Site and foresight
If people could design, build and live happily as per site contexts for thousands of years, why do we need to destroy the rules of nature today?
The Chennai floods have receded, though the herculean task of rebuilding lives continues. As we ponder over the tragedy, we can read hundreds of blunders we are committing on Mother Earth. In every city there are disasters waiting to happen, and if they do not happen, we should thank our good fortunes. Why are we so insensitive to nature? Why are the culture of living and architecture of buildings overriding the basic rules of the context?
These observations are not to point a finger at one building project or blame one developer, but to think about the collective havoc we are causing in the name of constructing a city. Modern technology enables us to flatten hill tops, build tall retaining walls, fill tank beds, construct river embankments, clear forests, quarry the whole granite hillock and do all that our parents could not do a few decades ago.
Before constructing on a site, first we destroy the context of the site, so we can ignore its true demands and characteristics. For thousands of years if people could design, build and live happily as per site contexts, why do we need to destroy the rules of nature today? Where did we inherit this insensitivity from?
It is we the educated, rich and powerful class who have lost our sensibilities towards nature. We wish to face the seafront, so build there blocking rainwater drains, causing floods in Mumbai. We ill treat our lower Himalayas such that torrential rains lash Uttarkhand to submerge settlements including Kedarnath shrine. We build on all low lands, let water get stagnant to convert HSR Layout into an island in Bengaluru. And now in Bengaluru, we design iconic structures to tower over the city by chopping an auspicious hillock, slicing the site and scarring the skyline.
Are these destructive actions necessary to construct the meaningful? Why cannot we live without damaging the ground under our feet? Can we individually say NO to such proposals and refuse to be a party to such un-eco practices, however prestigious the project may appear to be?
Designing is not only an act of designing, but equally well an act of visualising design implications. For most of us, the ultimate implication of design and construction appears to be earning money and owning property. What our design does to nature is left to its fate.
Every one of us has a role in the construction industry in our own cities – as a policy maker, administrator, promoter, designer, builder, buyer or user. If our constructions are causing destructions to nature, it’s our duty to realise our mistakes, to correct them before it gets too late. It is time we realise our responsibilities towards nature, to regain our traditional sensibilities towards context.
It is time we are sensitive to every site we build upon. Only then, the truth would dawn on us that every one of us is responsible for the Chennai floods.