Harmonious Living Architecture is based upon a through understanding of behavioral aspects of animals, plants, birds, insects and humans and their interactions, and is the only way forward to attain true sustainability.
“Architects have been aware of the issues for some time, of course, but the proportion of those committed to sustainable and ecological practices have remained small. And until recently, much of the work produced as sustainable architecture has been of poor quality. Early examples were focused mainly around the capacities of simple technologies to produce energy and recycle waste.” Mohsen Mostafavi, Gareth Doherty; Ecological Urbanism
During pre-modern times, human settlements integrated themselves and co-existed peacefully with nature. Since then, the pace of development and the growth of towns and cities has left this planet in a precarious state.Alarmed at this imbalance the world embraced the ‘green movement‘.
Architects and planners have attempted to create sustainable solutions to issues affecting architecture, design and city planning.
For the most part, the grand gestures of the various green movements around the world have failed to inspire and spark the imagination of the masses. They appear to look at integrating technology and innovation to systems and materials, all the while failing to take into account, context, habits and culture. Tried and tested and go-to ‘green’ measures of energy generation and waste recycling designed as add-ons to an already draining architecture, have been small drops in an ocean of plunder and misuse.
Having spent many years as an architect who is also actively involved in animal welfare, I have come to believe that mass change needs to begin at grass root levels. We need to look back in order to be able to go forward.
What I have come to refer to as Harmonious Living is perhaps the only way forward: a symbiotic relationship between animals, plants, humans and insects to nurture life and mutual growth.
I believe that the ability to observe is the single greatest asset of a responsible architect. Often it is the smallest of inputs that prove to have the greatest of impacts. Inferences deduced on the basis of careful and thorough observations and research, can pave the way for solutions based on indigenous practices and culture, ensuring a wider user base with greater reach and better results.
Last year my boutique architectural studio ARCHIOPTERYX moved to a new office. A low lying structure in an upcoming residential sector of a suburb of New Delhi – NOIDA. The west facing 300 sqm plot consists of a home and separate office space with a garden to the front. The building is surrounded by vacant plots on two sides and another single storeyed structure to the north. The surrounding mix of low, single storey, mid and high rise structures coupled with vacant plots and large areas demarcated for parks and green spaces have allowed birds of various sizes and shapes to flourish.
You may come across a ‘Hoopoe’ pecking away incessantly as it goes about its day combing the grass and earth, or silky black feathered ‘Drongos’ zipping by from branch to branch. ‘Tailor birds and Sunbirds’ will quickly flutter by from one shrub to another, while a little higher up on an electric pole you’ll spot a ‘Green bee-eater’s’ brilliant green plumage as it regally surveys it’s kingdom. Sparrows waddling about in the mud will fill your heart with joy, as will the knocks of a territorial ‘Red breasted barbet’ on your window pane, as it mistakes its reflection for an intruder.
Vacant and sparsely constructed plots interspersed with an almost random distribution of open space have allowed indigenous shrubs to thrive. These plants vary in height and denseness. The wild ‘Castor’ and invasive ‘Lantena’ grow free allowing for these small birds to play, and seek shelter when threatened. These are community birds with a high wing flap frequency and dense protective shrubs with the proximity of mud are vital for them to thrive. As these birds hurriedly take off, dive, play ‘hide and seek’ and land, one realises that the space horizontally and vertically between these intermittent stops is important. Long periods of flight are not possible for them, and designers and urban planners must take this into account and allow them respite and play ‘pit stops’ to recharge their batteries.
The same is true for insects and reptiles.
Garden lizards will reside in shrubs, plants and trees that provide shade, comfort, and protection from predators. Being warm blooded, a mix of local flowering creepers with larger shrubs and trees allows them to hunt insects and bees, protected from birds of prey like the ‘Shikara’ and sheltered from the sun, when it is at its harshest.
Modern high-rise architecture with its synthetic and orchestrated ‘sky gardens’, are devoid of insect, bird or reptilian life to offer humanity permanent sustainable solutions for harmonious living. It is vital to create an ecology that thrives, with each aspect of the food chain respected and catered for.
Harmonious living is essential to our existence and we at Archiopteryx hope that the design and architectural world will soon awake to realise that sustainability is about getting together all the elements that nurture growth, and creating a sustainable ecology.
Read about our Harmonious Living Manifesto .