Implicit in the aspiration of every client who hires a creatively gifted architect, is the urge to be able to build something that marks his identity.
Uniqueness is a comparative pursuit, there is no denying this. As an architect then, am I not pandering to a desire where the person who solicits your advice seeks an upper handedness over the one who does not?
And what is wrong in that, one may ask. Are all men to dwell equal? Is it the business of the architect to be responsible or even bother about such questions? Is it some form of socialist agenda?
Nothing is wrong on the surface of such aspirations for uniqueness. It is just that, being better or different comes often at a price – the reduction of the other. Very often the mission to be better is not about self improvement, it is about status, the insecurity of being one amongst many. It is the disease among the achievers, and mostly these are the kind of people who can afford an architect today.
And why should an architect reflect on this? Because the vision has to be beyond the building, it is the making of a habitat that is the realm of the profession of architecture. His education, training and life endeavour is not about pleasing the ego of an individual, but about creating a responsible environment, one that is a harmonious part of the whole, one that is, therefore, inclusive.
Does the architect wonder about the neighbour and how his life will be affected? Does he dwell on the sustainability of the materials, the building processes, the earth he builds on, the street that he faces, the fabric of the city, and the resources of the Earth? Should he not?
The Deccan plateau that I build often on, has the heritage of rocks that date back to millennia, the lakes that run through, trees that our forefathers planted, habitat of native flora and fauna and the cultural heritage of wondrous civilisations. Am I not answerable to these?
The conflict that the client faces, with changing aspirations and social affectations, is important, maybe even critical. But it is my job, as an architect to remind him that, as he moves away, trying to rise above… he distances himself from a fabric that cannot be woven back. A fabric that is a legacy to pass on to his children.
True architecture enriches life through a creative process, it is able to be subtle and yet rich, blend into natural and humane surroundings and yet be an abode of peace, harmony, aspiration and beauty.
That is the only way to design, I believe.
by Samarendra M. Ramachandra
Featured image: buildings shoe by Medi Belortaja