Architecture & its role in contemporary society

Architecture and the environment
I am always grateful for the recognition one receives in life; it is
unexpected, yet reminds us of our responsibilities as architects. The
Padma Bhushan is recognition, of architecture as a profession, and
the role it plays in society and the environment.
When we use the term ‘architecture’, we really mean the creation of
an environment in response to a lifestyle. It reflects the quality of life
in different contexts — towns, cities, villages and surrounding regions.
This means that we have to be more conscious of the environment
we live in. Do we realize that the pollution, expansion and chaos in our
habitats need to be reduced? Likewise, in architectural education, we
need to become more conscious of the environment. If graduating
architects are socially, culturally and ethically aware, their concern
will have a positive impact on society and the practice at large.

On collaborations
If we are to look at India over the next 20
years, we need to ask ourselves if we are
exploring balanced development, as a joint
partnership between government, architects
and civic society, and we need to look at how
we can achieve this.
Such a collaboration could holistically look at
the environment, new ways of working, and
lifestyles. It could evolve into a high standard
of habitat design that is socially, climatically
and environmentally sustainable.
If this can be achieved, we can hope for a
new beginning in the next two decades, with
government recognition and support to the
architecture fraternity.
Architectural education
Institutions of architecture have an
important role in decision-making, planning
and development. We need to imagine and
create modern, contemporary habitats that
respond to the aspirations of society.
This was the intention behind establishing
the School of Architecture in Ahmedabad.
The role of architects needs to be seen like
that of doctors, responsible for public health
and social welfare. Those who participate in
‘habitat-building’ have a responsibility.

Heritage and development
During a visit to Italy several years ago, I recall
how the government there collaborated
with local architects to improve a historic
neighbourhood. Focusing on the significance
of ethnic and cultural values, at each stage of
the heritage zone’s redevelopment, the local
government constantly consulted architects
before making any changes. They also
discussed the various issues and concerns
with the team before changing land-use,
bylaws and regulations. Architects were also
consulted before authorities intervened in
existing heritage settlements.
This is the reason why Italy, even as it develops
today, continues to value its heritage. This
vision has also had an influence on the
educational system, as students and faculty
are aware of history, heritage and growth, with
respect for the environment. Each individual
becomes a shareholder and has a deep sense
of belonging to protect the surrounding habitat.
The nature of change
What is the kind of change we desire in
society? Change needs to value our heritage.
The recognition [with the Padma Bhushan]
of the architect’s role in the welfare of society
marks a new beginning. It is a tool to initiate
sensitive changes in society and improve
the quality of life. It is an important moment
in history to discuss how change can take
place in a balanced and holistic manner.