There is an inseparable bond between man and nature. Harmonious living is the way forward, resulting in true sustainability in every respect.
The U.N. General assembly in September 2015, as part of an agenda called ‘Transforming Our World: The 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda’, spoke of a new holistic vision for the planet, in which “humanity lives in harmony with nature and in which wildlife and other living species are protected.”
I grew up in a small mining town towards the east of the country. My father, a doctor would undertake long road trips once or twice a year. We’d stop at picturesque hilly areas where I’d collect fern and silver oak leaves and keep them between the pages of books to dry. We’d find joy in observing gigantic ant hills, ladybirds and red velvet mites.
Frequent power cuts in our town would force us to sit out on our verandah, where my brother and I would play with our pets and watch fireflies dance the night away.
The world was simple, everything connected to each other and there was palpable harmony.
The memory of that harmony still lives inside me and it is that memory that conveys through our works here at Archiopteryx the very idea of a ‘better world’ that is expressed through the central concept of ‘harmonious living’.
Harmony is an integral part of living in a well-balanced fashion within the larger ecological context of our environment and not just with members of our own species.
Through our architecture and design, we endeavour to convey that: sustainable measures alone are not enough to make this world a better place for our future generations. When humans learn to live in a harmonious relationship with their social, biological and physical environment as well as at peace with themselves, true sustainability and harmonious living can be achieved.
In order not to lose our way during the excitement of new projects, we have set out a few guiding ‘design-principles’ for ourselves. They help us stay on course and design freely, with empathy and integrity.
- The ingredients of life are hidden in the earth and its top soil. We must seek to make the least amount of impact to the earth by means of foundations, rafts, … etc.
- Rather than contaminating the earth with chemical ‘anti-termite treatments’ one can use herbal products or simply be smarter about the use of ‘alien’ wood types that cannot withstand our Indian conditions and insects. As a result of our beliefs, we use hardy, indigenous varieties of wood that withstand termites and also cater to a gorgeous ‘indian aesthetic’ thus creating harmonious living atmosphere.
- Building ‘sufficiently’ is central to our design ethos. Educating and advising a client on how best to utilise space and resources without succumbing to the ‘higher, larger, richer’ idiom is our duty and responsibility as agents of cultural change.
- Land and natural resources belong to all life alike and care must be taken to support these life forms so that they thrive and contribute positively to human existence. All life, be it animals, plants or insects, form a bond that is interconnected and interdependent.
Removing or subtracting any cog in this wheel will ultimately lead to disharmony, with catastrophic results.
Resources must be shared and gestures like allowing animals, birds and insects to drink and feed on one’s land can contribute immensely to the general well-being of us humans.
- ‘Life thrives when water and shade are respected and protected. Trees, bushes and plants provide the breeding grounds for life and offer shade and protection from the elements. Indigenous flora and fauna is essential for harmonious living and is to be nurtured and encouraged.
- Solar power and water harvesting are important sustainable gestures, however, a penchant for allowing life to thrive and its long-term conservation is paramount.
- The ability to understand our clients’ ways of living, being observant and listening to their stories so that our harmonious living beliefs can be customised and tailored to their ways is integral to our design process.These customised gestures shall ensure, full participation and co-operation from one’s clients and space users, resulting in a sustainable system of conservation and well-being.
- As architects and designers, we should contribute positively to the urban landscape. The aesthetic and philosophical quality of a space must be paramount. Mediocrity, in any form, only relegates architecture to the mundane and the ‘engineered’. “Soul, uniqueness and drama” are important considerations that make architecture the mother of all arts.
Modern ideas of sustainability burdened by the aspirations of conglomerates and the west have laid emphasis on systems designed and mass produced elsewhere, to be used by communities and states.
Today’s users, educated and aware as never before, deserve customised solutions unique in every way. They are responsible global citizens that see through ‘commercial interests’ and prefer a do-it -yourself approach.
The modern architect must learn to be the ‘master – builder’ once again, where he nurtures and allows for harmonious living systems to take root and evolve together in a harmonious environment and space. He is also the visionary designer, drawing up and etching fantastic shapes and volumes that seek to delight, emotionally and functionally.