Global to local
Caught in the frenzy of globalisation, how many of us are aware of a counter-movement for localisation? Not many would have heard of it, but there have been regular conferences by critical thinkers, reports by serious media and apprehensions expressed by intellectuals about the possible negative impacts of globalisation. Especially, this trend needs to be studied from its long-term perspectives, rather from its apparent immediate benefits. Leading opponents of globalisation such as Helena Hodge and many other thinkers are connecting economics of happiness with localisation.
During the earlier part of the 20th century, universal design ideas originating around Europe started to travel across regions, fuelling the movement for modern architecture. Soon, technology necessary to enable modern buildings started to get transferred from the developed nations to the rest of world. Cement, steel, glass and aluminium found production houses in every major nation. Now during recent times, every other building material is being moved across the globe, with fewer centres of production and a large marketing network across the world.
Do all people believe that this kind of cross-country exports in ideas, technology and materials resulting in paradigm shifts in design and architecture are the beginning of a great new age? No; on the contrary, there are many people who are apprehensive of buildings unfit for local climate, vanishing vernacular designs and dilution in cultural identities. The global economy has silently pushed in higher life cycle costs, easier mechanised buildings, technological obsoleteness and such other larger trends. Of course, this is not to ignore the benefits of universal trends and best practices, which have enriched our ideas and perfected our actions, thanks to the exactness and discipline of western influences. There is much to learn from western processes, but that does not mean we should use multinational products.
Owners, engineers and designers believing in the local approaches are silently working on many small and large projects across India, trying to demonstrate the alternative path. However, their voice is not heard in the market-driven mainstream of architecture. Government is among the largest builders in the country who can actually support the local initiatives, while the builders can do their bit to encourage local skills and regional materials. Incidentally, global trade ensures that an imported construction material is cheaper than the local, making the option of local material a difficult choice.
Thanks to the recent developments supporting eco-friendly designs and green buildings, increasing numbers of organisations are thinking about the green and the sustainable. To that end, the international brand, printed price, the material finish and such others should not be the prime reasons for purchase, but place of manufacture, carbon footprint, embodied energy, life expectancy of material and such issues should also be the criteria.
A global company can easily dominate the local, but we should realize that without the local there is no global. Architecture is among the fields that can prove this theory.