We need to revisit history to discover many construction details, unfortunately forgotten now.
The history of architecture is the single largest repository of concepts, ideas and elements, which no printed source book on buildings can provide. The fact that this history is also a major part of our civilisational history makes it a worthy reading for everyone concerned.
However, we need to revisit history today to discover many small construction details and design nuances, unfortunately forgotten with the advent of modern times. The idea of revisiting is not to faithfully repeat the ideas from the past. There could be replicable ideas, but we need to seek applicable ideas which can be appropriately developed for our needs today.
A good case in example can be the usage of curves, where there is a major difference between the past and present. During the early civilisation, it was not easy to create curved features except in marking a round hut. All the natural materials like stone or tree branches came in straight lines. After attempting larger span for openings, people discovered arches and for interior spaces, vaults and domes.
The variety of arches and vaults evolved across the world is bewildering, with no exchange of knowledge as it happens today, which proves that these ideas originated in the minds of people.
Nearly all of these were region specific, dependent on local materials and were made ‘buildable’ by the users. As such, replicating such ideas makes great degree of green sense.
Following natural topography
Curved walls were not unknown to people, as it is found in many fortifications, where the wall follows natural topography. In regions with undulating terrain where the buildings were to edge features like rock boulders, we notice vernacular house forms also having curved profiles. However, large scale conceptualisation of curved walls is of recent origin, as an outcome of professional design developments and technical possibilities. Buildings with curves tend to appear more organic and blending with nature better, hence have been in vogue for over a century or two now. Certain building types like resorts, art galleries, exhibition spaces, roadside cafés and such others, by default, employed curved forms in plan, walls and roofs to make them more appropriate for the intended purpose. But their usage need not be restricted to such cases only.
Arched opening is historical, but an arched door top was introduced later. Atop this, an arched sunshade or chajja is a modern idea.
Thought one starts with a curved element from the past, it ends up with an innovative contemporary element, hence becomes meaningful.
Together, they appear attractive, besides representing an eco-friendly approach to design.
Yet, it is a fact that the varied advantages of flowing, dynamic or simple curved forms are not yet fully exploited by us. If we start giving them a due consideration like our past generations did, we would rediscover their potential to be nature sensitive.