|The Annual International Berkeley Undergraduate Prize for Architectural Design Excellence 2023|
[ID:1869] Abruption in Social Evolution by the Architecture of Post-Millennial India: A Call to re-think ‘evolution’ and ‘development’ to bring Social Sustainability in Gurgaon
The post-independence India, with a hangover of Raj, started with a unique set of problems and conflicts based on cast, religion, migration and lack of economic opportunities. The government strategies in the first phase of post-independence era were based on socially resolving these issues and economically strengthening the neonate nation.
Sixty years after the independence, when India is breathing a new air of economic liberalization and there is a sense of being a ‘superpower’. There have been fundamental developments in the different spheres of the societies and transformations in the cultures. The society has changed and so its structural classifications, consecutively the functioning and the problems associated with it. The new ‘types’ of situations are emerging and are proving their presence thought their ‘impacts’ on society. Though, the nature of these social ‘instances’ has changed but the ‘essence’ remains the same. The traditional social-system based essence and its flexibility to adopt foreign cultures, is now suddenly facing a challenge of hyper-modernity and accelerated Globalization. Everything has become very dynamic through the availability of technological mediums and updated knowledge with its users.
In the post millennial India, most of the products of Globalization have been adopted and modified well according to the need of society. Still, there are certain expressions and cultural offsprings which are difficult to accept by the masses and a larger structure of society. The reason is the non-contributing nature of these expressions to a larger interest of the society and its components. This phenomenon can be seen in the case of society and the contribution of a built-expression. Traditionally, the culture which has always been able to adopt, adapt and modify the foreign inputs and insertions by creating the socially sustainable offsprings, in this case has not been able to respond to the core society. A Culture which has behaved like a Blotting-Paper [Doshi] is facing the knife of Hyper-Globalization.
The busted Globalization through the help of technological innovations has created the situations where there has been abruption in the evolution of the societies. Out of various new social situations, one example can be realized in the case of newly developed Gurgaon, a city which was seen as buffer to the National Capital through its geographical location, where Global whims to create a new and different architecture and urban imagery has led to “abruption in social evolution” in the city, society and a larger subset of buildings and users. The competition is based on this abruption at the very point of its occurrence.
The new Gurgaon which we see today is a post-millennial phenomenon whose foundations were laid back earlier to compete with the development of Delhi. It can also be seen as a process of dedensification of the national capital and inviting to create a new focus through state’s ‘open door’ policy. Through the years the city has been able to house different categories of migrants it accepted, formally or informally.
The parallel approaches taken by different developers and other city-dwellers to create a habitat or a land-use function resulted in creating different societies having ‘boundaries’ between them. These boundaries are not just physical, but also the social and psychological at some cases. The current trends of ‘parcel urbanization’ and ‘bounded development’, almost in every land-use commercial, institutional and residential, have further degraded the living value of the city. Most of the land-use distribution was “intuitive to change” and adapted according to developer’s desire. Consequently, the development happened was developer based and it never considered the actual users who will be using and accessing their sites. The Urbanism of Gurgaon may be termed as ‘isolated Urbanism’ for it remains an ad-hoc arrangement of disjointed sets of enclaves [Biswas].
The blank canvas of new Gurgaon city was painted by social classes who migrated from various territories, including neighbours with weak boundaries, and painted it with their imagery. The macro-culture of the city can be said as a regional-cosmopolitan in a sense that it absorbs people and cultures from various parts of South-Asia. The city is commodified at every level. The population pressure like densification on the capital region helped this city to further commodify through newer means/tools of development.
Gurgaon can be seen as a Sarai, for the deterritorialized [Deleuze, Guattari] population of this city. The migrated population tries to find permanence in this dynamicity but is ready to migrate if given a better opportunity. This permanence can be seen as a part of consumption culture where one uses an object, without being associated with it. Gurgaon has not been able to give that association. In this foreign city, these deterritorialized mass is not able find permanence due to its alien contents including architecture. Those who are associated are actually seeing it as a change or a new style of living.
Gurgaon is known as the millennium city of India, as its development accelerated with the arrival of new millennium. The city has seen unprecedented growth in the last seven years. This millennium city consisted of Multi National Companies and the BPOs, to whom and through which the ‘millennium’ image was propagated.
The essay focuses on complexities and conflicts emerging through BPOs in Gurgaon. The primary function, explained through its full-form, is Business Process Outsourcing. It’s a situation where companies outsource its work to another which has an expert and cheaper workforce. Like the IT companies based in US, outsourcing its Human Resource and IT department’s function to a transforming country like India. Through an availability of educated English speaking workforce, India has two-third of world’s offshore BPOs. Through the state government’s policy level flexibilities and a desire to compete with neighbouring or parallel developments, Gurgaon has been able to house India’s largest number of BPOs; most of them are the Call Centers.
Gurgaon has seen a process of an ultra-modernization and image building over historically an agricultural land. This process has created complexities and conflicts at living levels. The city was never planned and was never ready for this kind of aggressive urbanization. Interestingly, the development and the evolution of the city have largely been based on these BPOs and eventually the reactions created by these buildings have triggered the real estate prices on the price of disturbed ecology.
In the same process, the millennium city has projected itself as “the Global City of North India”. The city has been able to come up with a debatable “Global identity”. At the architectural level, the interpreted Glass-Built expressions of these global functions and their highly ‘speaking for self’ nature is questionable. With the client’s desire of being world-class, materials and techniques used in a city with ambiguous and flexible bylaws, and the architect’s drive to create ‘best’ in all of the ‘glossy images’ the product, here the BPO building becomes anti-social in nature. Their restricted admissions due to private ownerships of huge percentage of city’s prime land and no anticipation of buffer space for some informal and flexible functions makes them highly anti-Public.
In case of these “BPO/Call-Center” buildings in Gurgaon, the “systems” are just being copied from the West in the camouflage of functional requirements and satisfying commercial statistics. Forget about the environmental obligations for a while, a city-user and people from other parts of country are never able to relate to this new ‘type’ of building, socially and psychologically.
Unfortunately, to compete and follow with Gurgaon’s global image, the small ‘booming’ towns are copying the bad examples of functional interpretations of BPOs. Derivatively, the social ‘alienity’ and alignment of ‘these’ buildings with respect to a city dweller and the building’s response to the society can be seen as the social problem of ‘new’ India specially in the case where newer ‘Global’ towns have accepted Gurgaon as their ‘leader’. Traditionally, the country where a building of this scale has always been an ‘institution’ is facing an abruption in the evolution of social modernity in the built-expressions. The yesteryear’s buildings which lasted today have the quality of “Social Sustainability”, apart from their physical strength. It’s the flexible use, adaptability and its nature of ‘serving’ to the community and city makes the building “socially sustainable”.
“The multi-national BPOs present in this Global situation elaborated here, are one of the manifestations of the abruption in the social evolution of the society. The competition attacks at this abruption by calling to re-think ‘evolution’ and ‘development’ in order to bring Social Sustainability in Gurgaon.”
The competition seeks ‘idea/s’ that can be incorporated within the current trend of urbanization, specifically, for an autonomous function like a BPO’s Call Centre. The competition is open for those Students' ideas that can create value trough new architectural typologies/modifications for BPOs, rather than becoming just another contextual new "clothes" for the same commercial phenomena, in order to become a real "social" capital.
The proposed competition focuses on the functional form of the BPOs, i.e. a “Call Centre Building”. The students should choose a site for the proposed function according to the Gurgaon’s Master Plan. The size of the site can be between 5,000sqm. to 100,000sqm. The structure and the area program based on per employee work area should be derived from a critical research. A proposal for its change or any changes in byelaws can be presented in the final entries. The students are expected to address the totality including informal-formal, visible-invisible, direct-indirect aspects of building and its users.
“For students, a call centre building in the context of Gurgaon should be seen as an opportunity to create an expression which represents a total sustainability including society, culture and environment”.
The competition is primarily a design problem, where one has to illustrate how different dimensions of the city is integrated in designing the function rather thinking it towards creating one more signature building in the cityscape. The writings illustrating the positions taken by the team for the design can be presented while communicating the idea.
The competition is to be taken as one semester’s design studio in the fourth/fifth year of undergraduate architectural studies. Out of available 16 weeks, students can divide the semester and work on research and analysis, design and its development, presentation and materials. An orientation and three internal reviews at fourth, ninth and fourteenth week will be given by the faculty at School. The students and teams can chose a mentor for discussions and guidance, subject to his/her availability.
The studio can be joined by different students from the world interested in working for the most dynamic city of India. The studio can be implemented in the session starting from the August of this year. A large amount of the work done by the students of the School of Art and Architecture in Gurgaon in the earlier years including several Thesis, Urban Image Studies, Housing Studios, SEZ Planning Studio etc. can serve as base work.
The students can work individually or can form a team upto four. While working in group, the students can focus on their interest areas with their existing knowledge and perception about the city, society and architecture in the beginning, and towards the intermediate stage i.e. the design, they can exchange the research to apply on design development. The few interest areas that can be explored are historical, social, cultural, psychological, functional, financial and environmental aspects of the users and the city.
The intent of this “Idea Competition” is to encourage possibilities emerging out of young minds. It is advisable to the students to think about feasibility and implementation in the context but this should not be any hindrance for an exiting theoretical possibility. The presentation may explain the detailed experiences through manually drawn or computer generated comprehensive graphics. The ideas should be presented on a panel of 1189mm X 1682mm. This size can be divided into 4A1(portrait)/2A0(landscape) sheets. The sheets must be flat. However, upto two independent models (maximum base size 900mmX630mm each) can support the scheme. At least, one of the model’s materials, at any comprehensive scale, should reflect the proposed schemes intention towards responding the competition objective and guidelines rather than speaking about its formal qualities.
The invited jury here represents knowledge, authority, application skills and critique about the subject and context.
KT Ravindran (Chair), an academician, architect and urban planner who understand city with buildings.
Hafeez Contractor, an architect, the person responsible for most of the icon buildings in Gurgaon, and the new Cyber City.
Sunita Narayan, an environmental scientist and social activist.
Raman Roy, a corporate, the pioneer of Indian-BPO-industry.
Since the intent is to see ideas coming out, it will be examined from the final entries that how and what level students have defined questions for their solutions. Has the final product has been able to build itself as an adaptable model? How the building is allowing various user groups to be a part of it through its program. How the building is influencing the present and creates a base for better future. The thought for details, like specifying the building materials and its sources, the quantity of labour associated with the process, will definitely be appreciated. The idea should work at Architectural level and inspire others from associated fields to think and act.
The competition will expose Gurgaon to an under explored and rarely implemented thinking of Social Sustainability. The residents of Gurgaon are gradually realizing what they are missing and what they have got in excess through the lifestyle created by architecture of the city. The competition being conducted in an architectural school will make aware not only the residents but also the professionals associated with functioning and construction of the BPO buildings.
Apart from School, the entries will be displayed at three critical spots; first: the City Centre Mall with highest footfall in the city; second: the market in Chakkarpur Village, where a large number of original inhabitants and migrants live; third: The Cyber City, where most of the BPOs are located.
The ideas should make all realize that how a building can contribute through its design .The models coming out of this competition can be critically adapted by the newer and smaller cities, the governmental associates or the private developers, which are recently exposed to the ‘Outsourcing’ phenomenon to retain their social-integrity, which allows them to ‘evolve’ through a sustainable track of development based on social, cultural and environmental values.
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