ALIGNING WITH NATURE

By TheHindu on 23 Mar 2018

Air, light, rain, heat and humidity are the simple pancha sutras which can ensure that our architecture is in alignment with nature. It sounds so simple that everyone can follow them. However, what is easier to say is often difficult to do.

This truth is more apparent in the construction sector. During historic times, people did not consciously follow these principle, but designs evolved with these five sutras as the pre-condition. In many ways, architecture evolved around these five conditions. Following the technological advances we achieved, we could alter the state of nature in our building interiors, both mechanically and artificially. Architecture lost its alignment with nature.

Air moves everywhere maintaining oxygen for breathing by animals, except in the interiors of luxury hotels built by us. Nature has daylight everywhere supporting bio-diversity, except inside iconic auditoriums designed by architects. Rain ensured the Earth gets washed every year, except in our structures that bar rain. Heat and cold go cyclical balancing themselves, except in building indoors where we switch on energy guzzling air conditioners. All plant produces depend upon right humidity, except humans who ignore it to let their skins dry up.

It is saddening to see how natural principles continue to be neglected in majority of buildings. We are trying to ape the west, trying to prove we are as good as they are. We have proven that we are good in copying, not realising what we are copying is not good, but very bad.

Of course, increasingly people are discussing and even trying to apply these principles nowadays. Ecological designs are surely on the rise, though limited to groups of converted people today. Over the decades, there would be more people and projects joining the new movement of designing ecologically sensitive habitats, now dubbed as an elitist action by some conventional practitioners.

An early pioneer, Ken Yeang, popularised eco architecture; a thought leader, Janine Benyus, wrote about bio mimicry; building biology is catching up now; bio-philia groups are getting enlarged; parametric looks into forms in nature and learning from nature is getting more attention. These all are recent western trends, but India has its achievements too.

Even a simple spatial sequencing from open to semi-open to semi-enclosed to fully enclosed with indoor courts can connect architecture to nature. Little shift from manufactured materialist style to natural minimalist can have major impacts on architecture. Keeping the windows open for air, learning to live with the available light, designing to let rain into corridors or courts, letting the body adjust to bearable temperatures and enduring humidity at least for health reasons can go a long way in aligning architecture with nature.

Let natural air flow through our spaces; design for daylight lit up our activities; rain be an enjoyable interior asset; heat contrasting with cold boost our body health and comfort conditions get created by humidity. Let air, light, rain, heat and humidity rule our architecture again.

(varanashi@gmail.com)