For urban dwellers – and that’s over half of the world’s population, according to the United Nations – trekking in a nature reserve is a respite from the concrete jungle. Trees are unrestricted by regulations for height and gross floor area. The variety of species is not defined by land-use or conservation guidelines. Greenery is not a single shade, but a palette of textures and hues. Encountering this natural order of growth is a striking reminder (by way of comparison) of how much effort goes into designing, building and maintaining a city.
While city making has traditionally meant concreting over nature, this has given way in recent times to more environmentally friendly ideals. ‘Green buildings’, ‘sustainable architecture’ and entire ‘eco-cities’ are just some examples of how urban planners and architects have acknowledged and even embraced nature by planting more greenery, designing energy-efficient buildings, and investing in blue-green infrastructure. But beyond thinking for nature, cities can be like nature, and step into the wild.
➜ Read the full column in CUBES #88 (October/November 2017)
From smart phones to smart televisions—and now, smart cities—it is amazing how “intelligent” the world has become in recent years. “Smart” is the trendiest pre-fix in the world today, replacing “i” from the turn of the millennium when technology firm Apple revolutionised the market with its iMac and iPhones.
While “i” for Apple meant “internet”, at the heart of today’s technological revolution is all about “intelligence”. This convergence of networked technologies in architecture and industrial design has resulted in “smart buildings” and the “internet of things” (IoT) respectively, two buzzwords that sum up genuine opportunities for the industry in the coming years. But there is also the fear that architects and designers go out of control. Everything can be digitally connected one day, but they don’t all need to be so.
➜ Read the full column in CUBES #87 (August/September 2017)
Everyone knows what design should aspire to: good design. It’s a catch-all phrase that rolls easy on the tongue and sounds pleasing to the ear. No wonder this has become the profession’s holy grail for all, from the consumer to the client, and even the critic. An industry of design awards have been created around it; Some even have it in their names.
But what exactly is “good design”? Probe deeper and it doesn’t sit so comfortably after all. What may be good design for a business may not be good for the environment. What looks good to you may not be to others. “Good design” turns out to be loaded with subjective values. No surprise then that what we consider “good” today emerged from a post-war movement led by New York City’s Museum of Modern Art to equate all things “modernist” as “Good Design”.
➜ Read the full column in CUBES #86 (June/July 2017)