administrators enforced mainly vehicle-centric urbanism whereas disregarding the open spaces for social interaction. And they don’t seem to put a brake on it. We must halt the unbridled environmental fragmentation and alter our linear thinking if we are to pluck many benefits from the ecosystem services that favor ecological, cultural, economic, and social values. We need to rewire the broken linkages and connect with the natural world. We are made from nature in nature.

Only about two years ago, the city planners included architects in the city planning division. But their plans are problematic too. They act more like authoritarians and decides how people should fit into their limited vision. They finish their task by concretizing and scattering few benches, trees, and a hideous fountain in the middle which has become a compulsory part of their design. Especially in a city chockfull of smog’s and visible dust particles these unpleasant fountains eventually sit there dried and longing for care. They throw copy-paste designs in all places without specific and careful studies of the area.

There are no landscape architects involved. Hence the architects are designing parks without proper tools, guidelines, and principles. The human’s need for prospect refuge isn’t seen in their design, cognitive mapping, and community participation is nowhere in the process. How the built environment impacts our human biology is not thought out. Crucial elements like mysteries, complexities, legibility, coherence, and other sensory experiences are out of context. I don’t find a soul in such places forced by such mindsets. There is no pulse and rhythm in it.

We need a paradigm shift in the way we design public spaces. To plan a resilient social-ecological system, we need to understand ecophysiology and the field of biophilia. We must draw upon the innate intelligence of nature, and the tremendous evidence of biophilic design tools, to reunite the urban and the natural worlds. Natural elements should be incorporated within the built environment to stir healthy neurological pleasure responses. We spend 90 % of our time in a built environment where stress is inevitable. Incorporating such elements across several realms of urbanity begets a healing environment.

I did not study architecture academically though this subject is at the center of my interest and recurrently intersects in my multidisciplinary art practice.

I keep revisiting the site at regular intervals and over extended periods of time. I interact with locals to uncover the history and present scenarios of the place. Sometimes I bump into people who understand the place profoundly well.  These moments of encounters, casual conversations pause, and wonder allows new relationships to emerge with people, places, and cities. I’ve always been interested to hear the stories of people and places.

I keep re-photographing and observing the site at different times. Aerial images can be helpful, but nothing replaces a trip to the site. If I am to mediate the urban space, I can’t rely on screen-based graphics. It has to start with drawings, lots of sketches, and notes. Architects are hasty to drop designs that are precarious to the surrounding and wider context. Artificially imposed designs lacking their connections to the biophysical, and socio-cultural values robs humanity’s innate tendency to connect with nature.

I see a serious need for the Hippocratic oath for designers. I’ve found a lot of architects really confident in their lack of knowledge and insensibility. They are really not hearing urgent conversations going on in the ecology world. Singular discipline cannot address the complexities, so I strongly recommend a multidisciplinary approach and effective practices.

Beauty doesn’t emerge by putting your forms above ecological functionalities.  It shines its brilliance from the harmonious blending of the concept with the natural cycles and thoughtful composition of elements. Beauty emerges from the balance of form and function.

Wanderlust and poetry are an integral part of my work, I search for a strong presence of soul in objects. The place must be poetic enough to evoke something in you.  Architecture has to have a feeling, a metaphor, a meaning, stories, and modern mythology.  

Besides talking to people, I concentrate on more than the human world within the urban matrix. I simply sit alone paying attention to what’s happening around me. With this sort of stillness of mind, I turn quietly towards the unnoticed world. I follow the ant trails and listen to the barely audible tones of insects fading in and out. I think an architect has to be attentive like a monk and playful like a child.

I see the sun-rays piercing through the thicket of leaves and touching the ground, I marvel at the intricacies of grasses. I listen to a tiny click of a leaf as it parts from the branch, I listen to the rhythm of its fall and that sound of reaching the ground. Listening to other dimensions of sound or noticing the processes in between is not a void but a rich space. I immerse myself in this atmospheric interaction of light, color, shadow, forms, breezes, aroma, and sounds. I think we have shut down our certain senses and have become impatient due to distractions and the popular culture of instant gratification and grabs.

There are some trees living here for several years in a symbiotic relationship. They are big and deeply connected underground. If we are to construct something around the trees means, we should be aware of habitat disturbance effects.  We are interfering with their world and they are hinting, telling, guiding, warning, and carrying messages through information highways underneath. It requires a deep understanding and a humble approach to integrate architecture in nature. I apologize to them first and inform them about the intervention going to take place. I make sure to cause minimum disruptions in the construction process and give back a favorable condition for them to thrive. To be able to concentrate on creating an environment where they can bounce back and find refuge even when so much change has occurred is a special opportunity for me.

Before confirming the design, I sat beneath the tree and perceive its connection with different creatures like ants, birds, frogs, earthworms seen in these areas.  Certainly, there is more life than expected, I discover more message threads between the trees and other organisms that are sensitive. Within the subterranean world, there exists a rich society of micro-organisms that upkeeps the soil, that soil supports the trees and that trees help you and me. Fortunately, this land had been preserved other adjacent lands are altered by the reckless urbanization. 

Butterflies, bees, other pollinators many other species love long grasses for nestling or hide from threats. I am concerned if they can’t find bare ground, wild patches while navigating the urban dominated by hardscape. Bee – careful.

Ants are sensitive to habitat variation, they interact with many other species, by making homes for fungi and micro-organisms in their nests, and influence vital processes such as nutrient cycling, soil enrichment and shares a close relationship with plants. I learn from these highly productive societies of ants and their delirious work. I offer a prayer of gratitude for these quiet gardeners of fecundity, the earthworms that work quietly underground making the soil supple.

Something subtle hushes me to turn earthwards when I walk barefoot on the ground. And I find myself kneeling in humility to be receptive to the kindest and ancient wisdom coming from the deep.


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