According to Wikipedia, sustainability is the ability for biological systems to live in a healthy state indefinitely. The definition caters to wetlands and landscape but in my opinion, the word sustainability signifies much more than that. Biological systems do not just revolve around plants and landscapes, they depend on the economic and social field as well. To me, Sustainability is the ability for the world to sustain its resources indefinitely in terms of economic development, environment stability and social justice. And I was introduced to its importance even before I came into architecture school.
Back in 2012, I was fresh out of engineering school and switching to a career not knowing what to expect. I was starting an internship in an architectural firm in Bangalore, India. I learned a lot of things during This internship. I learned about creating plans, developing sections and how to think about corporate architecture. After 6 months I began a second internship with a much smaller firm. They had 2 principals, one licensed architect and one intern, me. Within a year of going into business they had a surprising amount of projects. This internship changed the way I felt about architecture and shaped my definition of sustainability.
I worked in the third largest metropolitan city in India - Bangalore. I worked on a total of three projects with the small firm, the interiors of a residence, a villa and an office. The principals allowed me to tag along with them every time they went on client meetings. And contrary to what was discussed in my previous firm, these meetings were very different. They didn’t focus on the building plan or section. Instead, every drawing told a story.
At the small firm, we didn’t think of a building as an installation on a site. But that the building and site were seamless entities in a greater fabric. That’s when I noticed how the design considered the urban context to determine orientation and material and elevation. The design was not a flat building on a flat site. It adapted with the terrain and the topography. The interiors were not just rendered to look pretty in pictures. They didn’t have all glass facades claiming to bring in maximum light. The spaces paid careful consideration to the people inside. Sustainable practices like natural lighting, passive ventilation, creating internal and external courtyards were all considered in the design right from conceptual meetings. This was my first experience with sustainable design and it changed my life forever.
In my last weeks before I came abroad to pursuit a degree in architecture, I visited some relatives in Mumbai. Mumbai is a hot and humid coastal city, while Bangalore is an elevated landlocked city that has pleasant weather year-round. Unlike Bangalore where air conditioning is a barely-used luxury, Mumbai’s homes are stacked with air conditioners and coolers. As I walked the city during the day and took a look at the skyline. In an effort to mimic western architecture, lots of buildings had glossy, glass facades. These buildings had lost their context. Their design made them greenhouses that absorbed more heat than required. As a result the dependence on HVAC systems increased and as a result, so did their energy dependence. The experience reaffirmed my affinity for sustainable design.
My desire to change the way the world perceives design has increased exponentially with my time at Iowa State so far.I hope to deepen my understanding of the tools available in this field and to establish credibility on this subject. Through-out my career, I hope to make an impact in my country in whatever way I can.