Role of Architecture in Nation Building
“What exactly comes in the mind of a human mind when they hear the word, Architecture?”
A term that started out as a means of protection, a shelter in a built form, has gradually evolved into an art form, both subjectively and creatively. At its roots, it exists to create the built environment in which humans live, but architecture is more than just the physical environment. It is a reflection of a human mind, which in summation, stands as a reflection of a society and its values. It is basically an idea, an expression of art is conveyed through various forms in our built environment. Tracing back from the past, the architecture of a monument, residence or a public space somehow portrays a secret message, of the way we have lived and thrived in a particular era. Ranging from the intricate carvings on the historical monuments to the fine craftsmanship, it renders out the idea of the rich cultures of each part of our country.
The concept of architecture becomes clearer when we go through history, as it has always been perceived as an identity in each era. It gives a vivid image of the fabric of the city, town, or village and how the inhabitants before our time lived in them. By studying it with modern approaches, we come to understand that architecture has always been synthesizing with us since the beginning of time and revived our nation.
Before architecture came into the role of putting life and people inside a building and creating spaces, buildings were more like ‘decorated coffins for dead people’ as stated by Ar. M.N. Ashish Ganju in one of his talks. The impact of the built environment was not just confined to the parameters of the materialistic beauty of the space but also its spirit and the way we live together in it which enhances and develops the individual human being.
Humans adapted various forms of shelter and modified them on the basis of the climate and the need of a time of a particular region, the materials present as well as the values of the society building them. As the societies became more and more connected, the styles evolved, but even in modern construction, there is still an importance in honoring the cultural nuances in the built environment.
India, being a diverse country is home to various cultures, each having its own set of principles and notions on architecture. If we were to travel to any state of India, we would come across variants of typology in their architecture, which not only has evolved as a result of cultural differences and civilization but also with the demand of the increasing population and the need for the country. It can be said that the role of architecture in culture and society could be perceived both ways. While architecture is a need to represent a society’s identity, it is their culture that modifies their built environment and architecture.
Architecture has always acted as a social and cultural product in the development of our nation which includes the incorporation of more civic spaces leading to the evolution of public squares, public vistas, temples, hospitals, community center, which, all these together, played a vital and important role in uniting the nation and hence, eliminating the social, economic and cultural barriers. But with the passage of time, all this seems to become blurry as we seem to be leaving our primitive roots and have eventually started moving towards unwanted and unorganized development, towards the process of rapid growth which has become more fashionable, at times, begs us the question, “are we actually developing, as a nation?”
The connection between architecture and nation is evident even though sometimes neglected as it is not only related to urban development but also related to that 80 percent of the rural population. Architecture, being the professional field has always been different from trade as it did not demand anything in return and has worked towards the upliftment and empowerment of society regardless of any political, religious, or social barrier.
Architecture is more revealing and grounded as compared to any other field and keeps every part of the society attached to one string; It is only when rural development started after architecture came into the role; whether it be the construction of the community center, temples or primary school or any other physical infrastructure with the time, there was also a parallel development going on in urban areas due to the boom in Industrialization which eventually evolved from the architecture and was contributing towards the generation of the economy for the Nation.
With the advent of industrialization, the whole country has been driving towards urbanism, where modern-day society and cultures are slowly integrating together to form a style of architecture that lags in some way or the other. Globalization, a movement that encourages the standardization of social, cultural, political, and technological aspects of society has somehow diffused the idea of identity, roots, and traditions. Modern architecture has fractured this very thought while in rural areas, their architecture is primitive and addresses the basic fundamentals of context, climate, and community participation.
Cities are enablers of growth and change, which is basically pushing people to adopt modern technology in their lifestyle and architecture. While technology is paying its contribution towards the idea of contemporary architecture as a sign of dominance and success, the majority of the buildings look extremely similar with no sense of place or culture and traditional identity; something which we still don’t see in rural architecture. If we talk of development in rural areas, their built environment has been holding and evolving their elements of “art” since the development of our nation and has merged with their architecture to make their space look more specialized, hence giving their village, or in fact, community, and identity.
Which makes us wonder if the real growth of our nation is through the principles adapted from the concepts of rural architecture? In a developing country like India, one could find more sustainable and green buildings in rural areas than in urban areas. The shelters are a mix of their culture and vernacularism, which now, architects and planners adapt the technology into the cities. The study of their principles is giving them a holistic approach towards the development of the city that can fulfill the demands of the urban population, yet somehow, connecting us through our roots.
There has been a rise in the development in the architecture of rural areas too, which could be considered as a strong role of architecture for the same. The students and architects now, more than ever, realize the importance of green initiative and concepts of rural architecture that basically drives them towards adapting sustainability in their projects. Within a span of the last 10–20 years, the definition of architecture in the minds of a student has changed drastically, the credit for which could be given to urbanization. The advent of modernism has made us all appreciate their building and construction methodologies, and the adaption of local materials in the desired projects. This actually has benefitted the rural areas as well; through the proper education of architecture.
The study of architecture is varied. A student who starts studying architecture comprehends it simply as a way of designing houses, and public space. He, when gets intertwined with the designing process, along with psychology, sociology, and economics behind it, realizes later the responsibility of carrying out a project and the deep impact it will cater on its occupants. The study of architecture not only teaches a student to design a building but to design an opportunity to lay down an impact on the spectrum of our society. It gives the potential to its student to harmonize their skill and lay down a bridge towards social change, as well.
This social change, in fact, benefits the infrastructure of the rural parts of our nation, more than we realize. The inclination towards the social responsibility of an architect basically lessens the gap between technology and culture. It helps in the formulation of a network of skilled artisans and architects with technologically imperative knowledge, which brings out holistic sustainability and identity to that particular region.
With our thorough research, we have realized that architecture has now become an integral part of the nation and not just the individual identity, so, it contributes towards the holistic development of the country as the parameters of architecture has evolved in the past few years which touches the sharp edges of social development sectors, agriculture, climate change, policy-making or space making exercises, it is not just confined to built environment anymore which eventually reflects the dependency of the nation’s development on architecture.
 “Architecture and Society” by GREHA held at India Habitat Centre, New Delhi 2019
 Census of India report 2011
Written for “COA International Essay Competition 2020" by Shivangi Shankar and Nikhil Paliwal.