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Nature-Nurture Architects & Planners: A Profile in Green Care and Inclusion

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on September 09, 2015 at 03:32 PM

In continuation of our engagement with inclusive planning and sustainable architecture discussed in   we present today the profile of Nature Nurture Architects. This is a ‘differently oriented’ venture trying to make a difference through inclusive and green design in the lives of the differently abled as well as others under the leadership of Parul Kumtha. In founder Parul Kumtha’s words, Nature Nurture ‘is a team of young women & men who are unabashed about their commitment to green & accessible design interventions’. In today’s commercial business environment, where every firm is only trying to maximize their returns, this is indeed a firm with a difference, wanting to make a difference. 

© Courtesy of Nature Nurture Architects

Kumtha, Principal Architect at Nature - Nurture Architects & Planners, is a more than a sum of parts. Besides, her qualification as an architect, she has studied Biodiversity, Conservation and is a mother to a 22-year-old with Autism Spectrum Disorder. All these diverse and multiple experiences have informed her architectural practice and deeply influenced her need to chart out her own path within the field of Design.  She was also one of the professionals involved in the drafting of the revised Persons with Disabilities Law that incorporates an elevated level of inclusiveness.

She stresses on the importance on Universal Design – a design strategy which brings complete accessibility in a building to all users including the disabled, the aged, children, pregnant women & even people from different economic & cultural backgrounds. She believes that Universal Design can best be learnt by interacting with these different sections of society and understanding and appreciating the nuances of differential use. At an academic level, this can be implemented by enforcing correct barrier-free design practices from day one, in much the same manner as correct ergonometric and construction practices are presently done. Nature Nurture has trained its focus on bringing equal access to all spheres by specializing on disabled-friendly infrastructure, in both the new-built & retro-fit categories. 

The firm has done some exemplary work with the NGO Access4All Foundation, Nashik where they stress on the need to bring Universal Design concepts to different functional spaces such as Educational, Recreational, Transportation & Public Utilities. 

Government Girls’ Shasakiya Vidhyalaya (image 1,2)

After conducting an accessibility audit at the school, Nature Nurture compiled a list of recommendations such as:

  • Separation of vehicular & pedestrian circulation networks
  • Streamlining of parking bays & provision of handicapped parking spots
  • Ramp access to the stepped entrance for wheelchair access
  • Tactile markers on staircase & a lift proposed within the stairwell
  • Footpath provided with curb ramps.

 

Kalidas Kalamandir Auditorium (Cover image, images 3,4)

While recreational activities play an important role in de-stressing the mind of an individual, in our country disabled people often cannot access these spaces due to the lack of thought during the design process towards accessibility issues. Some of the solutions provided by Nature Nurture are:

  • Disabled toilets
  • Directional & warning tactile markers
  • Ramps
  • Handicapped parking

Ramkund (images 11 -15)

Pilgrimage sites are often most vulnerable to mishaps & accidents due to the large number of devotees flocking these areas. Thus the infrastructure around these sites must be detailed & be sensitive in nature to ALL sections of society. Some proposed solutions are as under:

  • Floating bridge instead of current stepped one
  • Space saving trinket shop modules designed of free space of encroachments
  • Changing rooms designed with temporary partitions
  • Addition of water fountain
  • Kaak Sparsh module proposed at ground level for increased accessibility.

 

Central Bus Depot (images 5 - 10)

Public Transport systems in India are woefully inadequate when it comes to giving independent accessibility to its differently abled citizens. At the Nashik Bus Depot, a complete re-organization of vehicular and pedestrian networks was proposed along with accessible toilets, seating, street furniture, adequate lighting and completely barrier-free spaces.

While many of these designs have been implemented, an equal number are still in the proposed stage and Kumtha believes that these too will see the light of day as the mindset of society makes the shift towards inclusion of all sections. The change is slow but discernable, she says.

Besides these, new-build projects include The Toilet in a municipal school in Raigad District. The NGO that took the initiative in this design intends to implement this prototype in 100 other municipal schools in Maharashtra. 'Mon Paradis' a private bungalow for Mr. Arvind Prabhoo, successful businessman and wheelchair-user has also been executed.

At Nature Nurture, the team believes in celebrating differences, and rather than sweeping these differences under the carpet, as it is the easy way out, they choose to address this by envisioning Public Spaces that are accessible & free of physical barriers, for all of India’s citizens. When barrier-free spaces become a part of public life, society will see more persons who are traditionally expected to be 'dependent', lead more engaged lives - this in turn will change the general attitude towards them. They are clear that as a society we must come good on our responsibility to bring about equal access to each individual. This will help the differently-abled gain a sense of independence as well as make the general populace rethink their discriminatory attitudes towards the less fortunate.

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