The Central Vista Redevelopment and “Democracy, Participation and Consultation”: What Does This Really Mean? ~ Prem Chandavarkar

Central Vista Redevelopment-Bimal-Patel-Prem-Chandavarkar

The Provocation to this Essay

The latest issue (No. 61) of the Journal of Landscape Architecture (JLA), India’s premier journal on landscape and environmental design, carries an essay by Dr. Bimal Patel, the head of HCP Design Planning & Management Private Limited (HCP), the firm was chosen by the Government of India to design the redevelopment that will radically transform the Central Vista Precinct, including the Houses of Parliament. The essay speaks of many things that I find interesting, contains many points of value and agreement, but I will not take on many of them here. A section of the essay speaks on the Central Vista project, and this is what I will focus on. Given this is a current and contested public project of significance that is capturing public attention, the timing of this essay requires that, in addition to his specific mentions of the project, general points made by Dr. Patel must also be interpreted in its light.

The title chosen for this essay is “Democracy, Participation, and Consultation”, which repeats the sub-heading of the concluding session of the essay, and one must take note of what is emphasised by this choice of title. We know this title bears the approval of Dr. Patel because, in a breach of established publishing etiquette, an edit proof of the essay sent privately to him for approval was circulated by him among a select group of friends. Consequently, this proof leaked into circulation on social media well before the publication of the journal issue to which he had committed the article.

When this proof reached a group of concerned citizens, architects, environmentalists and other professionals (including myself), we reached out to the editors of JLA. We pointed out that multiple apprehensions have been publicly articulated regarding the Central Vista project, to which no public response has been offered by either the government or the architect, and the project is proceeding with negligible open disclosure. To carry this essay without any counterpoint could be misinterpreted as a tacit endorsement of the project. JLA responded that they wished to take a non-partisan stand on the project, do not aim to take sides, and would cover all sides. They drew our attention to an essay in the previous issue that criticised the process by which the architect for the project was selected and stated their intent to publish counterpoints to Dr. Patel’s essay in the next issue of the journal. We answered that, given the haste with which the government is pushing the project, timing is crucial. Being a quarterly journal, the next issue would appear three months later, and this gap in time would make it difficult to link such counterpoint to this essay. The government is trying to move the project as rapidly as possible toward the tipping point where it becomes a fait accompli, and a three-month window would serve them well. We pointed out that JLA had already taken the call under current circumstances to make this issue a fully digital magazine, and this gave them greater flexibility. In the cause of wider public interest, we appealed to them to delay the release of the issue by a few days so that a counterpoint could be written and added to it. JLA decided not to heed our appeal to wait, and proceeded to publicly release Issue No. 61 on 29 May 2020, carrying Dr. Patel’s essay without any accompanying counterpoint.

This essay is an attempt to offer the public counterpoint we felt was necessary to complement Dr. Patel’s essay. It is being released publicly on the digital portal ArchitectureLive!, with a link provided to JLA Issue 61, so that it can be read in conjunction with Dr. Patel’s article. The essay draws attention to multiple issues related to Central Vista that Dr. Patel has chosen not to speak on, both in his JLA essay and elsewhere: all issues sorely needing exposure to open light, articulated here in a quest to provoke much needed public discussion. The essay evaluates what is publicly visible thus far on HCP’s design proposal and goes on to expresses certain thoughts in response to remarks made by Dr. Patel in the JLA essay. In conclusion, it reflects on what it means for the essay to bear the title “Democracy, Participation and Consultation.”

The Central Vista Redevelopment: The Project Brief and Process

While the Central Vista Precinct came into being as a project to serve the British Empire, it was appropriated by India on gaining independence. For over seven decades it has served as the geographical centre of our democracy, been a significant public landscape, and is thus woven into our history. It would, therefore, be expected that the redevelopment project launched in September 2019 would aim to follow the highest standards of democratic ideals and respect for heritage. Unfortunately, this has not been the case:

  • A Vision for Democracy: The spatial configuration and architectural expression of major institutions of governance significantly affect how the government is perceived by citizens, and if our parliament and ministerial offices are to be substantively remodelled, one would have expected that the project be based on a deep and idealistic vision for our democracy that it should express. Given that democracy rests on public debate, such a vision should have been validated by widespread public consultation, and only then should the scope of the redevelopment be framed. This vision should have formed a core element of the design brief that would direct design submissions from architects. To the contrary, the tender notice that formed the basis for selecting architects did not contain any vision for democracy and asked the competing architects to define such a vision through their design proposals. Architects are no experts in governance and political philosophy; democracy is too important a subject to be left to the interpretation of a handful of architects.

[bs-white-space desktop-ws=”10″ tablet-ws=”10″ mobile-ws=”6″][/bs-white-space]

  • Parliamentary Debate: A democracy transforming its physical infrastructure should first debate that transformation in Parliament. Thus far, redevelopment of the Central Vista Precinct has been launched as a project, architects and designs selected, consequent changes of land-use notified, and designs submitted for environmental approvals without a single minute of parliamentary debate. This disregard and disrespect shown to Parliament, as an institution, is unprecedented in any democracy. A Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) was constituted in 2009 to assess the future spatial needs of Parliament. The BJP reconstituted this JPC on coming to power in 2014. The proceedings of both JPC’s have not been made public, nor has any reason been offered on why the current project escapes JPC oversight.

[bs-white-space desktop-ws=”10″ tablet-ws=”10″ mobile-ws=”6″][/bs-white-space]

  • A Heritage Audit: When modifications are felt to be necessary to heritage buildings, established good practice is to conduct a heritage audit. The audit assesses the historical and cultural importance of the building, its physical state, its suitability to needs, and its expected life. When built heritage involves important public institutions, recognising that these buildings form an important component of public history, the impulse of the audit is to work towards retaining the buildings in their current form and purpose, unless it can be conclusively proven that there is absolutely no alternative. Recognising that heritage is an issue of public memory rather than private interpretation, such audits are placed in the public domain and openly debated before being finalised. An illuminating example is the Palace of Westminster from which both houses of parliament of the United Kingdom function. Needs have changed and the building (which predates Sansad Bhavan by half a century) is in need of restoration. An audit was conducted and publicly debated. The plan to proceed with the project, including temporary accommodations for the houses of parliament during the refurbishment, was concretised by a vote in the House of Commons. While generalised statements have been made about the inadequacy of Sansad Bhavan and North and South Blocks, no rigorous heritage audit backing those statements has been placed in the public domain. Public suggestions have come from architects as well as senior parliamentarians, proposing that our historic Parliament building should be respected as a sacred site of the birth of Indian democracy, putting forward ideas on how an increased capacity for both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha could be accommodated within the current building. Neither the government nor HCP have offered any substantive response to such proposals.

[bs-white-space desktop-ws=”10″ tablet-ws=”10″ mobile-ws=”6″][/bs-white-space]

  • Analysis of Requirements: There has been no public release of the analysis of requirements backing such a project. Why is there a need to radically increase the size of the Central Secretariat complex that will house all ministerial offices? Data on government servants published in the latest Delhi Master Plan (2021) demonstrates that the numbers of central government employees within the Delhi jurisdiction has not radically increased over the last four decades. Given that this data is only up to 2003, a substantively increased Central Secretariat would be valid only if there has been a radical spurt in ministerial size after 2003. This would be hard to understand given that since 1991 we have been on a trajectory of reducing centralised control (the ‘license raj’), and there has been no declared policy of reversing this trend. Similarly, the Central Vista Project has not disclosed the calculation on the number of seats needed in Parliament. While we are due very soon for a revised seat delimitation that responds to population growth, the basis for the consequent projection of revised requirements for the Houses of Parliament is unknown. Moreover, several demographic projections have predicted that India’s population growth will peak around 2060 and will begin to decline after that. Is it worth casting aside the deep and valuable history of a current building, and expending money and effort in a totally new parliament building for a need that will start declining within forty years?

The Central Vista Redevelopment and “Democracy, Participation and Consultation”: What Does This Really Mean? ~ Prem Chandavarkar 3
Data on Govt. Employees within the Delhi Jurisdiction: Source – Delhi Master Plan 2021
  • Consolidation of Ministerial Offices: In an era where digital communication and collaboration is becoming more and more effective and prevalent, the need to consolidate all ministries into a single complex of buildings along Rajpath remains unexplained. Here too, there is no detailed analysis validating this. Generalised statements have been made saying it will enhance collaboration and cooperation. A study conducted by Dr. Christopher Alexander and his team at the University of California in Berkeley (Dr. Patel’s alma mater) shows that once the horizontal distance between two members of an office is beyond 400 feet, their frequency of physical interaction drops rapidly to less than once a week. Once the horizontal distance is compounded by vertical segregation into different floors, interaction drops even more substantively. Collaboration is a function of attitude and culture rather than proximity: almost all of us have had experiences of dealing with a governmental office in India to find that people at desks within a few metres of each other do not communicate effectively. In contrast, the digital age has multiple examples of people collaborating effectively over immense distances. Moreover, no disclosure has been made on any analysis of the security hazard of consolidating all ministerial offices in close proximity. Besides the impact of the kind of pandemic we are currently experiencing, such consolidation will facilitate the paralysis of government in a substantive strike by terrorists or a hostile military.

[bs-white-space desktop-ws=”10″ tablet-ws=”10″ mobile-ws=”6″][/bs-white-space]

  • Data in Public Domain: If democratic transparency is to be valued, all information on this project – plans, backing analysis of needs, statements of vision, heritage audits, costs, time frames – would all be placed in the public domain. None of this has happened, and there is great secrecy. Whatever the public knows is through the information that has leaked from a few presentations to invited audiences, some unofficial data circulated on social media, and partial information given out in interactions with media channels. There is no public exhibition or publicly accessible website where holistic data on the project can be studied by members of the public.

[bs-white-space desktop-ws=”10″ tablet-ws=”10″ mobile-ws=”6″][/bs-white-space]

  • Public Consultations: Democratic transparency would demand a series of public consultations where feedback from the public is sought. In remarks made in mid-February 2020 to reporters, in response to queries over two petitions filed by activists in the Delhi High Court, the Minister for Housing and Urban Affairs claimed that there is total transparency in the Central Vista revamp, mentioning presentations the architect has made to town planners, architects and journalists. A set of presentations made by the architect to small invited audiences are not public consultations, and it is a ruse to pass this off as democratic transparency. The standard should be what is legally mandated for large town planning schemes. The government leads the consultation, not the architect, for many aspects of such schemes involve issues beyond the scope of architecture and urban design. The consultation follows certain standards: (i) consultations are open to all members of the public; (ii) sufficient advance notice to the consultation is given in major newspapers; (iii) data on the issue is released in the public domain so that it can be studied in advance; (iv) there is an established procedure of accountability by which the government is obliged to recognise comments received in the consultation and respond to them. Moreover, since this project is of national importance, consultations should be held all over the country and not just in Delhi. In this day and age, it is also possible to publicly share video recordings of the consultation and allow for a time period in which comments on these recordings can be sent in, so that feedback is received from a constituency larger than what can be accommodated in face-to-face consultations. We are yet to see any public consultation in the true spirit of the term. Despite this, applications have been submitted for statutory permissions on land-use change and environmental approvals. Substantive design changes cannot be made once statutory submissions and notifications have been formally made, unless such submissions and notifications are officially withdrawn.

[bs-white-space desktop-ws=”10″ tablet-ws=”10″ mobile-ws=”6″][/bs-white-space]

  • Project Speed: The project is being pushed through with extreme haste. Intentions have been declared to complete the new parliament building by 2022 and the entire project by 2024. This kind of speed allows little room for democratic consultation and debate, and the rationale for such deadlines has not been disclosed. A possible reason is the desire to showcase the completed project within the current term of this government. If this is true, it means that the future legacy of a nation will be determined by the electoral imperatives of a single government.

[bs-white-space desktop-ws=”10″ tablet-ws=”10″ mobile-ws=”6″][/bs-white-space]

  • Change of Land-Use: The design of the development necessitates changes of land-use. This comes under the province of the Delhi Development Authority (DDA). DDA did follow the mandated procedure of issuing public notices inviting comment on the proposed changes of land-use. Over 1200 objections were submitted in writing. DDA scheduled the public meetings to hear these comments with less than two days of notice; the short notice making attendance impossible for many who would have wanted to be there. People were allowed in batches and rushed through their statements, as DDA allowed a short two days to hear this large volume of objections. People were only allowed to state their objections, and no response was offered. DDA officials stated they would only hear comments and would not respond to them; an inexplicable statement given this produces no new information beyond what is already documented in written objections and the primary purpose of a public hearing is to facilitate democratic debate. Eventually, DDA proceeded to legally notify the same land-use changes they had initially declared without making any changes, without assigning any reason why all the objections were disregarded. A comment was made that the number of objections should not be considered significant as many of them were repetitions of the same point; failing to recognise that in a democracy it is the number of unified voices that speak that is significant, and not the similarities or differences in what they say. More on this issue of land-use is covered in the discussion below on HCP’s design.

[bs-white-space desktop-ws=”10″ tablet-ws=”10″ mobile-ws=”6″][/bs-white-space]

  • Environmental Approval: Environmental law in India requires that any project with a built-up area of more than 20,000 square metres must go through an environmental approval process. Smaller projects require the submission of an environmental management plan. Larger projects need to meet stricter requirements, stipulating the submission of an environmental impact analysis, where baseline data for a year preceding the project is presented, along with a commitment to designs and actions that avoid detrimental impact on the environment. It is not permissible to evade these stricter constraints by splitting a large project into smaller components that are submitted separately for approval. The Notice Inviting Bids by which the architect was selected for the project clearly casts the entire Central Vista redevelopment as a single project covering the area where Parliament is situated, the entire stretch of Rajpath from Rashtrapati Bhavan to India Gate plus a few adjacent sites. However, an application for environmental approval was submitted to the Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC), that should grant the needed sanction, offering the new Parliament Building as a stand-alone project. The submission officially denied any “interlinked projects” or “consequential developments” linked to this project. The application termed the project as an “Expansion and Renovation of Existing Parliament Building” when it is clearly a new construction on a plot of land separate from the land parcel housing Sansad Bhavan. It is difficult to believe that EAC would not be aware of the entirety of the Central Vista Redevelopment; yet they granted their approval and passed it on to the Environment Ministry for final approval. Such approval is highly questionable on legal and environmental grounds, and, if allowed to go through unchallenged, will set a dangerous precedent for environment approvals of large projects in the future.

[bs-white-space desktop-ws=”10″ tablet-ws=”10″ mobile-ws=”6″][/bs-white-space]

  • Approval of Central Vista Committee: The project also requires the approval of this committee, which consists of government representatives as well as experts from outside government. The new Parliament Building, as a stand-alone project, was also submitted to this committee, which met on 23 April 2020 to review it. This review took place in the middle of the lockdown imposed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The experts from outside government noted that an effective review could not take place over videoconference and requested that the meeting be postponed until the lockdown was lifted. Their request was disregarded, and the meeting proceeded, as scheduled. to grant approval to the project, stating this was done “keeping in view the importance of the project in nation’s interest and time scale for its implementation.” Given the lack of public disclosure on data on the project and no public explanation validating the imposed deadlines, it is hard to understand how the interests of a democratic nation have been assessed.

[bs-white-space desktop-ws=”10″ tablet-ws=”10″ mobile-ws=”6″][/bs-white-space]

  • Secrecy: The secrecy with which this project is proceeding is inexplicable and has been ingrained right from the start of the project. This can be seen in the secrecy surrounding the project’s cost. The project is being managed by the Central Public Works Department (CPWD) and was initiated by the public launch of the selection process for an architect through a “Notice Inviting Bids from Consultants” (NIB) issued by CPWD in early September 2019. CPWD has a manual that determines how such bid notices should be released. The manual defines a procedure for estimating the approximate cost of the project and requires administrative sanction for the same before issuing the bid notice. This cost is disclosed in the notice inviting bids, as it is useful to architects in preparing their financial bids, particularly given that the fee had to be quoted as a percentage of the project cost. However, the NIB violated the CPWD Manual by not disclosing any estimated cost of the project. The NIB asked the consultants to split the project cost into three slabs and quote a fee for each slab. An assumption was stated on how weightage would be distributed among these three cost slabs in order to compare financial bids. This assumption leads to a questionable basis for comparing financial bids, as the lowest bidder under one project cost may not be the lowest bidder under another cost. After HCP was awarded the project, and some partial data on the design began to trickle into public perception, one news channel reported that the project cost was Rs. 20,000 crores. There is no official pronouncement that validates this cost, and it is not clear how this channel arrived at this number, but it quickly settled into the popular imagination. The number has been repeated by many other news channels. Senior politicians from the opposition have mentioned it in appeals to the government to cancel or postpone the project as the coronavirus pandemic has precipitated far more urgent and essential expenditure. Many similar public appeals have been issued stating the same cost estimate. Through all this, the government has chosen not to respond at all, not even to contest this estimate as an erroneous claim that is not backed by fact. The silence is deafening, suggesting there appears to be an undisclosed imperative that wishes to keep the project cost out of the public discussion. The only specific disclosure on cost has been for the new Parliament Building, which was originally estimated at Rs. 776 crores, and subsequently updated to Rs. 922 crores.

It could be argued that many of the issues stated above are the responsibility of the government, are beyond the scope of any architect, and must therefore not be linked to an essay by Dr. Patel which has no connection to official governmental pronouncements. However, Dr. Patel has repeatedly defended the project as it is and has also endorsed the ambitious time frames it aims for. HCP, as architects of the project, would have been involved in all the technical documentation necessary for the changes of land-use and the submission made to EAC for environmental approval, lending their weight to a project process that pushes the project into the statutory approvals needed to begin construction before any meaningful public consultations have been held. Therefore, Dr. Patel, as the head of HCP, has become complicit in many of these issues and should speak on them. Moreover, he is not just an architect, he is also a thinking citizen in a democracy, and his involvement in a public project carries a moral imperative as a citizen to consider the impacts it has on democracy.

Comments on HCP’s Design for the Central Vista Redevelopment

So far in this essay, I have spoken on general issues to the project. Now it is necessary to address issues specific to HCP’s design proposals. Given the lack of public disclosure, it is difficult to comment as concept notes, drawings, area statements, and visualisations of the project are not available for detailed scrutiny. Whatever is discussed here, is based on partial data that has leaked out or been shared with media, so a comprehensive analysis is not possible.

  • Change of Land-Use: Until now, land-use in the Central Vista precinct has been to a substantial extent under public/semi-public use. HCP’s design proposal has entailed a radical decrease in public usage. This is one point on which there is specific data in the public domain, as DDA has legally notified the changes in land-use necessary to implement the project. Under the DDA notification, over 80 acres of land has been removed from the public/semi-public category. A major portion of it is recategorized as “government office” and given the increasing security cordons around central government offices, this will radically alter the quantum of access to the general public. One 10.5-acre parcel has been converted from a public district park into a high-security zone for the new Parliament Building. This is a fundamental and substantive change in the public character of Central Vista, and the changes in land-use notified by DDA spring specifically from HCP’s design proposals. This is a point that Dr. Patel is yet to substantively address in public.
The Central Vista Redevelopment and “Democracy, Participation and Consultation”: What Does This Really Mean? ~ Prem Chandavarkar 5
Central Vista Land-Use Before and After HCP’s Design Proposals
  • Proposal for a New Parliament: The invitation to architects to bid for the project did not stipulate that Parliament must be shifted into a new building. It drew attention to the changing needs of Parliament, the need to refurbish the current Sansad Bhavan given its age, and consequently gave consultants the choice to either “redesign and redevelop the existing Parliament Building with the same outer façade or construct a new state-of-art building located in close vicinity.” HCP has knowingly chosen to adopt the latter choice but has yet to disclose the basis for this choice. HCP has also not publicly responded to suggestions on how changing needs can be met within the existing structure.

The Central Vista Redevelopment and “Democracy, Participation and Consultation”: What Does This Really Mean? ~ Prem Chandavarkar 7
HCP: Old and New Parliament Buildings, Rashtrapati Bhavan, North and South Blocks
  • Central Vista as a Landscape: The current aura of Central Vista along Rajpath is that of a landscape, and this aura exists because the horizon is shaped by the top line of the thick avenue of trees on either side of the Rajpath lawns. This happens because buildings behind the trees are low-rise, are set well back, and do not form a continuous wall along Rajpath. HCP has proposed a continuous row of 8-storey governmental offices, broken only by crossroads. While detailed heights have not been made available, office buildings this high will be at least 33 to 35 metres tall, which would make the top profile of these buildings higher than the tree line. While these buildings will be set back behind the trees, their increased height and continuity along Rajpath, in contrast to the existing configuration of buildings, could radically alter Central Vista’s aura of a landscape, as the horizon could now be shaped by building profiles instead of trees. The character of a public space beloved to citizens of Delhi, as well as all of India, may be lost forever. We would need to see street level photo montages that superimpose the new buildings on the existing tree lines to fully understand how Central Vista’s character will be altered. Given the significance of this issue, one would expect that this data would be placed in the public domain so that citizens would understand how a space they have revered over the years is being transformed.
The Central Vista Redevelopment and “Democracy, Participation and Consultation”: What Does This Really Mean? ~ Prem Chandavarkar 9
HCP: New Buildings Proposed Along Central Vista
  • Public Cultural Space: The radical reduction in public space in the Central Vista Precinct has already been discussed. A key feature of the precinct, that has existed since the original colonial design, is that a significant component of this public space is in cultural institutions. In the Lutyens master plan, the intersection of Rajpath (originally called ‘The King’s Way’) and Janpath (originally called ‘The Queen’s Way’) was earmarked as a cultural hub, with a prominent public cultural institution within each of the quadrants surrounding the intersection. One of them, The National Archives, was designed by Lutyens and was constructed as a part of the colonial project. A second, The National Museum, opened in 1960. The third, The Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (IGNCA), was awarded in an international design competition in 1986 to Ralph Lerner, an American architect, but only a portion of the design has been constructed. The fourth quadrant never became a cultural institution and was usurped by ministerial offices. The presence of cultural institutions along a public park is a key element in the heritage of Central Vista. HCP’s design proposal entails the removal of all cultural institutions from Central Vista. The National Museum and IGNCA are both slated for demolition and relocation (and I should emphasise here that IGNCA should be evaluated solely as a national centre for the arts, and not from the viewpoint of who it is named after). The original competition proposal from HCP also suggested the demolition of the National Archives building. When the plan to demolish a Grade-1 Heritage Monument created a furore, the design was revised to retain this building. However, there is still little public clarity on what use this structure will be put to or the extent to which its heritage character will be preserved given its close proximity to large new structures. The revised land-use plan notified by DDA does not preserve this site as a public space, suggesting the plan is to convert the National Archives into a government office. It is also unclear where the National Museum and IGNCA will be relocated. There have been some statements by Dr. Patel that North and South Blocks will be converted into the National Museum, but whether that commitment still stands is unclear given the DDA notification preserves the land-use of these parcels as high-security government offices. The presence of cultural institutions in this heritage precinct is part of the design since its origins, and all these institutions have been there for decades: The National Archives has been there for almost a century, National Museum for sixty years and IGNCA for close to twenty-five years. No reasoning or analysis has been publicly offered by HCP on their choice to excise from Central Vista cultural institutions that are embedded into its history. The way central governmental architecture interfaces with other uses in a capital city acts as a symbol of how the government wishes itself to be perceived. A governmental architecture that is interwoven with public space and public institutions indicates a government that, in true democratic spirit, seeks to be connected with, and accessible to, the nation’s citizens. When governmental architecture crowds out all public institutions, so that the visual spectacle of government dominates the aura of the precinct, one gets the impression that the message is that of a government distant from its citizens, wanting to awe them into acquiescence with a pageant of grandeur and power.

Thoughts Provoked by Statements Made by Dr. Patel in JLA Issue

Reading Dr. Patel’s essay, there are some statements in it that provoke thoughts and questions.

  • Public Space: On p.86, the statement is made, “I realised the importance that public spaces play in making cities liveable.” This realisation does not gel with HCP’s decision to radically reduce the extent of public space in Central Vista.

[bs-white-space desktop-ws=”10″ tablet-ws=”10″ mobile-ws=”6″][/bs-white-space]

  • Respecting Heritage: On p.89, Dr. Patel remarks, “We must respect our heritage and conserve it, but we must also not allow ourselves to be held hostage to it.” This statement by itself need not be contested, as it is untenable to make the rigid claim that Central Vista, because it is a heritage precinct, must be preserved without any change whatsoever. Buildings have aged and needs have changed; we do have the right to modify it. The question is how we do so while respecting heritage and conserving it, as Dr. Patel agrees we must do. As noted earlier in this essay, established good practice in heritage conservation is to base choices on a rigorous heritage audit with the aim of disturbing history as little as possible, where proposals for modification display sensitivity and vision on how heritage will be conserved, and such proposals go through public review and consultation. Dr. Patel, as a qualified and experienced professional, would be well aware of these standards of good practice in heritage conservation, but HCP is yet to publicly disclose the extent to which their design process on Central Vista adhered to such standards.

[bs-white-space desktop-ws=”10″ tablet-ws=”10″ mobile-ws=”6″][/bs-white-space]

  • Design Competitions for Large Public Projects: On p.92, Dr. Patel argues that when competitions to design large public projects are to be held, it is best that the competition be restricted to large firms, as only they have the depth and diversity of talent needed to execute large projects. Dr. Patel chooses not to address an established global precedent in design competitions for public buildings, where they are held as two-stage competitions. The first stage invites conceptual designs, and is open to all registered architects, however small or large their firms may be, and there is no limit to the number of architects who may compete. A small number of the best schemes are selected for a second stage, where architects are asked to present their designs in further detail, with the final selection being made at the end of this stage. If it is found that an architect qualifying for the second stage does not have the in-house resources to execute a project of this scale and complexity, that architect is required to associate with a large firm, or consortium of firms, that would bring required capabilities to the table. This mode of competitions is often used for public projects where the symbolic importance of the project is very high. The reason for doing this is that large firms, because of the large overhead costs involved in running them, tend to be conservative in their approach, remaining within an architectural language that has sustained them in the past, and are often insufficiently invested into the degree of innovation needed for symbolically significant projects. Smaller and younger firms are more likely to offer greater boldness of innovation, and this two-stage approach achieves the best of both worlds.

[bs-white-space desktop-ws=”10″ tablet-ws=”10″ mobile-ws=”6″][/bs-white-space]

  • Reordering a Landscape: On p.90, the issue of changes to a landscape are tackled saying, “When considering the reordering of a landscape, so far as the benefits to be gained promise to be more than the costs and so far as we are also taking compensatory steps – planting more trees – to mitigate the costs that the reordering of the landscape entails, we should not stop ourselves from making the change. Unfortunately, we seem to have forgotten how to think of making trade-offs.” This remark is significant when laid along the point made earlier in this essay on how the aura of Central Vista as a public landscape is being erased. If there is a cost-benefit analysis that has been made, why has it not been opened up to public review? In what has been disclosed so far, the benefits are not visible.

[bs-white-space desktop-ws=”10″ tablet-ws=”10″ mobile-ws=”6″][/bs-white-space]

  • The Assertions of Activists: On p.97, Dr. Patel claims, “Many professionals resort to ‘activism’ because they are interested in using their professional knowledge to influence projects and policies in the public realm but are convinced that it is not possible for them to do so by engaging with the government as professionals……….having abandoned the creed of the professional to find workable solutions to problems by making meaningful trade-offs, many critics, advocates, and activists end up taking immoderate, partisan, strident and ideologically driven positions. This approach causes more harm than good.” This claim is dangerous on multiple counts. It passes a generalisation on motives without substantiating evidence, tarring all activist professionals with the same brush. It implies that they object to public projects primarily because of a resentment grounded in not having found a way to participate in designing or executing them. And it reinforces a dangerous trend that is taking root in our polity where the motives of activists are foregrounded and impugned in order to deflect attention from the validity of their assertions. All professionals are also citizens. If they are not participants in the design of public projects, when they articulate concerns on a project they must be recognised as citizens rather than professionals. As citizens, they are entitled to deploy their professional knowledge and judgment to substantiate their concerns. When a citizen-activist asserts concerns on a public issue, those concerns must be judged by their own validity and logic and should not be summarily dismissed by discrediting motives of the person asserting them.

[bs-white-space desktop-ws=”10″ tablet-ws=”10″ mobile-ws=”6″][/bs-white-space]

  • The Relation between Government and Activists: Further on p.97, Dr. Patel observes, “On the other side, many people in government do not believe strongly enough that it makes good sense to constructively engage with the public. There can be many reasons for this, for example: they are deeply suspicious of the motives of immoderate critics, advocates and activists; they have never experienced open and transparent governance because they are themselves from traditional backgrounds where blind faith, obedience and firm, top-down exercise of authority are all seen as virtues; because the organizational set-up they are within has no systems for constructive public engagement. Whatever be the reason, the corrosive dynamic of immoderate criticism, advocacy and activism only reinforces non-transparency and disregard for constructive public engagement wherever it exists in government.” Dr. Patel is not explicit on who he holds accountable for this situation, and from whom he expects leadership to navigate a way out of it. But in this short paragraph, he mentions criticism and activism twice, and in both cases applies the adjective “immoderate”, implying that citizen activists bear a greater share of the blame for the situation and should consequently tone down their ‘immoderation’. To hold public office, or to lead public projects, requires that you should have the ability to manage public criticism, whatever form it may take; as the saying goes, “If you can’t take the heat, stay out of the kitchen!” If activism gets strident, a probable cause is that the required transparency and accessibility in public affairs is not to be found, making it necessary to shout to be heard. Transparent and accessible governance will go a long way in building the public trust that makes government-citizen relationships cordial and non-confrontational, where critique is valued rather than suspected. As the peace activist William Sloane Coffin remarked, “There are three kinds of patriots, two bad, one good. The bad are the uncritical lovers and the loveless critics. Good patriots carry on a lover’s quarrel with their country.”

Democracy, Participation and Consultation

As mentioned at the start of this essay, Dr. Patel approved its title “Democracy, Participation and Consultation.” We have already reviewed democracy and public consultation. Let us now turn our attention to participation.

The most incisive take on participation that I have ever come across is an essay on the subject by the late Iranian economist, Majid Rahnema. This appears in a collection of essays titled “The Development Dictionary”, edited by Wolgang Sachs, examining the various facets of development. Rahnema says that when participation is invoked as a necessary component of democratic development, it tends to be discussed as a singular concept, when it is actually a nuanced notion that has four dimensions:

  • A political dimension where the development project is validated by participation.
  • An instrumental dimension where participation is seen as a tool for enhancing the effective implementation of development.
  • A cognitive dimension where the development discourse itself is constituted and shaped by participation.
  • A social dimension where community and public cohesion are constructed and sustained by participation.

Rahnema argues that a full and true democracy would invoke all four dimensions, but it is more common to find some recognition granted to the political dimension, lip service paid to the instrumental dimension, and negligible recognition of the cognitive and social dimensions.

The Central Vista project has been characterised till date by secrecy and opacity, without any open consultation that is truly public in nature, and with no holistic data placed in the public domain. This alone violates democratic principles, a transgression further compounded by disregard of parliamentary debate and unacceptable deviations in statutory approval procedures. And the project is yet to effectively invoke even one of the four dimensions of participation that Majid Rahnema identifies.

In this light, it is with a sense of extreme irony that we read this essay bearing the title “Democracy, Participation and Consultation.”

Pradeep Sachdeva: A Compelling Legacy. Tribute by AGK Menon

Pradeep Sachdeva Tribute~ AGK Menon

The passing away of Pradeep Sachdeva at the age of 62 was untimely. He was at an age when most architects are still maturing. Nevertheless, he left us with a compelling legacy as an innovative and humanistic architect, urban designer, landscape architect and interior designer. He created several iconic projects that have become benchmarks and are testimony to the contributions he has made to Indian architecture and urbanism.

These contributions have become particularly significant as our society questions the state of our cities and the quality of life they provide its residents. There is increasing awareness of the need to reorient design ideology away from global models. Perhaps on account of his early experience working with Laurie Baker, he developed a profound understanding of the importance of using local contexts and crafts and building traditions for designing in India. As a consequence, he defined the nature and meaning of modernity in Indian architecture and urbanism. This has now become an important imperative.

His projects included low-cost buildings and projects for high end hospitality sector, Buddhist monastery and educational campuses, riverfronts and landscape parks, besides bespoke furniture design. Some, like the Dilli Haat, the Garden of Five senses, streetscaping Delhi’s complex transport corridors, and the use of highly engineered bamboo for the dome of the Indian Pavilion at the Shanghai Expo 2010, have become models for others to emulate. Through these projects, he expanded the vocabulary and grammar of Indian modernism.

But there was more to define his contributions than the tangible qualities of his designs. What set him apart was also the humanistic vision he infused into all the projects he engaged with. These two aspects of design are inseparable in all his works. For his proposal to Redevelop the Jama Masjid Precinct in Shahjahanabad, for example, he spent much more time to understand the needs of people who would be affected by the project than on the design brief for which he had been engaged. Not surprisingly, his proposals did not suit his clients, the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD), who prevaricated repeatedly, thus stalling its implementation – and consequently the settlement of his professional fees.

His office in Aya Nagar, an urban village at the outskirts of Delhi, was a living laboratory that manifested the range of his design ideology, from the organic typology of the building to its setting in a carefully curated garden with over a hundred species of plants. It contained a furniture workshop (The Windmill), an exhibition space for not only the furniture he produced but also where he regularly displayed the products of other craftspeople, space to present eclectic public lectures by experts on their works, and where he hosted his legendary parties for his wide network of professional associates, clients and friends. His office at Aya Nagar was not only an expression of his professional credo but his social life as well: besides being a serious professional he was also a bon vivant.

I knew him for almost three decades, both professionally and socially. We purchased adjacent farms outside Gurugram, where we built our respective farm houses. I was only perfunctorily involved with my farm, but he expended as much thought and energy to develop his as any of his professional projects. He constructed an experimental bamboo house, and transplanted another, an authentic wooden tarwaad house from Kerala, which he had dismantled and reassembled in his farm by the traditional asharis. To him, the farm was as important a laboratory as his Aya Nagar office. A few months before he died, during one of our last meetings at the farm, he spoke of his plans to live and work from the farm and explore an alternate life style. Throughout his life, his quest for seeking a better future remained undiminished.

I was only one among his wide circle of friends. But he made each of us feel special. While I had much more in common with him, he bonded as comfortably with my wife and her feminist ideas and he also indulged my daughter’s outrageous demands for bespoke furniture for her small apartment without demur. To him, everyone was special. He was as affectionate and generous with all his friends. And moreover, his loyalty was unwavering. For example, we had to sell our beloved farm at a time when I was challenging his proposals for the redevelopment of Chandni Chowk in the High Court of Delhi, but he consoled us by insisting that we could always use his farm whenever we wanted.

This is what made him a visionary professional and a great human being.

A Tribute to Pradeep Sachdeva, by Anisha Shekhar Mukherji

Pradeep Sachdeva Tribute~ Anisha Shekhar Mukherji

Katakam and Sachdeva, which then became Pradeep Sachdeva Design Associates, in Khirkee Village Extension, was virtually my first office. And Pradeep Sachdeva the first person whom I looked up to as a boss. I worked there for about a year and a half, which was unusual since I went through offices at such a frenetic pace when I graduated, that the joke amongst my batch-mates was “which office is she in this week?”

But then Pradeep’s office was unusual.

It was a vibrant experimental space, interspersed with whimsical courtyards and peppered with bright colours and people—and Pradeep himself as whimsical, interesting and thought-provoking as the setting he had created. There was no stuffy hierarchy about him. Though a stickler for work, he always gave us a lot of space to figure out how we wanted to work. Ideas and opinions flowed as freely through the studio as did mosquitoes and butterflies wandering in through the open windows. He had strong opinions but that did not ever stop him from inviting suggestions from those around him—even if you were a trainee or newly minted architect.

I learnt many things from watching him work, and working with him. And it was all such fun that it did not seem like work most of the time. Pradeep did several things at the same time and with great elan and good humour. He invariably had a big smile to greet us with, despite managing so many things. His office also had a furniture showroom and a workshop down the village street. We were encouraged to go there, try out the anthropometrics of the furniture already made, get models made of building or furniture details we were working on, talk to the carpenters and learn from them. All this filled in the gaps in the largely theoretical architectural education I had received in college.

(Following images have been taken from Architect Pradeep Sachdeva’s website –

The need to actually experience every aspect of design rather than just make drawings, was the reason for my flitting in and out of offices before I arrived at Khirkee. And that is also perhaps the reason that even after I left Pradeep’s office, I still hold on to a wooden scale model of a column designed for one of the first buildings I worked on there. A reminder of how important it is to spend time on, and enjoy the design process.

Pradeep’s method of teaching you how to design in the real world was to throw you at the deep end, and let you swim. He would send us to meet consultants, clients and contractors. I remember being surprised when I was asked many years later to speak to a group of visiting European architects about my experience in working as a woman-architect in India. Perhaps because gender was so incidental in the working environment created in Pradeep’s office, I have thought of myself as an architect, never really as a woman architect. Pradeep was concerned and caring about all his staff, but he did not believe in any special concessions just because you were female, which is an intensely liberating attitude.

We learnt to take so many things in our stride because of this, whether it was negotiating our way back to office on deserted roads from site-visits to farmhouses on the fringe of the city, in a time when auto-rickshaws were only occasional. Or conferring and communicating with all sorts of clients. Or being made to hold our own in discussions with the sculptors, fashion-designers, craft-enthusiasts and myriad other professionals who were constantly in and out of the office. In the year and a half I was there, I was encouraged to develop, detail, and oversee the construction of three buildings from scratch to finish.

There is nothing as heady as participating in every aspect of the creation of a building from conception to construction, and being given the opportunity to visualise it in its parts and its entirety. I, and others before and after me, were fortunate to be able to do this at Pradeep’s office, because he was so generous in delegating responsibilities, and seeing the potential of everyone he interacted with. And because he himself spanned so many levels of design with ease.

His office was a great place to be in, and in a sense open house—as was his house. If we happened to be held up working late, he would insist that I come to his home and eat dinner with his family, rather than go back and cook in my PG room. And Sunita, his lovely wife, without batting an eyelid, would concoct the most delicious dishes while I played with their children. Curious and lively, Pradeep had the ability to invest even a little project with possibilities. And to take on even the largest projects with confidence.

He brimmed with energy and plans, as diverse as the many books that enlivened the office. In shifting out from Khirkee to Ayanagar, he took up an even bigger palate to paint his ideas on. When I last met him, by a fortunate chance at the India International Centre one sunny afternoon this January, his smile was as wide and welcoming as it always was. Pradeep has such a positive presence, that even though I have been told he is no more, I cannot think of him as not being there.

Original blog post can be accessed on THIS LINK.

Architecture In The Age Of The Pandemic, Snehanshu Mukherjee

Snehanshu Mukherjee- Architecture-Pandemic

Snehanshu Mukherjee, Founding Partner, talks about architecture post the pandemic and how the values and concerns that have driven all design at TEAM over the past 35 years are even more relevant and important now and in the times to come.

After the lock-down ends will we still continue to enjoy blue skies and clean air? Will our rivers get cleaner? In other words, shall we be in a position to benefit from the few unexpected boons that the lock-down has brought upon us?

As architects, we may feel that we have very little say in such matters. My question is, is this true? I have been thinking of these things especially these days amidst the pandemic. To me the primary question is – what would be the architecture for or of the future?

I expect there will be an increased concern for designing intrinsically healthy buildings. I hope, that to begin with, buildings will be rooted in their context and at the very least oriented correctly. I hope that we will not make buildings that become glass clad solar cookers – which then require extra tonnages of air-conditioning to make them barely liveable! Buildings that do not generate pollutants and toxic fumes within them by using materials for construction that create such a condition. Buildings that are built without adding to the land fill sites or the pollution of our environment.

Instead we should be constructing beautiful buildings frugally. We should embrace an art of building that is based upon principles of conservation, reuse and rejuvenation.

Conservation of materials, resources, skills, energy – both in the process of construction, and through the life cycle of the building constructed. None of these attributes are new inventions, this was the way “good” buildings were constructed earlier – even in my own lifetime. These have been our guiding principles in TEAM over the last 35 years of thinking, designing and making architecture.

We have chosen to remain uninfluenced by trends or passing fashions. Instead our approach to architecture has been aimed at reinforcing some perennial values, regardless of the size or complexity of a project. Be it as large and complex as the National Gallery of Modern Art at India Gate, or the small single room structure, Swamiji’s Meeting Room at Osho Dham.

We have kept to Vitruvian values, of creating efficient, economical, value for money and yet sophisticated buildings, that are rooted to their context. Frugal in use of resources and yet places that are inherently beautiful; appreciated and enjoyed by those who inhabit them. Built within estimated budgets and often even lower than the budget!

Therefore my answer to the questions I had raised, is – that architects and architecture have a huge role in shaping the built and natural environment.

Looking back I realise, that we in TEAM, have always conceived and delivered our projects with this understanding as a part of our design thinking. Our learnings through the experience of building so many types of projects, have today consolidated into an evolved method of design, which we can say with some certainty will comprehensively address the needs of a new built environment – as we move into the era of the pandemic. An environment where concerns of good health and wellbeing are foremost.

नाण्याची दुसरी बाजू: The Other Side of Coin, by Design nonstop

नाण्याची दुसरी बाजू: The Other Side of Coin, by Design nonstop 19

गेल्या रविवारी आपण टर्कीच्या क्रोएसस राजाची नाणी पहिली. २५०० वर्षापूर्वी, व्यापारात प्रमाणबद्धता यावी म्हणून चलन जन्माला आलं. जसजसा व्यापार वाढत गेला, तसतशी चलनाची कल्पना रुजत गेली आणि फुलतही गेली. ही नाणी घडवताना काय आणि कसा विचार केला असेल? चलन धातूचं का असावं? त्यातही सोनंच का बर? तांब, पितळ, चांदी, सोनं, लोखंड हे धातू आणि त्यांची मिश्रणं वस्तूंना आकार देण्यासाठी आपण वापरत होतो. धातू घडवण्याचं, ते एकमेकात मिसळून वस्तू साठी योग्य गुणधर्म असलेले मिश्रधातू मिळवण्याचं तंत्र आपण विकसित केलं होतं. त्यामुळे धातू वितळवून पुन्हा घडवला तरीही त्याचं वजन बदलत नाही हे लक्षात आलं होतं. तसच धातूच्या वस्तूला मार बसला तर तो पातळ होऊ शकेल, आकार बदलू शकेल पण त्याचा तुकडा पडणं अवघड आहे. तुकडा करायला मुद्दाम कष्ट घ्यावे लागतात. त्यामुळे चलन धातूपासून तयार करायचं हे नक्की ठरलं. आता मुद्दा येतो तो सोन्याचा. खाणीतून इतर धातू वेगळे काढणं तुलनेत सोपं होतं पण सोनं आणि चांदी यांची जोडी तोडणं अवघड होतं. सोनं आणि चांदी दोन्ही धातू रासायनिक पदार्थांना दाद देत नाहीत. त्यामुळे या धातूचं मिश्रण – त्याची पूड करून,  मिठाबरोबर तापवून, म्हणजे त्यातली चांदी जाळून सोनं वेगळं काढलं जाऊ लागलं. एवढे कष्ट घेतल्यामुळे सोन्याला जास्त मोल मिळणं स्वाभाविक आहेच, आणि दुसरं कारण म्हणजे आधी म्हटल्या प्रमाणे सोन्यावर कोणत्याही रसायनाचा परिणाम होत नाही, त्याला गंज लागत नाही म्हणजेच त्याची शुद्धता कायम आहे. सोनं हे आजही प्रमाणबद्धतेचं, अच्युताचं प्रतिक आहे.
Image (square stamped coins of Mauryan dynasty)

क्रोएससची ही चलनाची कल्पना जणू कामधेनुच होती. तिला वश करण्याची लालसा इतर राजांना न झाल्यासच नवल. सायरस नी लिडियावर कब्जा करून क्रोएससचं चलन ताब्यात घेतलं. पुढे या सायरसचं राज्य मध्यपुर्वेतील बॅबिलोनियापासुन सिंधूघाटी पर्यंत पसरलं. आता जरा २५०० वर्षांपूर्वीच्या सिंधुप्रदेशात डोकावून पाहूयात. त्याकाळी आपल्याकडे मौर्यांचं साम्राज्य होतं. व्यापाराचे दाखले आपल्याकडे मोहेंजो-दारो पासून आहेत. त्याकाळी आपल्याकडे चलनी नाणी नव्हती पण मोजमापाचं साधन होतं बर का. मोहेंजो-दारो चे व्यवहार कवड्या मोजून व्हायचे. जगाचा इतिहास पहिला तर सारख्याच कल्पनांचा उगम सगळीकडे साधारण एकाच वेळेला होताना दिसतो. जे लिडिया मध्ये क्रोएससला सुचलं तेच महाजनपद राजांनाही उमगलं होतं. ‘कार्षापण’ या त्यांच्या चांदीच्या चौकोनी मोहरा. मौर्यांच्या साम्राज्यात तर या राजमुद्रा म्हणून गणल्या जात. कौटिल्य अर्थशास्त्रानुसार इतर कुठल्याही मोहरा वापरणं हा गुन्हा होत असे. अर्थकारणाचं रुपांतर राजकारण आणि सत्तेत होताना आपल्याला या काळात नक्कीच दिसेल.

आता मात्र नाण्याची दुसरी बाजू उलगडायला सुरुवात होते. व्यापारात प्रमाण ठरलेल्या चलनावर सत्ताधार्यांनी आपली मोहर उमटवायला सुरुवात केली. पहिल्यांदा नाण्यावर कोणत्या व्यक्तीचं चित्र छापलं गेलं असेल तर ते अलेक्झांडरचं होतं. संपूर्ण जगावर सत्ता गाजवायची महत्वाकांक्षा असलेला हा उन्मत्त आणि आक्रमक अलेक्झांडर! यांनी स्वतः आपली मोहर चलनात आणली तर त्यात आश्चर्य काहीच नाही. पण गम्मत म्हणजे अलेक्झांडरचा चेहेरा असलेलं नाणं त्याच्या पश्चात त्याचा उत्तराधीकारी – लायसीमकस यानी चलनात आणलं. त्याचा हेतू काय असावा? अलेक्झांडरचा पराक्रम एवढा मोठा होता की त्याची बरोबरी करणं लायसीमकसला अशक्य होतं. पण त्याचं ‘गुडविल’ वापरता येणं शक्य होतं. तेंव्हा आपण अलेक्झांडर पुढे नम्र राहून त्याच्याच नावचं छत्र चालवणार आहोत हा संदेश लोकांपर्यंत त्याला पोहोचवायचा होता. आणि तो पोहोचवण्याचं सर्वात परिणामकारक साधन हे नाणंच नाही का?

नाण्याची दुसरी बाजू: The Other Side of Coin, by Design nonstop 25
image (coins of Alexander)

आता पुन्हा एकदा आपण भारता कडे वळूयात. इथेही अलेक्झांडर सारखाच महत्वाकांक्षी, मौर्य साम्राज्यातला शेवटचा – सम्राट अशोक. त्याचं मात्र कलिंग युद्धानंतर मतपरिवर्तन झालं आणि त्यानी अध्यात्मिक मार्ग जवळ केला आणि बौद्ध धर्माचा प्रसारही सुरु केला. ह्या काळात सर्वत्र नवीन धर्मांची स्थापना होऊ लागली होती. मध्यपूर्वेत ख्रिस्तीधर्म, इस्लाम यांची सुरुवात झाली, भारतात जैन धर्माबरोबर बौद्ध धर्म प्रचारला जात होता. गुप्तांचं साम्राज्य स्थापन होई पर्यंत सिंधू संस्कृतीच्या जीवनशैलीला ‘हिंदू-धर्म’ मानलं गेलं नव्हतं. ते कार्य गुप्त सम्राटांनी सुमारे १८०० वर्षांपूर्वी केलं. गुप्त हे विष्णूचे उपासक होते. ज्या प्रकारे विष्णूनी पृथ्वीचं संरक्षण केलं आणि सुबत्ता निर्माण केली, त्याच प्रेरणेनी गुप्त राज्य करतील असं त्याचं आश्वासन होतं. जैन आणि बौद्ध धर्माच्या बरोबरीने हिंदू जीवनशैलीही दृढ व्हावी यासाठी मंदिरांची बांधकामं, स्थापना, यज्ञविधी, तसच हिंदू शास्त्र, कला, काव्य यालाही प्रोत्साहन देण्याचं काम गुप्तांनी केलं. वराहमिहिरासारखे तत्त्वज्ञ, भास आणि कालिदासा सारखे कवी-नाटककार, आर्यभट्टांसारखे गणिती-खागोलतज्ञ, सुश्रुतासारखे वैद्यचिकित्सक, आणि कामसूत्र रचणारे वात्स्यायन या काळात होऊन गेले. कला, तत्त्वज्ञान, शास्त्र, विज्ञान सगळ्यांचीच प्रगती झपाट्यानी सुरु होती. खरोखरच सिंधुप्रदेशाचा हा सुवर्णकाळ होता. या सगळ्या प्रगतीचे प्रेरक असलेल्या गुप्तांनी डिझाईन केलेली सोन्याची नाणी त्यांच्या तत्वांची, विचारांची साक्ष देतात.

नाण्याची दुसरी बाजू: The Other Side of Coin, by Design nonstop 27

इथे नाण्यावर अश्वमेध घोडा दाखवला आहे. सनातन परंपरा पाळून अश्वमेध यज्ञ करून सत्पात्री राज्यपद मिळवणारा राजाचं हे प्रतिक आहे.

१ल्या नाण्यावर अश्वारूढ असलेला दुसरा चंद्रगुप्त दिसतो आहे आणि २र्या नाण्यावर सिंहाला जेरबंद करणारा कुमारगुप्त.

चलन म्हणून अस्तित्वात आलेली नाणी १८०० वर्षांपासून कितीतरी संदेश आपल्यापर्यंत पोहोचवत आहेत. आपण प्रिंटींग प्रेस ही आजच्या मास-कम्यूनिकेशन ची जननी मानतो. पण त्याच्या कितीतरी आधी नाण्यांचा उपयोग प्रसार मध्यम म्हणून झालेला दिसतो. हा वापर आजही तसाच टिकून आहे हे तुमच्या लक्षात आलं असेलच. एखाद्या देशाच्या/संस्कृतीच्या इतिहासाचा आढावा फक्त नाणी पाहून देखील घेता येऊ शकेल. नाशिकला आजही नाणे संग्रहालय पाहायला गेलात तर याची प्रचीती तुम्हाला नक्की येईल.

धातूचे नाणे: Story of Metal Coins, by Design nonstop

धातूचे नाणे: Story of Metal Coins, by Design nonstop 35

परिस्थितीशी झगडत, मार्ग काढत आणि मेंदूला चालना देत आपल्या डिझाईनच्या गोष्टीतला माणूस आता स्थिरावला आहे. छोट्या छोट्या पाड्यांमध्ये आपल्या कुटुंबाबरोबर राहणारा हा माणूस प्रगतीच्या नवीन वाटा शोधतो आहे. वैयक्तिक, कौटुंबिक आणि सामाजिक प्रगतीचे टप्पे शोधतांना माणसाला एक नवीन गोष्ट सापडली आहे ती म्हणजे ‘ व्यवहार ‘. स्वतःला जे जमेल ते करून किंवा इतरांशी संवाद साधून आपल्या जगण्यातल्या सगळ्या गरजा पूर्ण करु शकणार नाही याची खात्री आल्यावर माणूस सुरुवातीला वस्तूंची देवाणघेवाण करू लागला. ही देवाणघेवाण वस्तूंच्या बदल्यात वस्तू देणे किंवा एखादी सेवा देणे या स्वरूपाची होती. आपल्या सगळ्यांनाच परिचित असणारा हा व्यवहार म्हणजे वस्तुविनिमय प्रणाली किंवा बार्टर सिस्टीम होय. विकासाच्या वाटेवर धावत असताना वस्तुविनिमया मार्फत व्यवहार करणाऱ्या माणसाला या प्रणालीच्या मर्यादा जाणवू लागल्या. गावं, शहरं, विविध प्रदेश जसे जोडले गेले तसे दैनंदिन व्यवहार अधिक गुंतागुंतीचे होऊ लागले. वस्तुविनिमय करताना एखाद्या वस्तूची किंवा सेवेची गरज, गुणवत्ता, बाजारभाव, उपलब्धता अशा एक ना अनेक गोष्टी भेडसावू लागल्या. या व्यावहारिक अडचणींवर मात करत माणसाने वस्तुविनिमय प्रणाली मोडीत काढली आणि इथे जन्म झाला तो मानवी उत्क्रांतीच्या इतिहासातील अत्यंत महत्त्वाच्या कल्पित संकल्पनेचा (mythical concept) ज्याला आपण ‘ चलन ‘ (currency) म्हणतो आणि या कल्पित संकल्पनेचं डिझाइन केलेलं भौतिक रूप म्हणजे ‘ नाणं ’ (coin).

आपली डिझाईन ची गोष्ट आज घडते आहे मध्यपूर्वेतील ‘टर्की’ नावाच्या देशात. साधारण २५०० वर्षांपूर्वी पश्चिम टर्कीत ‘लिडिया’ नावाचं राज्य होतं. ‘क्रॉसेस’ हा या राज्याचा राजा होता. भौगोलिक दृष्ट्या अत्यंत महत्त्वाचे आणि उत्तर पश्चिमेकडील एक मोठे व्यापाराचे केंद्र असलेले ‘सर्डीस’ शहर हे लिडिया राज्याचे राजधानीचे ठिकाण. हात लागेल त्याचं सोनं करणाऱ्या ‘मिडास’ नावाच्या राजाची आख्यायिका आपण सगळ्यांनी लहानपणी ऐकली आहे, या अख्यायिकेतला एक असा समज आहे की हा मिडास राजा या सर्डीस शहरात राहत असे. इसवी सन पूर्व ५५० मध्ये क्रॉसेस राजाने सर्डीस शहरात मोठ्या प्रमाणात सोन्याचे उत्खनन केले आणि या मौलिक धातु मधून मानवी उत्क्रांतीच्या इतिहासात ‘चलन’ म्हणून सर्वप्रथम वापरली गेलेली सोन्याची नाणी बनवली.

धातूचे नाणे: Story of Metal Coins, by Design nonstop 37
लिडिया येथील‘क्रॉसेस’ सोन्याचे नाणे _इसवी सन पूर्व ५५० – Source:

लिडियन नाणी अस्तित्वात येण्याच्या आधी व्यवहारांमध्ये मौलिक धातूंची देवाण-घेवाण केली जात असे. बहुतेक वेळेला सोन्याची किंवा चांदीची ढेकळे या कारणासाठी वापरली जात असत. पूर्वी व्यवहारात या धातूंच्या आकाराला महत्त्व नसून त्यांचे वजन आणि शुद्धता या दोन कसोट्यांवर व्यवहारातली त्यांची किंमत ठरवली जात असे. परंतु यात एक महत्त्वाची त्रुटी कायम साशंकता निर्माण करणारी होती; ती म्हणजे नैसर्गिक अवस्थेत सोने आणि चांदी यांचे कायम मिसळण असलेले धातूचे साठे सापडतात. कित्येकदा तर यांच्याबरोबर बाजार भावांनी कमी असणारे इतर धातू देखील सापडतात. या साशंकतेनमुळे बऱ्याचदा व्यवहार अडकून पडत किंवा रद्दबातल होत असत. या परिस्थितीवर जालीम उपाय म्हणून लिडियन लोकांनी शुद्ध सोने आणि शुद्ध चांदी वापरून बनवलेली ठराविक वजनांची नाणी बाजारात आणली आणि तिथून पुढे व्यवहाराचा इतिहास पूर्णपणे बदलला. पण लिडियन लोकांना हे समजलं कसं ? या प्रश्नाचं उत्तर देताना इतिहास तज्ञ डॉक्टर पॉल क्रॉडोक सांगतात की, मिश्र धातु मधून तांबे किंवा पितळ बाहेर काढणे तितकसं अवघड नाही, पण खरा प्रश्न उद्भवतो तो म्हणजे सोने उत्खननात निघणाऱ्या चांदीचा. रासायनिक प्रक्रियेत सोने अतिशय कणखर पदार्थ आहे पण चांदी देखील यथार्थ प्रमाणात रासायनिक प्रक्रियेत तग धरू शकते; यावर उपाय म्हणून लिडियन लोकांनी खाणीतून सोन्याची अत्यंत बारीक पावडर गोळा करायला सुरुवात केली त्याचबरोबर धातूच्या मोठ्या ढेकळांना ठोकून बारीक पत्रा काढून तो मीठ आणि सोडियम क्लोराइड यांच्या मिश्रणात साधारण आठशे डिग्री सेल्सिअसला तापवून त्यातून सोने धातु वेगळा केला. अशा पद्धतीने शुद्ध सोन्यापासून बनवलेल्या नाण्यांवर त्याचे वजन आणि त्याची किंमत कळण्यासाठी लोहाराच्या मदतीने मुद्रा घडवायला सुरुवात केली. या नाण्यांना मुद्रांकित करण्यासाठी सिंहाच्या छबीचा वापर केला जाऊ लागला. नाण्याचे वजन आणि त्याची किंमत ही त्यावर मुद्रांकित केलेल्या सिंहाच्या छबी वरून ठरवली जात असे. जसे की, सगळ्यात कमी किंमतीच्या नाण्यावर सिंहाचा फक्त पंजा मुद्रांकित केला जात असे. लिडियन लोकांनी चालू केलेल्या ह्या चलन पद्धतीमुळे व्यवसाय करणाऱ्यांची नाण्याची शुद्धता आणि वजन मोजून बघायची चिंताच मिटली.

धातूचे नाणे: Story of Metal Coins, by Design nonstop 39
लिडिया येथील सोने आणि चांदीची वेगवेगळ्या आकारातील नाणी- Source:

या बदलामुळे सर्डीस शहरात व्यवहार करणे कोणालाही अतिशय सरळ, सोपं आणि आकर्षक वाटू लागलं. अर्थातच लोकांचा जसा विश्वास वाढला तसं सर्डीसच्या या नाण्यांनी त्याच्या भौगोलिक सीमा ओलांडल्या आणि लिडियन लोकांचे हे नाणे दैनंदिन व्यवहारातले मानक बनून गेले. पुढे काही काळानंतर झालेल्या एका लढाईत पर्शियन सम्राट सायरसने क्रॉसेसचा पराभव आणि क्रॉसेसलाच आपला आर्थिक सल्लागार बनवून राज्यकारभार करू लागला. व्यवहारी क्रोसेसने या संधीचा पुरेपूर फायदा करून घेत लिडियन लोकांनी बनवलेल्या या नाण्यांना भूमध्य आणि आशियाई बाजारपेठांमध्ये महत्त्वाची जागा मिळवून दिली. सर्डीस मध्ये डिझाईन केल्या गेलेल्या या एका छोट्याशा नाण्यानी पुढे आधुनिक व्यवहार आणि राजकारण यांना ऐतिहासिक कलाटणी दिली. प्रांतांपरत्वे नाण्यांच्या आकारात, धातूत आणि मुद्रांकनात बदल होत गेले पण समाजात या काल्पनिक संकल्पनेचं महत्व आजही अढळ आहे यात शंका नाही. डिझाईनच्या ह्या गमती जमती अशाच पुढे चालू राहतील पण आता कधी तुमच्या हाताला नाणं लागेल तेव्हा या गोष्टीची आठवण होईल इतकं नक्की.

चिकणमातीची पाटी – Story of a Clay tablet

चिकणमातीची पाटी - स्नेहल जोशी आणि हृषिकेश खेडकर

डिझाईनचा शोध घेत आपण मानवी उत्क्रांतीच्या प्रवासाला निघालो आहोत. या लेखमालिकेच्या अनुषंगाने आपल्याला उत्क्रांतीच्या वाटेवर भेटणारा हा माणूस आता स्थिरावला आहे. भटकंती करत फिरणारा हा माणूस इ.स १०,००० वर्षांपूर्वीच्या टप्प्यात पोहोचला आहे आणि नित्यनियमाने शेती करू लागला आहे. शेत जमिनीस बांधल्या गेलेल्या या माणसाची दिनचर्या आता धान्य पेरणे, उगवणे, त्याची साठवण करणे आणि स्वतःची आणि स्वतःच्या कुटुंबाची भुकेची गरज भागवणे ह्या गोष्टींशी बांधली गेलेली आहे. अखंड वाहणारी नदी, सुपीक जमीन आणि अनुकूल हवामान या त्रीमिती मुळे एक ना अनेक माणसं आणि त्यांचे कळप एका ठिकाणी स्थिरावतात आणि मानवी उत्क्रांतीच्या इतिहासात दडलेल्या आपल्या डिझाईनच्या गोष्टीला एक वेगळी कलाटणी मिळते. एका भटक्याचे परिवर्तन होऊन झालेला हा शेतकरी माणूस आता हवामानावर आणि पाण्यावर आधारित शेती करू लागला. वर्षातला जास्तीत जास्त वेळ मशागत करत घालवणे आणि उरलेला थोडासा वेळ कापणी करणे हा जणू त्याच्या जगण्याचा अविभाज्य भाग झाला. आज जरी मुबलक अन्नाची शाश्वती असली तरी पुढच्या आठवड्यात, महिन्यात किंवा वर्षात उद्भवू शकणारी अन्नाची भ्रांत त्याला सतावू लागली. शेती करताना सतत येणाऱ्या या ताणतणावात आज अस्तित्वात असलेल्या महाकाय सामाजिक आणि राजकीय व्यवस्थेची पाळंमुळं जन्माला आली.

शेतीच्या निमित्ताने एकत्र आलेल्या ह्या कळपामध्ये देवाण-घेवाण चालू झाली. यातून त्यांच्या वस्त्या बनल्या, अनेक वस्त्या एकत्र येऊन गावं वसली ; पुढे या गावांची शहरे झाली आणि याची परिणीती झाली ती मानवी संस्कृतीत. अनुक्रमे नाईल नदी, तिग्रीस-युफ्रेटिस नदी आणि सिंधू नदी यांच्या तीरांवर असलेल्या ईजिप्त संस्कृती, मेसोपोटेमियन संस्कृती आणि सिंधू संस्कृती म्हणून आपण यांना ओळखतो. अन्नधान्याचा मुबलक साठा, आर्थिक सुबत्ता आणि स्थिरावलेली शेती यातून जन्माला आले राजकारण, युद्ध, कला आणि तत्त्वज्ञान. पृथ्वीच्या केवळ दोन टक्के भूभागावर स्थिरावलेल्या या संस्कृतींमध्ये शेतकऱ्या बरोबर या संस्कृतींमध्ये राजे, सरकारी अधिकारी, सैनिक, धर्मोपदेशक, कलाकार आणि तत्त्ववेत्ते राहू लागले . एव्हाना तुमच्या लक्षात आलं असेलच की या वेगवेगळ्या माणसाच्या रूपांनी आपण एक समाजव्यवस्था जन्माला घातली. ही समाजव्यवस्था टिकवण्यासाठी मग कायदे, नियम, प्रथा, शिष्टाचार, परंपरा अशा एक ना अनेक गोष्टी माणूस प्रयत्नपूर्वक अंगीकारू लागला. मानवनिर्मित या समाज व्यवस्थांमध्ये अफाट माहितीचे स्त्रोत निर्माण होऊन वाहू लागले. जसे की मानवनिर्मित कायदे, करप्रणालीचे हिशेब, सैन्यासाठी आवश्यक असलेले अन्नधान्य आणि दारूगोळा यांच्या नोंदी, साजऱ्या केल्या जाणाऱ्या उत्सवांच्या दिनदर्शिका आणि बरच काही. गेल्या लाखो वर्षांपासून स्मरणशक्तीच्या जोरावर माहितीची साठवण करणाऱ्या माणसाला त्याच्या मेंदूच्या परिमित क्षमतेची जाणीव झाली आणि इथे जन्म झाला तो ‘लेखनाचा’.

आजची आपली डिझाईनची गोष्ट घडती आहे मेसोपोटेमियन संस्कृतीतील ‘ऊरुक’ नावाच्या शहरात. याचे भौगोलिक वास्तव्य सांगायचे झाले तर आजच्या अफगाणिस्तानातील बगदाद आणि बसरा शहरांच्या दरम्यान त्याकाळी ऊरुक शहर वसलेले होते. इसवी सन पूर्व ३५०० ते ३००० मध्ये ऊरुक शहरात प्रचंड सुबत्ता नांदत होती. शहराच्या वाढणाऱ्या लोकसंख्येबरोबर त्यांचा दैनंदिन व्यवहार आणि समाजव्यवस्थेत माहितीचे नवीन स्त्रोत निर्माण होत होते. आजमितीस अपरिचित असणाऱ्या एका सुमेरियन बुद्धिवंतांने या माहितीचा संचय आणि प्रक्रिया करण्यासाठी एका प्रणालीचा शोध लावला. माणसाच्या स्मरणशक्तीच्या क्षमतेवर अवलंबून नसलेल्या या प्रणालीने जन्म दिला लेखनासाठी वापरल्या जाणाऱ्या वाळवलेल्या चिकणमातीतील पाटीला.

चिकणमातीची पाटी - Story of a Clay tablet 43
सुमेरियन चिकणमातीची पाटी _ ई .स . पूर्व ३५०० ते ३०००
Image source:

सांकेतिक खुणांवर अवलंबून असलेल्या या लेखन पद्धतीला साहित्यलेखन नक्कीच म्हणता येणार नाही. माहिती मांडण्याची ही सांकेतिक भाषा प्रामुख्याने दोन खुणांचा वापर करते. पहिला म्हणजे १, १०, ६०, ६००, ३६०० हे दर्शवणार्‍या खुणा. ( सुमेरियन लोक मूळ ६ किंवा मूळ १० च्या पटीत माहिती मांडत असत. मूळ ६ मानून बनवलेल्या त्यांच्या या पद्धतीतून पुढे ६० मिनिटे, २४ तास किंवा ३६० अंश अशा मापन पद्धती अस्तित्वात आल्या.) दुसऱ्या सांकेतिक खुणेत माणसं, जनावरं, व्यापारी, भौगोलिक सीमा, तारखा अशा स्वरूपाची माहिती मांडली जात असे. या दोन्ही प्रकारच्या सांकेतिक खुणा चिकणमातीने बनवलेल्या पाटीवर कोरून माहितीचे संकलन केले जात होते. विटा, घरं, भांडी आणि शहराच्या बांधकामात एक अत्यंत महत्वपूर्ण भूमिका बजावणारी ही चिकणमाती आपल्या पाटीसाठी एक उत्तम साधनसामुग्री ठरते कारण ही माती भट्टीत भाजली की पुढे अनेक वर्षे तिला काहीही होत नाही; तसेच आकार घडवायला सोपी आणि गुळगुळीत पृष्ठभाग देणारी ही पाटी लिखाणासाठी उत्तम पर्याय म्हणता येईल. पाटी इतक्या काळ टिकली म्हणूनच आज आपण इतिहासात डोकावून तिचा आणि त्या अनुषंगाने त्या काळातील संस्कृतीचा अभ्यास करू शकतो. ऊरुक येथील उत्खननात शेकडोंनी सापडलेल्या या पाट्यांवर त्याकाळातील शहराला आवश्यक असणाऱ्या वेगवेगळ्या माहितीचे संकलन केलेले आढळून येते. जसे की, दैनंदिन कार्यालयीन व्यवहार, मोठ्या धार्मिक संस्था चालवण्यासाठी लागणारे जिन्नस आणि खर्च, सैन्यासाठी येणारा खर्च इत्यादी. मानवी उत्क्रांतीच्या इतिहासात सापडलेला पहिल्या लेखनाचा मजकूर हा गोष्ट, कविता, तत्वज्ञान किंवा कायदा सांगणारा नसून हिशेब किंवा कर प्रणाली सांगणारा आहे. लेखनाला मेसोपोटेमिया, ईजिप्त, चायना आणि मध्य अमेरिका येथून सुरुवात झाली पण सगळ्यात पहिले लिखाण कुठे घडले याचे खात्रीलायक उत्तर देणे अवघड आहे. पण आज मितिला काळाच्या ओघात टिकलेल्या आपल्या चिकणमातीच्या पाटीने दिलेले याचे उत्तर ‘मेसोपोटेमिया’ आहे असे म्हणता येईल.

Article originally published HERE.

Building…and it’s Biology – Raman Vig

Building Biology - Raman Vig

When I first came across the word ‘Building Biology’, it left me a bit amused and intrigued. Over past few decades, I had never heard about it during studies or practice of architecture! Yet, little did I suspect that ‘Building biology’ will become so integral to my perception of ‘holistic space design’ that it will mark a distinct milestone of sorts in my professional journey! In this article, I hope to share my understanding of this subject and how it has potential to herald a ‘new era of design consciousness’ in our architecture. Before we delve any further in understanding ‘Building Biology’ , it will be worthwhile to examine following facts;

Fact ‐1. In words of Nikola Tesla: If you want to find the secrets of the universe, think in terms of energy, frequency, and vibration. Science tells us that there is no dead matter; atoms are made of well‐ defined quanta of energy. We all are electric beings ‐ this too has been long established scientifically. Our biological systems and their physical environment are in constant communication with each other. Even small signals have an effect—individually or together. Signals from the physical environment such as space, atmosphere, climate, soil, building materials, technical installations and so on act on atoms, cells, and the entire body, which, in turn, has an effect on the nerve system, cell communication, genetic material, control and regulatory systems, metabolism, immune system, blood formation, and circulatory system.

Fact ‐2. An average person is likely to spent over 90% of life inside artificial structures. So it matters very much what the walls, ceiling, and furnishings of this indoor living environment are made of. In past two decades, building industry invented and introduced numerous building materials, systems and technologies to either address the growing demands of time , space and economy or to achieve better performance or strength and at times even to be sustainable and save natural resources. As a result, many new materials that are alien to nature and have been artificially synthesized have become part of our life and surrounding environment. Use of natural materials like wood, stone and earth in their natural form has become less with every passing year. Human bodies, which were adapted to living in natural materials and natural air has been put into a completely synthetic environment with air conditioning! This modern way of building causes serious interference with biological systems. As a consequence, building‐related diseases and sick building syndrome are increasingly on the rise. Simply because we are unable to adapt to this fast changing ‘ artificial’ living environment.

Fact‐3. We have surrounded ourselves with unprecedented amounts of electric and magnetic fields (all the gadgets around us, computers, electrical lines etc.) , radio field radiations ( cell phone communications, television and radio broadcast, GPS etc.) and a plethora of unnatural static fields (computer, cell phone, LCD screens and interiors made of synthetic new age materials). Every time we enter a ‘ wi‐fi ‘ zone or move around in a city where our cell phone works, we immerse ourselves in an ocean of radiations. Whenever technological shift takes 2G to 3G onto 4G and finally 5G , IoT ( Internet of things)‐ this ocean of radiations becomes denser with new frequency bands of electromagnetic fields.

Historically, these fields did not exist naturally in such intensities ever on our planet. So over a long period of time, with process of evolution, human body has aligned to the natural levels of earth and cosmic radiations, magnetism and even miniscule amount of radioactivity which is naturally present in earth’s environment. Then suddenly in a very short span of time, say over past three‐ four decades, owing to a geometric rise in technical advancements, we find ourselves surrounded with environmental conditions ( especially the invisible radiations) of which human body and mind has no prior conditioning.

The subject of Building Biology seeks to strike ‘back’ the balance that we have lost with nature. It is a broad based inter‐disciplinary subject that encompasses all the sciences and knowledge branches that strive to bring back the balance between human beings and nature through architecture. Natural sciences, especially biology and behavioural sciences, geo‐biology, radiobiology, electro‐biology, psychology , physiology, material science, ecology and all aspects of economics , technology and architecture are integrated into the holistic framework of Building biology.

As architects, engineers and building trades people, we are mostly trained along technical , aesthetical, functional, sustainable and economic lines. Biological aspects are almost completely ignored. In the past, this may have worked because only natural building materials were used and adverse health effects due to buildings were negligible ( and of course all the electromagnetic and static fields were absent completely!) Numerous connections between health, illness, and living environment have already been researched and made freely available. Yet too little of this knowledge is known to the public or to educationists and policy makers. Perhaps this is why the biological impact of our built spaces and planning strategy is never ( or extremely rarely) considered in architectural design, urban planning and our everyday living. Following are just a few common environmental influences to consider:


  •   Impacts of Terrestrial ( geopathic) radiations on human health and immunity
  •   Radioactivity of commonly used materials like granites , basalts etc.
  •   Alternating electromagnetic fields created by electric lines in sleeping areas and their adverse impact on our health
  •   Static fields created by computers, LCDs etc. and the electromagnetic pollution caused by same
  •   Adverse impacts of wi‐fi and other electromagnetic frequencies used for mobile communication
  •   Uni‐polar air ionization, caused by artificial surfaces, static fields etc.
  •   High CO2 levels in perpetually closed (air‐conditioned) workplaces ‐ and it’s impact on productivity
  •   Assessment of building materials w.r.t compatibility to human well being …and moreWhile all aforementioned have immense impact on well‐being of users of a space , however, these are hardly recognised as critical ingredients of a good architectural or interior design. Building biology addresses all these and more and develops a bridge between human well being by alignment of buildings with nature. It aims to create spaces that promote and facilitate good health, happiness and harmony for all those who inhabit them. Such an intervention of a ‘holistic , humane and nature centric design approach’ promises to herald a paradigm shift in the current ‘architectural design consciousness’.

    This, to my mind, is most achievable as well as an imminent need of the hour.

Human Bio-field, Immunity and Toxin overload- Raman Vig

Human Bio-field

A strong and balanced ‘Bio-field’ (also known as ‘Prana-shakti’ or ‘Chetna’ in India, ‘Chi’ in or ‘Qi’ in Oriental expression or commonly as ‘aura’) is the basis of good physical, mental and spiritual health. Our state of ‘Well Being’; both within and with the world around us, are the spontaneous outcomes of ‘experiencing good health holistically’.

Understanding Biofield

Most oriental traditions knew about the realm of life force (or Prana-shakti) since thousands of years. They even devised sophisticated systems to protect and enhance it so people could lead a healthy life just by aligning well to the cosmic forces and elements of nature. Yet this ‘natural force’ that is characteristic of all living beings, was never recognized as a distinctive ‘force of nature’ by the contemporary science. The western science continued to believe and operate with the premise that entire universe works with four fundamental force fields viz.: gravitation force filed, electromagnetic filed, weak nuclear and strong nuclear forces. It was only in 1994, the the term ‘biofield’ was proposed and adopted at the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) . They defined biofield as “a massless field, not necessarily electromagnetic, that surrounds and permeates living bodies and affects the body.”

Dr.Beverly Rubik, (PhD, Bio-Physicist and Advisory Panel Member to the National Institutes of Health, US); describes the Biofield as a matrix of natural electromagnetic fields that connect cells, tissues and organs and serve as the main communication network and regulator of life processes’. She summarizes: We all are essentially ‘electrical beings’.

Biofield and Immunity

Our ‘Biofield’ is our ‘subtle body’, or say an ‘energetic envelop’ that surrounds us. It is the first level of our ‘Being’ that gets impact whenever any change occurs in our environment.

Current perception of linking immunity mainly to the presence of correct and adequate ‘chemical components’ in the body is not flawed but it is not complete in itself. It is the ‘information matrix’ of one’s biofield that triggers and controls the functioning of all biochemical processes in our body. Simply put: The ‘subtle and invisible’ governs the ‘gross and manifest’! Understanding the dynamics of ‘enhancing, expanding and reinforcing’ the biofield is the basis of the emerging domains of ‘Energy Medicine’ and ‘Bioenergetic Architecture’

‘Toxin Overload’ on Earthlings!

In the world we have created for ourselves, our bodies are bombarded with more toxins than ever before  These toxins can be best described as ‘load’ that our body’s immune system has to counter. It’s important to understand that commonly the environmental and lifestyle generated ‘toxin loads’ are known. However, it is the energetic loads that impact the human biofield foremost . Following image describes the nature of different ‘Toxin loads’.

Biofield-Immunity-Toxin LoadsIt is important to know that many aforementioned loads act on our bodies simultaneously. Our biofield is constantly getting impacted (and it is also resisting/impacting back!) numerous ‘loads’. Whenever the ‘cumulative load effect’ diminishes or distorts our biofield for a long time, it beings to manifest in the physical realm of cells as disease.

The silver lining …..

Much is known and written about handling environment and lifestyle generated ‘toxin loads’ : Quit smoking, exercise regularly, destress with exercise, yoga and meditation, maintain good hygiene and breathe in good air etc.

However, it is the mitigation of ‘energetic toxin loads’ that can magically enhances the biofield which leads to spontaneous boosting of immunity and drastic improvement in body’s self-healing ability. Simple steps like ‘Management of our Electromagnetic environment’, detecting and neutralizing geopathic stress points ( especially in our sleep zones), aligning the spaces we inhabit with the natural elements applying vedic sciences ( so that our body is in resonance with cosmic energy fields) and finally, resolving to practice and promote a positive outlook in life – these simple interventions can easily and effectively take care of the energetic toxin loads.

As we stand on the threshold of the third decade of 21st century, new ‘habitat and lifestyle related challenges’ are impelling us to explore fresh outlooks towards space and lifestyle design. Creating a robust ‘shield of biofield’ and mitigating energetic toxin loads through space design is centric to the initiative of Bioenergetic Architecture – bringing a paradigm shift in the way built-environment is perceived.

अश्मयुगातील खल-बत्ता ~ Stone Age Stone Mortar and Pestle

Design non-stop Stories.001

मनुष्यजाती ही संपूर्ण जीवसृष्टीतली सर्वात उत्क्रांत आणि विकसित प्रजाती आहे असं आपण मानतो. मनुष्यात आणि इतर प्राण्यांत एवढा फरक कसा झाला असेल? मनुष्य हा खूपच जटील प्राणी आहे. इतर प्राण्यांप्रमाणे माणसाकडे जगण्याची अंतःप्रेरणा तर आहेच पण त्यावर त्याला नियंत्रण मिळवता आलंय. यला कारणीभूत आहे माणसाचा अतिशय प्रगत मेंदू. विचाराला स्मरणशक्तीची जोड मिळाली आणि त्यातही त्याच्या जवळ असलेलं विलक्षण कुतूहल; यातून मनुष्याला तर्क करायला जमला आणि तो भविष्याबद्दल कल्पनादेखील करू लागला.

मागच्या रविवारी आपण मनुष्यानी दगडापासून निर्माण केलेली पहिली शस्त्र पाहिली. माणूस व्हायच्या आधी वानरांनीही दगडाचा वापर शस्त्र म्हणून केल्याचे शोध लागले आहेत. पण त्यात एक मोठा फरक आहे. माणसाला आज प्रमाणे उद्या सुद्धा ही भूक लागेल हे लक्षात आलं होतं; तेव्हा पुन्हा नवीन दगडाला आकार न देता, आहे त्याच दगडाला त्यांनी उत्कृष्ट धार काढली. त्यातूनच पुढे छोट्या दगडी कुऱ्हाडी, अणकुचीदार भले या सारखीही शस्त्र निर्माण केली. शिकार करण्यात माणूस एव्हाना तरबेज झाला. जंगलातून भटकत माणूस आपला उदरनिर्वाह करत होता. पण अचानक काहीतरी घडलं आणि सगळ्या सृष्टीची जणू कायापालट झाली. सुमारे १२००० वर्षांपूर्वी निसर्गात, हवामानात अचानक हिंस्त्र बदल घडू लागले. पृथ्वीवरचं तापमान वाढून समुद्र पातळी उंचावू लागली. हिमनग वितळून पाणी झाले आणि बर्फाच्या जागी गवत दिसू लागलं.
पाचवं हिमयुग संपलं. मनुष्य प्रजाती पृथ्वीच्या सर्व भूखंडांवर विखुरलेली होती. प्राण्यांच्या, पक्ष्यांच्या तश्याच झाडांच्याही बर्याच प्रजाती नष्ट झाल्या होत्या. मनुष्याच्या उत्तर्जीवितेसाठी अन्न, वस्त्र आणि निवारा या मुलभूत गरजा होत्या. निवाऱ्याला नैसर्गिक गुहा सापडत, तर हवामानापासून बचाव करण्यासाठी प्राण्याची कातडी किंवा झाडा-पानांचा आधार घेता येत होता. अन्नाची गरज मात्र रोज नव्यानं भिडत होती. आपल्याला शिकार करणं फार सोपं राहिलेलं नाही हे माणसांनी एव्हाना हेरलं होतं. एखादं जनावर मिळालं तरी इतर मांसाहारी प्राणी त्यावर तुटून पडत. झाडावरची फळं खायला माकडं किंवा पक्षीच आधी पोहोचत. इथेच माणसाच्या प्रगतीला मोठी कलाटणी मिळाली. माणसाला प्राण्यांपासून, पक्ष्यांपासून असलेली स्पर्धा मोडून काढण्याशिवाय काय पर्याय होता? जे धान्य, कंद, मूळं, बिया इतर प्राणी किंवा पक्षी खाऊ शकत नाहीत, त्यांचा आधार माणसानी आपली भूक शमवण्यासाठी घेतला. माणूस आता शेतीचे प्रयोग करू लागला. पण हे धान्य, बिया तशाच कशा पचवणार? इथे लक्षात घ्यायला हवं की १२,००० वर्षांपुर्वी माणसाला फक्त दगडच वापरता येत होता. त्यानी दगडाची खळगी हेरली आणि त्यात बिया भरून दुसऱ्या दगडानी कुटायला सुरुवात केली. इथे जन्म झाला तो खल आणि बत्ता यांचा.

आता हा खल-बत्ता बनवण्यासाठी कोणता दगड वापरायचा? दगडाची योग्यता कशी तपासायची? त्याचा आकार कसा असावा? माप काय असावं? हा सगळा विचार काही एकाच व्यक्तीनी केला नाही, किंबहुना हे सगळं एकाच वेळेलाही घडलं नाही. बर्याच पिढ्या गेल्या – माणसाच्या वाढत्या गरजा आणि अनुभव यातून तो या खल-बत्त्याच्या ‘डिझाईन’ मध्ये बदल करत गेला. जे धन्य कुटायचं त्यापेक्षा डागड टणक हवाच, तो ठिसूळ असेल तर अन्नात त्याचाच भुगा मिसळेल हे लक्षात अलं. त्यात अन्न शोषलं जाऊ नये, दगडाचा परिणाम त्यातल्या अन्नावर होवू नये हेही माणसांनी कालांतरानी हेरलं. अन्नकण चिकटू नये म्हणून खल आणि बत्त्याचा पृष्ठभाग गुळगुळीत करायला हवा. या सगळ्यामुळे सर्वात महत्वाचं म्हणजे स्वयंपाकाची सुरुवात झाली आणि अन्नाची भ्रांत मिटली. साहजिकच, हळूहळू लोकसंख्या वाढू लागली. शिकाऱ्याचा शेतकरी झाला, आणि जंगलातला भटका माणूस नदीकाठी स्थिरावू लागला. एव्हाना तो आपल्या गरजे साठी प्राणी पळूही लागला होता.

अन्नाची भ्रांत मिटल्याशिवाय कलांचा उगम होत नाही. शेती, खल-बत्ता, अग्नी, स्वयंपाक अशी तंत्र विकसित करताना माणूस जसा स्थिरावला, तसा तो समाजही बंधू लागला. शेती साठी आवश्यक वाटली म्हणून निसर्गाची पूजा करू लागला – सण साजरे करू लागला. आता त्यासाठी विशेष उपकरणे ही लागणारच. इथेच पहा ना – पॅप्युआ गिनी मधला हा बत्ता किती सुंदर घडवला आहे. हा बत्ता जवळपास एक फुट उंचीचा आहे. त्याची कुटण्याची बाजू क्रिकेटच्या चेंडू एवढी असावी. त्यावर असलेला सुबक दांडा, उघडत जाणारे पक्ष्याचे पंख आणि नाजूकपणे निमुळती होत जाणारी त्याची मान – या सगळ्यात काय विलक्षण मिलाफ साधला गेला आहे.

आता या सगळ्या नक्षीचा खरं तर अन्न शिजवण्याशी अर्थाअर्थी काहीच संबंध नाही. पण कुठलीही क्रिया करताना त्यामागची भावना ही कार्यसिद्धीसाठी प्रेरणा ठरते. त्यात क्षुधा आणि भावना यांचं तर फारच जवळचं नातं आहे. एकत्र जेवल्यानी माणसं जवळ येतात किंवा माणसाच्या हृदयाची वाट ही त्याच्या पोटातून जाते, असं आपण आजही मानतो. आत्ताही आठवून पहा, आजीचा पोळपाट, कल्हई करून चमकवलेल्या कढया, आपलं नाव कोरून घेतलेली भांडी, या सगळ्यांत आपल्या कितीतरी आठवणी दडलेल्या आहेत. अश्या आठवणींची साठवण करण्याची सुरुवात १०००० वर्षांपूर्वी, खल-बत्ता निर्माण केला तेव्हाच केली होती. अश्मयुगातला हा खल-बत्ता आपण आजही जसाच्या तसा वापरतो.

The story originally appeared in Lokmat, HERE.

A Correa Diptych ~ Story by Design Dalda

A Correa Diptych

(A diptych, pronounced ‘dip-tick’ is a piece of art created in two parts. It may be a painting, drawing, photograph, carving, or any other flat artwork. The format of the pictures may be a landscape or portrait and the two parts will usually be the same size.)

I had the chance of visiting two of Charles Correa’s iconic works, the Lalit Kala Academy in Panjim Goa and the Bharat Bhavan in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh in quick succession. These were not planned visits, but more opportunistic ones wherein I was able to squeeze in some time while I was in those respective cities to visit these campuses. I am familiar with Correa’s work, a little bit I guess every architecture student gets exposed to and then depending on where you live or visit one ends up seeing some of his work.

The interesting thing about both these works is that they are in the same genre, with similar briefs and even names that resonate, Kala Academy and Bharat Bhavan, the setting, one on the banks of the Mandovi and the other sloping down to the Upper Lake in Bhopal. So, I thought the diptych as the narrative tool would be quite suitable for this photo story.

Bharat Bhavan came as quite a surprise, the way Correa works the slopes is quite something, it is a series of terraces and sub terraces, open to the view, to the lake, the city, to the sky, the other courtyards. The size of galleries takes you by surprise and so do the levels and the different scales. The scale of the place never overwhelms, one could pass hours there, which many people very rightly do.

Himanshu Burte who has written quite extensively on Correa writing about this campus describes my experience of it very well, “…The courtyards in Bharat Bhavan are an extreme example: there is no other presence since the building is entirely pushed underfoot. The framed void – an empty space, not a big domineering mass – is quite literally the main architectural element in many of his buildings. Scaled just out of the reach of the human body, but not beyond its ambit, the well-formed void replayed the exhilarating promise of monumental natural spaces but in the heart of the city. In inviting occupation, it also invites the viewer to participate in architecture.”

Burte describes the experience of the Kala Akademi bang on and there is no point in me even trying, “At Kala Akademi, Panaji, the architecture steers, but also allows you to find your own pleasurable itinerary of seeping in, settling down, stepping out and walking along the river Mandovi”

While Kala Academi comes across as much more grounded in the local architecture canon of Goa, Bharat Bhavan remains aloof to the architectural traditions of Bhopal, but responds exceptionally well-grounded to the site and creates the canvas, space. There could be so many other diptychs to discuss, study and represent for these wonderful campuses. These kinds of public commissioned, funded and run spaces for the arts and culture have disappeared, they seem to be from an earlier era, hope we can continue to have them around for time immemorial.

How large a place one should live in to lead a happy life? ~ Robert Verrijt, Architecture Brio

Robert Verrijt - Architecture BRIO Quote
One of the things that the coronavirus lockdown is teaching us, is to deal with our fear of confinement, or in other words claustrophobia. Our societal fear of being trapped and restrained in one place goes against the grain of our cultural existence.
At the beginning of the lockdown, the experience of living and working in our own homes was one of tranquillity and rest. It started off as comforting, but it slowly turned into a frightening one. Our world seemed to be narrowing down, like as if we’re travelling through a tunnel in which the walls are closing in together like a funnel. With being locked up in our own homes, we have not only lost our freedom, we have also lost the city as our living room. Our lives never merely played out in the premises of our own homes and offices. The parks and boulevards of our cities were our backyards, and the restaurants of the city our dining rooms.
Up to now, we all believed in the idea of expanding our scope, our horizon, living in ever-larger places, travelling more frequently, and to more remote places. The airline industry expanded exponentially throughout our lifetime, and the tourism industry started dominating the economy of entire countries. We have been raised with the cultural belief that travel is an essential right. Even more, we believe that it is an undeniable prerequisite for us to be relevant. The fact that our lives have turned digital, has reinforced our notion that our lives only matter through the experiences and adventures that we gather along the way.
– Robert Verrijt,
Architecture BRIO
Business travel has become an excuse that nourishes our cultural addiction to travelling. However while business travel has surged, the real need to travel for work has dwindled. Especially in the last 5 to 10 years, the explosion of bandwidth had already completely transformed our workflow and had already enabled us to practice #WFH.
However, we habitually believe travelling is a fundamental opening to the world, a source of freedom and of learning. Ironically this very urge to travel has amplified the coronavirus crisis. It has inevitably led us to where we are now: at home. For those of us living in urban India, it means we’re probably confined to a small apartment. Most of us will probably have to make do without even a balcony to step out into.
This leads one to question, how large a place one should live in to lead a happy life? The short story by Tolstoy of 1886 “How Much Land Does a Man Need?”, starts with the protagonist Pahom believing that each time he acquires more land, he becomes happier. Instead, with each purchase of more land, he wants more. Eventually, this leads to his death, when he collapses of exhaustion attempting to traverse all of his lands in one day.
Henry David Thoreau seemed to have asked a different question when he escaped the perils of the industrialising world to build a cabin at Walden Pond in 1845: What is the smallest house I could live in? Hoping to align with the wisdom of nature and immersing himself in the landscape, his single room house measured only 10’ by 15’. He aimed to live a more sustainable life, as illustrated by another question he asked himself: “What’s the use of a house if you haven’t got a tolerable planet to put it in?”1
Thoraeau, Henry David - Robert Verrijt
Cabin at Walden Pond, Thoreau, Henry David, Image shared by the author
So what will happen when the lockdown is lifted? After squeezing through the tunnel, will we live like never before, and live life to its fullest? Or have we finally realised that our world is not able to afford our lifestyles any longer. Human activity has changed the world in such a way that soon we will not be able to recognise it. In order to reverse or mitigate the effects of the Anthropocene, we will have to lead different lives. This realisation that as a consequence, we will have to travel less, has an even more claustrophobic effect on our psyches. The idea that we should stop travelling to prevent the arctic ice from melting is terrifying. It narrows down our experience of the world we live in. It triggers a claustrophobic feeling of being trapped in our immediate surrounding, even more than the momentary entrapment that we are enduring right now.

1. Thoraeau, Henry David. Familiar letters of Henry David Thoreau p.416

Decoding Bio-energetic Architecture, with Architect and Building Biologist, Raman Vig

Bio-energetic Architecture

‘Bio-energetic Architecture’ maybe best described as a new term for an ancient concept; something akin to ‘old wine in a new bottle’……enchanting, effective, potent and contextualized for present day scenario!

Bioenergetics is the science of energy transformation and exchange within living beings and their environment. Taking forth the same essence , Bio-energetic architecture integrates the principles of ‘energy and information fields’ as well as ‘the fundamental laws of life’ and the ‘mathematics of universe’ within the design process so as to create built environments that are ‘energetically aligned to have a benign effect on human bio-fields’ besides imbibing all the desirable qualities of ‘conscious and responsible’ architecture.

Design paradigms through the ages :

The Vitruvian triad of ‘Firmitas Utilitas Venustas’ ( Structural firmness, Utility and Beauty) has remained centric to the architectural design thought since 1 B.C. for nearly 19 centuries Mid of 20th century saw the addition of ‘Cost, Time and Quality’ to this triad in architectural design with ‘market forces of commerce and efficiency’ taking center stage in design discourses. In the new millennium, ‘Sustainability and Eco-consciousness’ have become centric to responsible design thoughts.

One now wonders, what significant evolutionary shift to expect in the coming decade(s) in the fundamental way space design is perceived and created – if at all any.

The game-changer of 21st century:

In 2012, at the CERN laboratory in Switzerland, the discovery of ‘Higgs Boson’ or the ‘God particle ‘ , brought science and the ‘ realm of spirituality’ on a common platform. We saw western science speaking the same thoughts ( although in different words) that Vedic science had been propagating.

Vedic knowledge talks of all-pervading ‘ consciousness’ or ‘the shiva tatva’ being the omnipresent ‘field’ from which everything is created, in which all is sustained and into which all eventually merge. And now Quantum physicists from CERN also explain :

‘The Higgs field is a field of energy that is thought to exist in every region of the universe. Particles that interact with the field are “given” mass and light that passes through it gain energy. So the Higgs effect transfers mass or energy to any particle that passes through it.’

The idea that the subtle gives rise to the manifest and controls it’s qualitative as well as quantitative aspects – is now being understood from both scientific as well as spiritual perspectives…..and this indeed is a game-changer of 21st century.

Everything is interconnected, intertwined with each other within a holistic whole. This is called biological integration or the harmonic order of nature. Within this harmonic order, all life forms have evolved, including human beings , who exist in a synergetic unity with their immediate and wider environment.

This new paradigm : that our physical world is a mere ‘reflection’ of the ‘energy world’ is fast becoming the basis of research and development in diverse fields.

The field of medicine has imbibed this reality through ‘Bio-resonance Therapy’ – a branch of energy medicine which works with the patient’s own electromagnetic fluctuation spectrum to regulate and detoxify itself and eventually cure any type of anomaly or ‘dis-ease’. In words of Albert Szent-Györgyi, MD Nobel Laureate in Medicine —

“In every culture and in every medical tradition before ours, healing was accomplished by moving energy.”

Therefore, the pertinent question for architectural community is : Will architectural consciousness extend beyond ‘the form and the function’ to focus on ‘energetic’ aspects of design? Can we design spaces that are inherently ‘therapeutic’ and ‘de-stressing’ by following ‘ the harmonic order of nature’? More fundamentally, can we bring the knowledge of the ‘ invisible energy fields’ and the ‘fundamental laws of the universe’ as an integral layer of design with the objective to create spaces that can create ‘health, happiness and harmony’ for the inhabitants ?

The answer is a ‘Big YES’ and this is what ‘Bio-energetic architecture’ is all about! This is the very intent with which our sages had developed ‘the science of vaastu’- eons ago. It’s time to ‘re-kindle’ the same intent and re-define ancient sciences for our changed context with integration of the ‘scientific tools’ of 21st century at hand.

‘Whys and Hows’ of Bio-energetic Architecture

There are multiple sciences that hold clues for the human well being and all of these contribute towards ‘Bio-energetic architecture’. Each science comes with it’s own ‘tools and trade-offs’ and the real skill lies in achieving ‘a seamless integration of these as a distinct integrated design discipline’ through various stages of an architectural project. Following are some key constituents that contribute to unique DNA of Bio-energetic architecture :

Bio geometry, Building Biology ( including electro-biology, Geo-biology, radio-biology ), Science of forms ( pyramidal energetic), Universal mathematics ( including Fibonacci series and proportions of pi and phi) ,Science of Geopathy, Science of Water ( as fluid information carrier), Fundamental precepts of Scientific Vaastu (radiation streams, direction science and five elements) , Quantum physics ( including dynamics of Consciousness), Bio-resonance ( including human aura and chakras) ,physics (of frequencies of colours , sounds, shapes) and material sciences ( involving aspects of building material and specifications)

Perched at the end of second decade of this century, we see stress has become a middle name for many ; instances of cancer , tumour , autism , alzheimer’s, infertility , mental and physical disorders have increased despite advances in mainstream medicine. People are increasingly turning to alcoholism and intoxication to be happy and relaxed . Inner peace and outer harmony have become elusive to most in our ‘technologically advanced and civilized’ society.

It seems only logical to look at how architecture can aid in restoring health and happiness on the planet. Bio-energetic architecture is a step in this direction – and prepares the ground for ‘Space- therapy’ : A new role and a unique dimension that the art and science of architecture can evolve into.

डिझाईनच्या दुनियेत: The World of Design

डिझाईनच्या दुनियेत: The World of Design 89

माणसाचे एकवेळ माणसावाचून चालेल, पण वस्तूंवाचून मात्र अडेल. हे वाक्य काहीसे अतिरेकी उध्दट वाटेल, पण ते सत्य आहे. आत्ता तुम्ही जिथे कुठे बसून हे वाचत असाल, त्याच्या आजूबाजूला सहज एक नजर टाका. माणसे असतील किंवा नसतीलही, पण  ‘वस्तू’ असतीलच. हातातले वर्तमानपत्र, मोबाईल फोन, डोळ्यावरला चष्मा, बुडाखालची खुर्ची किंवा सोफा, समोरचे दार, शेजारचा चहाचा कप, दारातल्या चपला, अंगातला टीशर्ट…मोजू तितक्या कमीच!
या वस्तूंशिवाय आपण कसे जगू? माणसांनी वस्तू घडवल्या की वस्तूंनी माणसाला? या सगळ्याची सुरुवात कधी आणि कशी झाली असावी? म्हणजे  मोबाईल फोन ‘जसा’ आहे, तो ‘तसा’ कसा घडला असेल? खुर्ची किंवा सोफा आज जसे आहेत तसे घडेतो कोणकोणत्या टप्प्यातून गेले असतील? हे सगळे कोणी, कसे, कोणत्या मार्गाने आणि दृष्टीने घडवले असेल? आपल्या रोजच्या वापरातल्या वस्तूंचा आकार जसा दिसतो, तसा तो घडत येण्यामागे आणि बदलत राहाण्यामागे कोणता विचार आणि शास्त्र असते? या सगळ्या प्रश्नांच्या उत्तरांची वाट एका संकल्पनेकडे जाते : डिझाईन!

डिझाईन म्हणजे काय ? हा प्रश्न समोर आला म्हणजे आपल्या मनात अनेक समज-गैरसमज निर्माण होतात. कपड्यांवरचे डिझाईन, रांगोळीचे डिझाईन, बाटलीचे डिझाईन, घराचे डिझाईन, मोबाईलचे डिझाईन अशा एक ना अनेक मानवनिर्मित गोष्टींचे उल्लेख करताना आपण डिझाईन हा शब्द सहज वापरतो. बरं या शब्दामागचे व्याकरण शोधायला गेलात तर आणखी वेगळी गंमत सापडते. ‘डिझाईन आजच्या जीवनशैलीचा एक महत्त्वपूर्ण भाग आहे’ , यात डिझाईन हा शब्द नाम म्हणून वापरला आहे. ‘या टी-शर्ट मध्ये तुमच्याकडे अजून काही डिझाईन्स आहेत का?’ , यात डिझाईन सर्वनाम म्हणून वापरला आहे. ‘घराचे डिझाईन बनवण्यासाठी आम्ही आर्किटेक्टला भेटणार आहोत’, यात डिझाईन क्रियापद म्हणून वापरला आहे. मी म्हणत होतो ती गंमत तुमच्या लक्षात आली असेलच. डिझाईन हा शब्द कोण, कोणासाठी आणि कुठल्या अनुषंगाने वापरतो आहे त्यावर ‘डिझाईन’ या शब्दा मागचा व्यवहारातला अर्थ आणि हेतू ठरतो. जॉन हॅसकेट नावाचा एक जाणकार म्हणतो की ‘डिझाईन’ हा शब्द इंग्रजीतील ‘Love’ या शब्दाप्रमाणे आहे. ‘Love’ या शब्दाचा उपयोग कोण, कोणासाठी आणि कुठल्या संदर्भात करतो त्याप्रमाणे या शब्दाचा अर्थ बदलतो. उदाहरणादाखल त्यांनी बनवलेले एक रंजक वाक्य येथे नमूद करतो “Design is to design a design to produce a design”. या शब्दाचा उगम इसवी सन १३५० ते १४०० काळात लॅटिन भाषेत आढळतो आणि ऑक्सफर्ड शब्दकोशाप्रमाणे याचा अर्थ एखादी गोष्ट कशी असावी किंवा दिसावी हे ठरवण्यासाठी असणारी पद्धत किंवा कला असा होतो. इथे एक गोष्ट नक्की नमूद केली पाहिजे की कलेचा उगम आणि मानवी अस्तित्वात असणारा कलेचा आवाका हा मानवी संस्कृतीत डिझाईन पेक्षा हजारो वर्ष जुना आहे. मग या सगळ्या विचारांच्या कोलाहलात डिझाईन ची व्याख्या मांडायची झाली तर एक प्रयत्न असा असू शकतो तो म्हणजे “आपल्या गरजा पूर्ण करण्यासाठी आणि आपल्या जगण्याला अर्थ देण्यासाठी मानव निर्मित पर्यावरणाला घडवण्याची आणि आकार देण्याची मानवी क्षमता म्हणजे डिझाईन”. ह्या मानवी क्षमतेचे प्रमाण आणि आवाका आजमवायचा असेल तर हा लेख तुम्ही जिथे बसून वाचत आहात तिथे आजूबाजूला जरा नजर फिरवून बघा. मग ते घर असेल, ऑफिस असेल, ग्रंथालय असेल किंवा रेल्वेचा डब्बा असेनात; एक मात्र नक्की की त्या पर्यावरणातली प्रत्येक गोष्ट ही मानवनिर्मित आहे, इतकंच काय तर त्या पर्यावरणात असणाऱ्या झाडाला देखील आपण आकार दिला आहे किंवा त्याची वाढ आपल्या गरजेप्रमाणे आपण नियंत्रित केली आहे.

थोडक्यात काय तर ह्या पर्यावरणाला आपल्या गरजा आणि अपेक्षांच्या कक्षांमध्ये घेऊन मूळ स्वरूपात असलेल्या खूप कमी गोष्टी आज आपण भूतलावर अस्तित्वात ठेवल्या आहेत. या लेखमालेचा उद्देश मानव निर्मितीच्या कक्षा नाकारणं नसून डिझाईन क्षेत्रात मानवाने केलेल्या प्रगतीच्या कार्याची दखल घेणे हा आहे. उपलब्ध साधन सामग्रीचा आणि तंत्रज्ञानाचा वापर करून निर्मिती करण्याची आपली क्षमता हे या भुतलावर असणाऱ्या मानवी अस्तित्वाचे द्योतक आहे. इतर कुठल्याही प्राणिमात्रांमध्ये ही क्षमता इतक्या प्रगत थराला पोहोचलेली दिसत नाही. केवळ ह्या क्षमतेमुळे आपण आपला अधिवास आणि सभ्यता एका विशिष्ट प्रकारे घडवू शकलो आहोत. ‘ डिझाईनला’ भाषे इतकंच महत्व आहे कारण माणूस हा ‘माणूस’ असल्याच्या सत्याला बळकटी देणारं हे द्योतक आहे. मानव निर्मितीची ही क्षमता अनेक मार्गांनी आपण अस्तित्वात आणत असतो. जसे की स्थापत्यकला, बांधकाम, अभियांत्रिकी, प्रॉडक्ट डिझाईन, फॅशन डिझाईन इत्यादी. थोडक्यात आपल्या जगण्याला द्विमितीय आणि त्रिमितीय आयाम देणे हा यामागचा उद्देश. दैनंदिन जीवनातील वस्तू, संवाद आणि पर्यावरण मग ते घराशी निगडित असो, कामाच्या जागेशी निगडित असो, रस्त्याशी, सार्वजनिक ठिकाणाशी किंवा आपल्या प्रवासाशी का निगडित असेनात प्रत्यक्ष किंवा अप्रत्यक्ष रीत्या आपण या जगण्याला आणि जगाला आकार देत असतो.

मानव निर्मितीच्या क्षमतेला ‘डिझाईनला’ जर इतके आयाम असतील तर ते जाणून घेण्यासाठी आपण सुरुवात करणार तरी कुठून? याचे उत्तर मानवी उत्क्रांतीच्या इतिहासात दडलं आहे. काळाच्या अनुषंगाने उलगडत जाणारे उत्क्रांतीच्या इतिहासातले हे थर डिझाईनची गोष्ट सांगत जातात. ह्या गोष्टीची सुरुवात होते सुमारे पंचवीस लाख वर्षांपूर्वी आफ्रिका खंडात, जेव्हा माणूस हा अन्नाच्या शोधात भटकत होता. स्वतः शिकार करणे किंवा इतर हिंस्त्र पशूंनी केलेल्या शिकारीतला वाटा खाणे हेच त्याच्या उपजीविकेचे साधन होते. भटकंती करणारा हा मनुष्य प्राणी निसर्गात आढळणाऱ्या सर्वसाधारण दगडाला घडवून प्राण्याची त्वचा आणि मांस कापण्यासाठी एक हत्यार किंवा साधन बनवू लागला.


या हत्याराकडे निरखून बघितलं तर तुमच्या लक्षात येईल की याची एक बाजू मजबूत पकडीच्या दृष्टीने जाड आणि गोलाकार बनवली गेली आहे तर दुसरी बाजू बारीक आणि धारदार आहे. अनेकदा हिंस्त्र श्वापदांनी खाऊन संपले ल्या शिकारीत माणसाला केवळ राहिलेल्या हाडांचा हिस्सा मिळे. अशावेळी या हत्याराचा वापर हाडी फोडून त्यातील अत्यंत पौष्टिक अशा ‘बोन मॅरो’ नामक द्रवपदार्थ काढण्यासाठी केला जात असे. वैज्ञानिक दृष्ट्या असाही एक कयास आहे की माणसाच्या मेंदूच्या विकासात या बोन मॅरो सेवनाचा महत्त्वपूर्ण वाटा आहे. आज भागणाऱ्या भुकेच्या आनंदापेक्षा उद्याच्या अन्नाची भ्रांत माणसाला कायमच सतावत असते. मनुष्य प्राणी आणि जनावरांमध्ये या हत्याराने सगळ्यात मोठा फरक घडवून आणला तो म्हणजे गरजेइतक्या मांसाचे भक्षण झाल्यावर, उरलेल्या अन्नाचे तुकडे करून माणूस ते भविष्यासाठी साठवून ठेऊ लागला. निसर्गात आढळणाऱ्या साधनसंपत्तीचा वापर करून बनवलेल्या या गोष्टींनी मानवी उत्क्रांतीच्या इतिहासाला एक महत्त्वपूर्ण कलाटणी दिली. आपल्या डिझाईनच्या जगाला इथून सुरुवात होते, चला तर मग येथून पुढे येणाऱ्या लेखन मालिकेत आपण परिचित जाणवूनही अपरिचित असणाऱ्या या डिझाईनच्या दुनियेत फेरफटका मारुयात.

Story originally published in Lokmat

It’s time to do more with less ~ Meghana Kulkarni and Pooja Chaphalkar, on the Profession post Coronavirus Pandemic

M+P Architects ~ Coronavirus Pandemic

Who knew it would be a virus that’ll bring the world to its knees exposing the chinks in our society’s armour in its present state of being? We’re still coming to terms with what it means to have the entire world and economies shut down and trying to imagine the repercussions of the same. But the only thing that’s certain today is the uncertainty of it all in the future. Today it’s a virus and we might be prepared for it the next time around… but who knows what’s in store for us next? War? A different kind of disease? An alien invasion? Climate change? Wait… the last one’s a reality we’re already living it. But it appears to be such a slow burn that we’re not sweating yet (metaphorically speaking… it’s summer and my armpits are soaked already.)

All of these things have a direct effect on the economy. Isn’t it strange that the world is going through an economic slowdown because people are only spending on the essentials?  This indicates the excesses that our population has been accustomed to.

We can safely say that the world needs less building activity. Architectural projects might in the future become program heavy with intense requirements. Large exiguous investments in projects like museums and convention centres will be on a low. The designed spaces will need to be multifunctional with least compartmentalization. The reliance on materials manufactured far from our buildings will need to be reduced. And our clients will probably want more from less.

The spending power of people has been a key to the survival of the design profession and we are seen as a luxury… dispensable on the first signs of trouble. In reality, however, architecture is quite indispensable, though we sometimes make ourselves a part of luxury and excesses. It’s time to get off our high horse and prove our value to society.

The rich western world- which has borne the brunt of this calamity – with their global consultants, conglomerate owners and rich citizens appear to have lived in a world very different from ours. Will, they really cut down on air travel? Will luxury products, third and fourth homes, designer clothes and jewellery really lose their value? Will Venice really make any changes in their tourist policy to continue to have Dolphins surface on their waters? Will everybody take a few steps back and decide to not prioritize excesses? And maybe if they do it, so could we?

Paint me cynical, but this too shall pass. After all, we’ve come out of earlier global slowdowns without learning key lessons. Maybe two years later our style of work would have changed… but society is so driven by competition, and our markets are so conditioned towards growth, that environmental and social concern will not hold. Our own future may also not hold us from continuing nature’s destruction. As Vijay Narnapatti from Maya Praxis mentioned in the earlier article, a mason working on a house which is the third property of an owner questions the need for it… but continues working on it because he needs the money…

Well, for now, our offices are working remotely. Systems are in place and the Wifi is on. Great! Let’s get to work then?