BANGALORE: If equitability is a priority and people are willing to pay the price for creating humane conditions of living and life for the disadvantaged, it is a sign of a mature society. While this aim has obviously been a part of governmental initiative and may have met with success to an extent it has rarely met the aspiration for qualitative environments appropriate to the lifestyle, livelihood, community comfort etc of the disadvantaged.
A will to contribute is only the beginning; secondly methods of production and delivery of change are critical and thirdly and most importantly are the ability of such endeavours to touch deeply the lives of individuals and communities beyond providing them with mere shelter.
We must move design prominently into the realm of such important projects and make it an inherent part of all infrastructure development in India. It is common in Europe for some of the best designers to be given opportunities to develop such projects from the early 60’s onwards.
These have been seminal design projects in the history of architecture and have created great places that have captured the vibrancy and way of life of the occupants and their communities.
A few projects such as BV Doshi’s Aranya project in Indore as well as Charles Correa’s Belapur housing project have been some of the better known initiatives with varying degrees of success and loads of lessons.
A smaller and more recent example has been affordable housing/ subsidised housing by the private sector builders for the disadvantaged. This idea, initiated only in smaller parts of India, has again had mixed success.
Capacity building for the disadvantaged must include access to self help, issues related to equal rights to land, water and air and this has been a challenge in the capitalist world economy. Technology as always remains a tool of information but intent and policy have far more sweeping effects.
Finding the balance between opportunity and the creation of a habitat for the benefit of the disadvantaged is only part of the issue. It must begin with the societal intent to make a change and the next step should be administering that change effectively. If the heart of society is in the right place then the best talents in creative architectural design (beyond options that are merely technology driven) can be drawn together to sensitively address social and cultural disparities and housing typologies.
Housing is about living and the quality of social and community life and not just about numbers.
Bangalore has made substantial growth in the IT sector and not much in others (such as manufacturing and so on) hence this distortion in the growth of a city is far from organic – it is immigration from within the country for opportunity. This has its own repercussions and hence the private housing market has responded to this particular group’s pattern and reality.
Governmental initiatives / policies have not yet used this as an opportunity to create communities and housing for the displaced / disadvantaged by partnering with the private entrepreneurs to start with. That is one of the things that need to happen in Bangalore.
Accessibility to own land and self development also needs work since for many the unavailability of land has been a prime reason for helping themselves to create their own housing. This whole issue has been researched since the rapid growth of numbers in Indian cities from the 70’s onwards.
This requires a central government initiative to explore new ways of going about it and getting great design back into realm of habitat. Indian history has been a rich repository of the beauty that is still evident in old architectural marvels as well as habitat.
The core value of centralising the aspect of beauty and simplicity needs now to be negotiated for the numbers required, with appropriate material and appropriate technology.
Rather than the financial categorisation of housing as housing for the poor, we need to remember that we need to design for people and communities and enhance their way of living and quality of life without alienation - and through solutions that are not merely technological.
Soumitro Ghosh is the director of Mathew & Ghosh Architects Pvt. Ltd