“Architects play a critical role in shaping the qualities of our environment; they work in collaboration with end users and their needs and ambitions, and they have the power to restore and promote solidarity, mental and physical health and be a source of happiness”
Karl Johnson, Architecture for Humanity
Buildings and their environs are like sets of our life’s play- from being born in hospitals, to learning in schools and colleges; from working in offices to the transport system that leads us there; from meeting our household needs to taking breaks for rejuvenation and recreation. An average urban Indian would spend anywhere between 70-80 % of their lives indoors. This built environment impacts our health (both mental and physiological) and well-being; and can have long-term implications on the quality of life. When the focus of design is driven by well-being, it means that design is no longer only about making objects beautiful, but involves a more inclusive understanding .
Transparence is India’s largest Architectural Design Competition brought to you by Saint-Gobain Glass India and ably supported by Ethos. Let us celebrate the 15th Edition of Transparence by acknowledging the larger role of encouraging sensitive designs for our built public realm.
This landmark edition revisits some of the past themes of Transparence that looked at architecture and spaces that are open to the public at large with an aim to design for public health and well-being. Participants may pick any one of the following building typologies:
- Commercial and Retail
As the world moves towards holistic living, typologies need to be questioned. Cities have achieved efficiency in land use and take advantage of adjacency. The millennials in their technology-dependent lifestyles are looking for different experiences in public spaces. So participants can choose to combine any two or three of the typologies which have Interdependencies and integrate into one complex.
Indeed, mixed-use built environments in cities promote sustainable utilization of resources 2 and land areas while providing urban dwellers with neighbourhoods that integrate work, home, shopping, transportation, and even recreational spaces. The mixed-use approach 3 also allows city administrations to flexibly adapt building uses as times change. This trend has successfully rewoven the urban fabric of many cities globally and created lively neighborhoods by bringing together social, cultural and economic activities .
Teams are allowed to pick any site that they see fit for the project they are choosing to design. Restrictions related to building footprint, FAR and site selection criteria are detailed out in this document. The proposed designs are expected to include innovations and strategies that promote well-being and placemaking.
Placemaking indeed is an important aspect of how architects, planners and designers can go beyond just creating better urban design of public spaces. ‘Placemaking facilitates creative patterns of activities and connections (cultural, economic, social, ecological) that define a place and support its ongoing evolution’ . The Designs should address possible 5 concerns such as the current pandemic, stress, anxiety, physical health and should induce better civic behaviour and social change.
Revisiting Transparence and Evolving with it
1. Commercial and Retail
Revisiting Transparence 2007: Fashion Mall
More than being merely shopping centers, as they started out to be, commercial and retail spaces have now become complete entertainment and leisure centers with restaurants, cafés, movie theaters, arcade games, bowling alleys, and many other recreational venues. Well designed shopping facilities often configure both external and internal spaces in an innovative and efficient manner to provide lively social spaces for a wide public, going beyond their function as shopping plazas.
What would be an ideal commercial and retail facility in today’s scenario? Is it best to place it in the heart of a city or suburbs? Do we need to integrate public transport accessibility as much as large underground parking? How can such spaces become socially inclusive instead of catering to only the higher socio-economic classes?
Revisiting Transparence 2017: Healing Spaces
Healthcare architecture should integrate comfortable spaces for nursing and treatment along with a healing environment as spaces designed can affect both the physiological and psychological well-being of the patient. Hospital management and Designers need to consider not only short term circumstances such as the rapidly changing technical aspects of medical treatments but also long term building parameters—providing space and flexibility for future upgrades, improvements, and adaptations of the existing facility to future requirements. For example, how does a hospital swiftly adapt to increased demand of isolation wards during a contagious disease outbreak or cater to demand for extra beds during a calamity.
Revisiting Transparence 2009: Ecotel;
2012: Windows by the Lake
Do hospitality related buildings need to be restricted to their direct users or become part of the public sphere of our cities? How can hospitality spaces add to the urban experience of its users, planning beyond seamless in-house services and facilities. Participants are encouraged to debate the course of hospitality in the future; confront the stereotypes and explore new possibilities in the hospitality industry. Innovate spaces and programs for hosting events such as conventions and conferences, plan for flexibility and optimising resources.
Revisiting Transparence 2018: The Business Plan
As a hub of technology, community, innovation and the source of our livelihoods, the workplace is an important topic of perpetual interest within architecture. On one hand companies have been considering co-working, dynamic work spaces, elaborate conference facilities etc, on the other -the work-from-orders have made them rethink the need for large office spaces itself. Post COVID, going back to work, for most people, is going to feel a lot different than when they left. Does that mean the workplace as we know it now is a relic of the past? Is commercial office space no longer relevant?
5. Transport Hub
Revisiting Transparence 2014: The Transport Hub
The Transparence 2014 brief on Transport Hub stated ‘While the metro stations are often designed in idea of relieving pressure on the already congested roads, they could also serve a vital role in the wellbeing of its patrons and the city. The aim is to create life around an already busy metro station. How there can be so much more to the station than just the platforms!’ How far have we come along since then in designing metro stations. Definitely, we have seen expansion or establishment of new metro lines across various cities in the country, but have we been able to weave them better into the urban fabric?
Station structures and finishes need to be highly resilient among many other factors. Can we find a balance between designing open, welcoming pieces of civic infrastructure and robust architecture?
Revisiting Transparence 2013: An Architecture School;
2016: Space in Motion, Pragati Maidan
Most often, education institutes have standard classroom spaces and layouts. Learning within educational institutes is itself limited to classroom teaching focused on academic learning, leaving little room for hands-on training and vocational training. The recent pandemic has added further constraints to this by limiting classes to online mediums. Similarly, cultural institutes are often restricted to specific users and hardly create interactive spaces that are inclusive and welcoming to larger public, especially in developing countries.
Institutes need to revisit the way they are built and support the possibility of self-learning, creative thinking and blended means of imparting lessons. Can the campus architecture inspire students and faculty, visitors and local innovators to explore new ways of learning and thinking. How about the institute itself as a living learning lab?