Green conversations over cards

With information on several architects and environmentalists, Eco Deck introduces players to the makers of a green India
Green conversations over cards

CHENNAI: A rather unusual game of cards made an appearance at the Madras Literary Society on Saturday. On a table were laid out a deck of 50 cards end to end, face down, in several rows, as guests began to gather around the table, curious to figure out what it was all about.

SK Aathirai, assistant professor at Mohamed Sathak AJ Academy of Architecture, laid down the rules of what she called the Eco Deck game – each participant was to open the face of two cards, one after the other. Each card had the name of either an architect or an environmentalist along with a quote attributed to them, and whoever got two cards with the same name added them to their tally, after they read aloud the name and the quote. In the end, the player with the largest tally won.

Or so everyone thought. Very soon, another deck of cards was presented, this one with facts and descriptions alongside visual clues, from which players had to guess the person being referred to — and all of them were names that had appeared in the earlier game.

Builders of environment
A card game bringing together architects and environmentalists might seem odd, until one realises that the architects featured worked largely outside the mainstream and were deeply involved with ecological issues surrounding the built environment. So one might see a Laurie Baker or Didi Contractor card alongside a Medha Patkar or Nammazhvar card. The whole point of the game, Aathirai emphasised, was to spread awareness about the importance of ecology in the built environment.

“The construction industry is a major contributor to global warming and other ecological issues, but they’re yet to find their way into the syllabi of any architecture degree, apart from the usual lessons on materials and built environment. The point of this game is to create conversations about alternative approaches towards the built environment,” she added.

While the first round of Eco Deck was essentially a memory game, it served the additional purpose of introducing the players to some significant contributors in sustainable architecture or environmental activism. The second round, a clue card game, acquainted the players with their varying practices, approaches, and in instances like those of Baker or Sunderlal Bahuguna, their legacy. It’s a carefully curated list of 25 people of whom twelve were architects and thirteen were environmentalists.

Ideating to inspire
The idea for the game came about during preparations for the environmental science subject for second year architecture students. To get across the idea of factoring in the built environment and other ecological issues like pollution, she felt it would be a wonderful idea to get students to design a game around it. “Not just architecture students, anybody would be able to learn from this product, that was the idea behind this game,” she said.

There was also the arduous task of deciding on the people to be added to this list. The figures eventually chosen were those who led largely interesting lives — Bahuguna, for instance, who led the Chipko movement, or Baker, who left England and settled in Kerala, where he built affordable yet deeply rooted homes for the poor as it would serve as an inspiration to younger students.

Once the 25 figures were chosen, Aathirai entrusted 25 of her students with researching their lives and work through a mind-mapping project. Once all the information was in, they were distilled into the card game. The game held at the MLS was, in essence, an experiment to check how it’d resonate outside the architect circles. And going by the excitement shown by the people who had gathered there, some of them even bringing their children along to play, the experiment certainly seems to have paid off.

Aathirai credited faculty members and architects Rajagopalan, Arunima Shankar, Vishwanath Kashikar, Gauri Bharat and Seema Khanwalker as her inspiration behind the initiative, and extended a special thanks to her students who had put in all the hardwork and research behind the project. When asked if the game will be made available to the wider public, she replied, “The outcomes of this project should go beyond the classroom. We’re also planning to make the cards in Tamil.”

The event concluded with a postcard activity, a usual at the MLS, as a newer generation was made to discover the forgotten art of sending postcards to their loved ones.

Students involved in the project
Abijith Kumar S, Anand Balamurugan, Ashwini J, Elson Meshach Rao, Jai Harish, Jayavarthan, Juhe Ishwariya P, Keerthana P, Kunguma Priya, Mohamed Haaris A, Mohammed Ibhrahim, Mohammed Shalim TS, Nandhini Mahendran, Oviya Paul, Preamnath R, Rishimika R, Sai Rishi R, Shanghavi R, Shivanya M, Sreedharan SJ, Srinidhi Rangarajan, Subash C, Varshini Mukundan, Visvaa E, Yuvashree Bala B

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