Designing with heart: Embracing kindness in urban spaces and architecture

City-based designers and architects share how to include practices prioritising the ethics of care and kindness in their design principles.
Designing with heart: Embracing kindness in urban spaces and architecture

HYDERABAD: What if designers prioritised kindness in their work? What if we considered a successful design as something that focused on its impact on people, rather than just profitability? The theme for International Design Day 2024, ‘Is it kind?’ emphasises integrating kindness into design processes and outlines what a compassionate design entails.

With these questions in mind, we talk to city-based designers and architects who share how spaces can be designed aligning with ‘care principles’, ensuring safety, comfort, accessibility and diversity.

“As we recognise that design has the power to profoundly impact individuals and communities, we embrace empathy as a foundational principle and seek to understand the needs, emotions, desires, and aspirations of those who inhabit the spaces we design,” explains Ashwini Shwetha Ketharaj, founder, ASK space design studio.

She specifies that these principles are incorporated in the design process when a ‘care-first’ approach is adopted—right from concept design to material selection and design execution. “Our design concepts revolve around inclusivity, accessibility and accommodate people of all ages, abilities and backgrounds,” she adds.

Offering examples of what a diverse and care-first design can look like, Ketharaj adds, “Designing a sustainable courtyard house in a farm, we think of people engaging and learning, having a sense of rejuvenation with exposure to greens. Generosity in our design philosophy extends beyond physical accessibility, by integrating green building practices, prioritising energy efficiency, renewable and vernacular building materials, and biophilic elements that connect people with nature. By reducing the ecological footprint, and making positive living environments, we contribute to the health and well-being of both present and future generations,” she says.

Highlighting that designing, at its, is transformative, Prreeya Jaiin, Vice President, of Orange Tree, said that it is not just about creating aesthetically pleasing products; but also ensuring that every aspect of design respects the well-being of people, the planet, and all living beings.

“In our ‘Flake’ collection, we put together some irregular shreds of fabric waste to make up a pattern in cold and warm hues, favouring contemporary combinations in interior spaces. We diverted up to 400m of fabric from landfills through this collection. Saving about 10 lakh litres of water which would have been used to produce fresh fabric, it also helped us generate about 600 man-hours of fair work for the artisans while creating this fabric,” she says, sharing pictures of a lamp they created with this fabric. Another example is a coffee table made from reclaimed wood mixed with acacia wood, from their Eco collection.

Adding to Jaiin’s idea of kind interiors, Shailja Patwari and Pallika Sreewastav from Design Democracy point out that buildings meant for people to spend a lot of time indoors must be well-ventilated, have a lot of natural light, clear pathways and good seating in the common areas, as lack of these might be very stressful and can make people want to leave the premises as quickly as possible.

Furthermore, certain principles guided by ‘Universal Design Concepts’ need to be taken care of when we think of city spaces. “The simple underlying principle of designing an inclusive community space is having furniture that creates communication rather than isolation,” says designer and architect, Bolgum Sai Aditya.

“Embracing universal design principles ensures inclusivity and considers the well-being of all users. Another example of fostering community engagements is restaurants and cafes inviting people to attend pottery workshops, where they can relax as well as learn something new. Being kind to nature we can implement rainwater harvesting systems, use natural materials in cosmetics and packaging, and even simple gestures like providing water bowls for birds and animals,” he adds.

Hence, centring peoples, their lives, animals and nature in mind while designing spaces is what we should promote. “Creating spaces and products that understand people’s needs makes everyday design inclusive, respectful, attentive, and representative,” says architect Sruthi Padakanti. “Kindness, as a part of design development, brings significant change to how people perceive it. Remember, nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care,” she concludes.

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The New Indian Express