What if Animal were a client?

   

    

This trip to Hathigaon with my professor left me with a question, what is my role as an architect? Who am I working for? Who are my clients? The answer to this question, by default is of course, a human! Or a family of humans, or families of humans but never a context different than that. Is this because we are so delusional that we can’t seem to shift our focus to other users that share the same spaces as we do? Or are we too consumed by our own needs? If ever a group of aliens lands on earth, they’d mock us for our ‘not so universally designed’ planet and will never plan to grow their civilization here. (Phew! Our hypocrisies saving us each day.)

But is my role just limited to designing spaces that are human-centric or spaces where life broods? Had I not provided a lawn for my dog to run and not put a litter box for my cats, my house would’ve smelled of cat poop and the dog would’ve turned out as lazy as I am? But do we take these efforts because they are our pets? What about the others? (HA! EASY! They’ll fend for themselves!)

Our inabilities to design a better environment for different species is often compensated by labelling them as intruders. We put them behind glorified arrests, popularly known as zoos (a sad recreation of their natural habitats). Would you do the same for humans, provide them with a design and surroundings that are outright uncomfortable? You wouldn’t. It is so because you put yourselves in the context.

So what if your client is ‘non-human’? A dog. A squirrel. An earthworm! A herd of bees. A cow. An elephant. A blue whale? So the construct becomes, WHAT IF MY CLIENT IS AN EARTHWORM!? Where do I begin? Well, a small shift of context, carefully observing their absolute true habitat, their involvement in the spaces, can help us to start with. The ‘context’ then sublets its requirements.

Who is the space designed for?

How is ‘it’ going to use it?

How, should the space react to their behavioural and usage patterns?

Once we repeatedly start asking these questions, the curiosity of designing according to the context will answer for itself. And carefully, intervening, strategizing and devising methods to recreate the environment will help you understand better. And if we succeed in creating a suitable environment, the species will naturally propagate. This process of understanding nature, and creating spaces for a different user, helps us in intangible ways.

As humans, we have the ability to think, manipulate and mould our surroundings.  Some wise and conscious efforts and intelligent interventions can go a long way. And, we as designers have a responsibility to create environments where every species broods and thrives, especially in this ‘urban jungle’.

 This process of understanding nature, and creating spaces for a different user, will bring us closer as a community and will help us in a long run.

The incentives; every time, need not be physical and materialistic.

 

 June 13, 2018, | written by Shreya Khandekar | sketches provided by Urmila A. Koti