Selected Entries 2019

Everyday X Governance

Smriti Bhaya
Kamla Raheja Institute for Architecture and Environmental Studies | Mumbai

Quite correctly said, buildings are the physical manifestations of the political social and cultural environments in which they are situated. Today we see more and more, varied programmatic configurations of buildings. No longer do they have just one essential program, there is mixture of them. To ensure that these buildings, especially public structures adapt to the changing times, user groups, kinds of spatial occupancy, they are relatively adjustable. From open plan office spaces, to shared work communal spaces, to restaurants that become working spaces, there is an increase in the flexibility of the ways in which the spaces are used, and allowed to be taken over by the user group. There is an inversion of the typology in the identity of Indian Public Buildings.
The ‘where’ of the architecture is not becoming irrelevant, rather the conventional typical associations of how a building actually belongs to a place is changing. No longer does it mean that only brick buildings and jalis can exist, or that you need jharokas to indicate an Indian language of buildings. It goes back to the core where these ideas and principals actually came from. It developed from what material, kind of construction was available then, and it’s climatic appropriateness. For example, the use of steel and glass in the ward office building has been appropriated according to where you would need light in a deep plan, and what transparency the program calls for. The orientation and massing of the building still adheres to the climatic comfort levels, to create adequate shade of open spaces, to cut out the heavy south west monsoon to create open, yet protected spaces. It is a luxury to create a purely ‘aesthetic identity’ just to adhere to the ‘preconceived’ identity of region, or place.
The project showcases how the identity of the building doesn’t come entirely from its aesthetic directly, but how it’s aesthetic creates an opportunistic space for people to occupy. People make the building. And if we look into patterns of how people occupy spaces, it’s different in different places, and hence if the buildings respond to that, it automatically creates a typology, particular to area/region/city/country.
Imagining a ward office to not be a like a typical government building with office spaces, and opening it up, creating a public park within a building, changes the dynamics of the power configurations of democracy. It gives power to the people, to assemble, to occupy. This power that it gives to a citizen creates a major change in the identity one person, which collectively has a huge impact collective identity of a place. To create a sense of belonging, which is what an identity does, you no longer need things to ‘look’ the same as it did in older times.
The proportion and the scale of the buildings comes more from the immediate context of the area. In that sense the building is limited in its number of floors to create a sense of familiarity with its neighbourhood. The scale of the building is also broken down and it is not like a single volume but an L shaped volume with one leg of 3 floors and the other of 6 floors. The Indian Street, and more so likely in Mumbai, with its space crunch, is a place that has multiple programmatic opportunities. Inviting that into a building vis a vis the ramp, allows for a gradual lift into the structure, allowing for opportunities to walk, pause, rest, and recreate, sell, buy much like in a typical street. By creating an open and public court, and I make an emphasis on public, it places the ordinary citizen as a rightful occupier of a public institution building The building tries to maintain an identity, by creating an amalgamation of traditional ‘spatial moves’ and modern technology, by elements of the street, courtyards, the ‘otla’ or seating intermediate space between the public and the private, balconies, terraces, all keeping in mind the familiarity of the scale of spaces.