Where do we see ourselves heading in India regarding the future of our people and their engagement with public space- creating places that inspire creativity, encourage forging social bonds and instilling a sense of safety, ownership and participation within the world’s largest democracy.
I have often wondered how to make a difference in public spaces in India. We are able to design and showcase quality in private commercial projects yet when it comes to public spaces we continue to accept poor quality construction or age-old design vocabularies, unsustainable practices, so called modern construction at the cost of our vernacular heritage. The world has moved on.
In progressive societies, investment in ergonomic and sustainable design of spaces, focussed on children and education is receiving attention like never before. The future of public spaces in India rests on collaboration.
CSR or Corporate Social Responsibility lends a ray of hope in what otherwise seems a long long journey these past 21 years of practice as an Urbanist.
Here is a possibility of forging alliances which are focus on equity, make available much needed resources and bring in the skill of design teams like ours. From our inception as a firm we have aspired to work on public projects to make a difference…change the current trend of how public spaces are misused and abused. We believe and demonstrate through our work how appropriate, sensitive design has a role to play in the way spaces are perceived and respected and the possibilities to create spaces that inspire a sense of belonging and life-long stewardship for the places that are created. How else can the Indian spatial environment change. We believe that only with each responsible for their own neighbourhood spaces can we reverse the regressive trend of mistreating public space as a property belonging to another, the responsibility of its upkeep being the government’s.
One step in this direction was a well intentioned project by an emerging company in the renewable energy sector. The seriousness with which they viewed their CSR vision was refreshing. The project we have collaborated on in the outskirts of Varanasi. We see it as one step towards our vision for the future of the real India not living in cities but on the fringes in every sense. This is but a beginning, a humble beginning in the form of an education centre for the village children. Right from identifying the property, interacting with the locals, discussing and deciding the brief, locating it next to the village school is a collection of small yet significant decisions undertaken under the leadership of the Corporate firm and our experience.
This was a project ringing in the future of collaboration to in its small way change the face of our nation…a partnership between a client who wanted to invest in the future of India, and us as designers who worked towards facilitating this vision. We visualised a space where children relish their time on post school hot afternoons, use courtyards and the rooms made with local brick and labour. It may not be the most exquisite construction but we hope that the facilities of clean drinking water, sports facilities to train raw talent and open spaces that will give the people a place they belong in and are proud of.
This was a pioneering project also because we used our knowledge on sustainable practices in construction, responding to climatology and use of local materials as the frontrunners for reviving a design aesthetic for the village.
We hope to have moved a step closer to our aspiration of creating meaningful experinces through spatial design.