The positive effects of Pandemic
The pandemic has been an amazing equalizer. It so effectively demonstrated that differences of geographic boundaries by countries or continents; the first or the third world; the political ideologies of communism or socialism or democracy, around which we fought endless wars; concepts of atheism or secularism or religious fanaticism; idea of the Resourceful or the deprived society; notion of the powerful or the weak; maturity of the old or innocence of the young; privileged few or the masses; degree literate or the unschooled; technologically equipped and gadget savvy or primordial and naive; modern or the traditional; so on and so forth, are simply the mental constructs and has not been part of nature or the evolutionary DNA of the human species. It has humbled us to understand utter futility of prosperity indices, military might, scientific progress, political ideologies or the population strength against one tiny mutation of nature. It has ably established to all that we are only an aspect- a subset – the microcosm of mighty nature and never ever the cosmos or the master.
Social distancing ironically strengthened the societal bond. We experienced the value of compassion and the human bond with the entire world.
Pandemic has also been the master craftsman to teach and preach the principles of sustainability. The values of refuse, reduce, reuse, recycle and regenerate. It has convinced us about being able to live quite frugally. And frugality has further led to adaptability and inventiveness. We invented new routine, new recipes as well as new resolutions. We even learnt to transform mundane routine into engaging events. We found joys into small things and realised, boredom was the mental construct and routine had enough variations. We learnt the priorities of life, that health is more significant than wealth. We understood the fundamentals of health and hygiene through personal habits. We understood how simple and small things matter in our lives and can threaten the same if ignored.
Social distancing ironically strengthened the societal bond. We experienced the value of compassion and the human bond with the entire world. Corona brought in values of ‘Karuna’. We appreciated what it is to be with and amongst the immediate family, despite having a plethora of friends and social media. Perhaps we got the first-hand feel of the neighbourhood as an enlarged family. We understood the value of the bond of proximity versus prosperity. We learnt to observe, acknowledge, interpret and apply what perhaps arguably we inadvertently ignored and took for granted.
The most paradoxical aspect of the lockdown has been that sense of freedom one felt within quite many confines. The fact one could design one’s routine without the preset rules gave an unprecedented sense of release from undue stresses. One could remain as much and more productive and yet manage the same without the stress of the overlaid rules of the game. Not that there were no rules, but there was a freedom to redefine and realign spontaneously, circumstantially and locally. It taught us that confines were not in the physical constraints around us but was in the mental constructs of set premises which could not be altered. Being the master of one’s own routine was the most invigorating concept of freedom.
Our Role as an architect
The pandemic has ably established that existence is about two fundamental harmonies. A harmonious balance between Human to Human (the society) and Human to Nature (the environment). Any development that bases itself on harmonizing these two basic relations would sustain. We have witnessed, during the lockout, the most important lesson in design to integrate nature into the design because nature is the only dynamically changing dimension of space. This ever-changingness of nature renders space and time chemistry unique, always. Nature, may it be in the form of Sun/light, wind, water, vegetation and people/life form, is constantly changing phenomenon. These are variables of place to place and of time to time. Change is the inherent nature of Nature. Sun in the form of light changes its intensity and angle all through the day diurnally, and from season to season annually. Therefore the same space feels different at different times. Similarly, a breeze with its intensity, direction and aroma can change the perception of the space. Vegetation as the live medium changes all the time. It decays, it grows, it greens, it yellows, it blooms with fruit or flowers which in turn invites other insects, birds and animals and thus creates different chemistry all the time. That is why while we get bored looking at 70 channels on television in a closed room; grandparents can keep gazing out of the window, looking at the street and its constantly changing scenes, the spontaneity of actions and unfolding of drama every day, every time. We experienced well and appreciated so much the spontaneous diversity nature could bring to routine spaces and spared us from spatial boredom.
There is nothing like good or bad in architecture, it is always appropriate or inappropriate. And appropriate is always good; neither boring nor wrong nor requiring invention. Or should we say it in itself is an invention having uniquely evolved as a resolution of multiple forces and overlaid priorities.
It has also challenged us to redefine our norms and standards for design and development. We need to realize the concepts of reducing and reuse. Until recently we lived without using having separate rooms, we could happily live transforming the common spaces multiply for diverse uses over time without compromise. We have probably by now understood how redundant some of the spaces in the house have been. We came together in a common space rather than stayed separately in the individual ones. So an important concept of frugal spaces and its flexibility to transform plurally for diverse uses. This is what organic architecture has been all about. Organic is not about being irregular or being different. Organic implies the resultant of the processes. Resolution of the forces rather than any preconceived notions of form or geometry. Ant will move towards sugar and tree branch will lean towards light and sunflower will follow the sun. None of these are trying to be different. They are doing their routine but they adapt and respond to the contextual ethos and manifest accordingly. To discern between the need and the greed. Between the essential and the excessive. But, if one thinks that holistic architecture has to go through all the aspects of timeless aesthetics, socio-cultural appropriateness, environmental sustainability, economic affordability and structural strength then the resolution would be unique/particular to the context. There is nothing like good or bad in architecture, it is always appropriate or inappropriate. And appropriate is always good; neither boring nor wrong nor requiring invention. Or should we say it in itself is an invention having uniquely evolved as a resolution of multiple forces and overlaid priorities.
As an architect, we learnt that the architect creates spaces but people transform them into places. Spaces are futile without people but spaces can simulate life.
As an architect, we learnt that the architect creates spaces but people transform them into places. Spaces are futile without people but spaces can simulate life. We learnt that diverse spaces offer variety, the freedom of choice and thereby an enhanced sense of belonging as well as reduced sense of boredom. Even home is not complete without semi-enclosed and open spaces. We have learnt the importance of Fenestrations and courtyards to integrate nature within architecture. We learnt the value of UN programmed spaces for casual entertainments, socialising or even introspecting. We have learnt that joy lies in very small things around us. Just from our home. So let us be more sympathetic to these small but perennial sources of happiness and provide a spatial stimulus for the same. I.e. non programmed incidental spaces for personalisation and diverse adaptations. We have learnt the true value of technology to use constructively to reduce undue travels, to connect and communicate. We have also learnt the futility of undue dependence on high technologies in daily routines that deprived us from people and nature.
Pandemic, perhaps, has been the nature’s corrective action to restore the balance between the manmade and natural systems and to rejuvenate life forms by diluting human interventions for a while. It has proven without any shades of doubts how much of the human systems – not really their presence but actually their systems - have been responsible for the degeneration of air quality, environmental pollution as well as undue and excessive consumption. I strongly believe that as professionals, responsible to craft the environment, we need to act responsibly in realigning our course of actions directed to the fundamental ethos of sustainability such as frugality, flexibility, plurality, equitability and humility. We have to learn to discern between the need versus greed. We need introspect and imbibe the values of co harmonious co-existence between Human and Human and Human and Nature, to nurture and sustain the rejuvenated globe that has be presented to us post-pandemic.