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This is to take stock of some of the ideas expressed in the context of webinar discussions on new trends in architecture, design and planning. A new set of vocabulary is emerging indicating a change. This new vocabulary may help in providing clarity on new approaches and interventions. This shift has stemmed from a quietened state of mind of a society that has so far functioned by measuring profit, winning, defeating, conquering, topping as its indicators of success. This quietening must be recognised and vocalised, so that it can show us a new path. Here’s a list of some of the shifts that may be useful to further develop as design parameters:

  1. From Permanence to Impermanence:

A strong feeling that all material reality is of a transient nature. The cycle of creation, preservation and dissolution applies to every tangible and intangible reality. Recognising that things, buildings, cities go through this cycle should be part of every design brief. Design proposals could therefore address deterioration, aging, disintegration, collapse and eradication as part of the design resolution.

2. From Build to Conserve:

A realisation that there’s already too much ‘stuff’ in the world, that we have built much more that we need. Also, there’s so much that needs repair, upgrading, restoring and not necessarily demolishing and rebuilding. If the idea of preserving and maintaining is built into our every design intervention, we may find it more useful to build less and preserve more. Building less can be rewarded more, given more value and will then gain more acceptance.

3. From Cure to Care:

To move from a system that regards a design brief as a problem to be solved, to a system where the role of design is that of a carer. Where each and every action of our daily life are steered by a design philosophy of care rather than cure. Here again, ideas of preserving, maintaining, tending are part of a design process. This will mean that design is never ‘finished’ but is an ongoing process that sees the demise of the ‘solution’ through to its rebirth.

4. From Own to Borrow:

Ownership, claim, entitlement have lost their lustre and appeal, giving way to a socially dynamic idea of sharing. Design can facilitate uses of objects, spaces, land, that has the ability to endure multiple life-times. This will lead to dynamic objects and spaces. Demand of rentable and flexible housing is on the rise. Enhanced livability of cities will lower the demand of customised, single use spaces. This can be done, for example, by increasing the interiority of public spaces in a city to ample provide privacy and connectivity to its residents.

5. From Compete to Collaborate:

Competition as a method to encourage and assess excellence is fast becoming redundant. Competitive spirit where the focus is on winning can lead to destruction of good human values and erode the cement that binds teams. Competition helps to climb a ladder of success by forever testing the ability to perform a task outside of one’s role or even interest. Professors are asked to excel in administration in order to grow, good architects end up ‘managing’ offices as they expand their business. It should be possible to expand within the realm of one’s interest and expertise and join others in a collaborative way to grow bigger, rather than having to give up one’s strength and interests.

6. From Lead to Conduct:

Style of leadership is changing. A leader can no longer afford to being alone on top, miraculously churning out solutions that are pushed down in a dictatorial fashion. She must be a friend, an empath, a nurturer, a coach, a binder, a motivator….a tall order! Most of all, a leader must be that catalytic force that inspires one to contribute to the best of ones ability. This new leader can be described as a conductor of a musical composition, gently nudging each musician to excel in their contribution towards the larger sound of the composition.

7. From Add to Shed:

Trimming down one’s needs, wants and levels of consumption, which is enforced on us during the pandemic, is a useful lesson in lifestyle that we must continue. Collective fasting is as fulfilling as collective feasting. Controlling consumption may allow us a certain compactness of even thought and expression in design that may lead us to a new vocabulary. This new lean vocabulary of design will then stem from who we really are and what we really need as people.

Dr Vibhuti Sachdev is Professor and Dean at Sushant School of Art and Architecture