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The Basics of Inhabiting

We all have seen enough movies to know how the backdrop depicts the tone of the scene, sets our expectations of the character's attitude, thoughts and intentions. When the camera walks into a house with subtle warm white lights, a porch as a transition space with plants to either side leading to the living spaces of the house, a portrait of the inhabitant is already set before the audience even meets the character. Sub-consciously, the audience is aware that there is a pergola on a terrace with flowering plants lurking somewhere to be brought to us as the character's favourite getaway space.

For example, in the movie 'wake-up sid!', a very drastic and obvious differentiation is shown between the boy and girl lead characters just through defining their bedrooms accurately. The boy has a room where he trashes most of his clothes, gadgets, books and bags whereas the girl is extremely peculiar, articulate and organised. I picked this example as it was a universal favourite when it was released, assuming that most of the readers would be well aware of the scenes. The interrelation between the characters and the backdrops of the scenes is very direct and accurate in this particular Bollywood film.

When the young adult seeks jobs and instead looses himself in the streets of the city freezing moments in the lens of his camera, it seems fairly acceptable to the audience when he falls for the office setup which is vibrant and catchy as opposed to the rigid and contentious corporate framework. Although to most viewers this was just a film, where work can turn to play and vice versa, to the largest of corporate firms such as Google and Facebook, the concept of the workplace being an enjoyable and fun space is the foundation of their office space designs. Research has proved that an open, flexible and friendly work environment derives more results from a content subconscious allowing for more mind space and enhances creativity. A holistic approach towards personalising work environments instead of merely allowing some intrusion of personal lives into work spaces such as personal desks and pin boards will result in a healthier subconscious for the employee paving the way for a better functionality of the relaxed mind.

Genesis. Design is born of the soul.

When we set out to purchase our houses, most of us go for the interior spaces, ambience we tend to like and then make minimum makeshift changes as we move in; like a crab finding an empty sea shell and moving into it. Unlike tents for drifters, homes are for the rooted. A home is a personal space that defines the inhabitant. Only when it provides for au naturel, does the containment feel like home.

Looking back at the cultural history of housing over a period of time, we realize that homes went from being large spaces that evolved as expressions of the inhabitant to make-shift ready to move apartments. The Industrial Revolution was a result of the attempt to mass manufacture anything and everything that the mind could imagine. This concept found its way into all the industries, including construction. The rate at which buildings are erupting in metropolitan cities is tremendous. The cost of production increases at an equally alarming rate, but the investment in an individuals environment remains negligible.

For 50 years post Indian Independence, Indians had been concerned majorly with their primary requirements, roti, kapda aur makaan. Health, Locomotion and Entertainment came to be a secondary concern for the independent State. Literacy and Design are yet to gain a stance in this chart of necessities and luxuries for the common man.

Design as a concept is lost, but in its defence, it has had limited exposure to the minds of the masses. As a result, awareness of a good design, its usability, the functionality, a concept, the challenges in implementation and durability are a few of the complications faced by an architect while dealing with a client. For the generic group, adding a spatial value to the structures they occupy, live, or work in, seems of absolutely no importance. In the quest of having good homes, the crowd turns towards vastu consultants and designers (or worse, even contractors who claim to have an experience in interior design). The focus of all such approaches is to have a home that can be showed off to the community. The love one must feel when one gets home, the feelings that must wrap the inhabitant are lost in the urge to compete.

Unfortunately, instead of aiming for a unique home that represents us, we blend in with the society. We pick pieces from the different spaces we have seen and liked and paste it into our own environment creating a myriad of random elements that skirmish to make the space a home. The resultant is a visually overpowering and sensory depriving space. We know the use of subtle lights, but we use far too many in proportion, destroying the idea of subtlety. Consequently, we have a home brighter than daylight. An accuracy in calculation of height and direction during the placement of lights can make a huge difference to how much luminance a source of light provides.

In the attempt to create a home to keep up with the latest fashion, the user forgets to focus on one's own tastes and requirements. The design limits itself to appeal to only one of the senses, the optical. The auditory, olfactory, tactile and proprioceptive senses are considered unlikely to be affected by spatial design.

Lakhs of Indian Rupees are spent in furnishing a house, in the attempt to make it a home. The methodology used for converting a structure to a home is that of a hermit crab in a shell, rather than a mollusc growing the containment to fit its size and form, from inside out. A good design initiates from within and then grows outwards, enveloping the structure and its inhabitants, making it all seem parts of one humungous puzzle. The inhabitant and the environment must relate directly to one another. And just as every individual is unique, so shall the habitat.


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