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Evolving Dystopia

Posted by
on March 09, 2014 at 12:05 AM

Do we stay in an evolving dystopia, or a devolving utopia? That is the question.

© Courtesy of Internet Sources

Utopia speaks of an evolution, of perfection, of a positive growth, of better and bigger things. In India, villages develop into towns and towns evolve into cities; cities that ultimately grow into the metropolises where people aspire to live. Places where the sidewalks are used for sleeping and railway tracks for defecation. Parks are demolished to build skyscrapers, servants quarters rented to students, garages to washermen and usually-misspelt Xerox shops. Walls continually close in around us; all green spaces are dissolved to build malls, gardens to verandahs, markets spilling onto sidewalks, side-walks onto streets... The unending conflict between man, space and everything in between thus goes on; all in the name of evolution. 

At a global level however, design evolves as a reaction to what the people need, socially and emotionally. The design evolves with the people who use it. The High Line, in New York City is a prime example of what the future of design has in store for us. A New York Railroad line redesigned and planted as an elevated greenway has spurred the real estate developments in the neighborhoods that lie along the line. The project is encouraging other such interventions to spring on an international scale. The future of design is hence the future of the people who use it. 

Sadly, things are different in India. Architectural evolution in India, in recent terms, has become more of an aesthetic issue than a social one. We choose aesthetically-pleasing ideas over ideas that work. Does the extravagant new mall right next to the SRA schemes symbolize growth? Or the elite supermarket set up in an industrial wasteland? What constitutes the evolution of a place then, if not these ‘people-specific’ amenities? 

Architectural evolution in particular, currently follows a pattern such that settlements grow around a hub, creating a web of myriad structures in a confused environment. The people then don’t constitute the primary, and the whole point of public good dissipates. Rapidly increasing population and the growth of urban centers have, during the last 60 years, set the tone for the built landscape of the city. What does that result in?

Sadly, this is not utopia, but a state of inherent dystopia. We see repetition of space and form, a cattle horde of government-office type buildings, an architectural wonder breaking the monotonous skyline, like a vigilante. Here there is an irrepressible urge in architects to be ‘original’, to create something different, and to develop an individual style of their own. Against this background, the need for architects to do something that no one has done before, leads to a set of buildings each unique from the other, in form, function and feasibility.

On a global scale, design trends are more liberal. Innovation gets as much precedence as infrastructure, fashion as much as function. Consumers are becoming more intelligent to the solutions available, as is observed by the various trends in the international scene, be it The Downtown Project in Las Vegas or the LidoLine in London, an alternative transport routine for bored commuters. 

Alternative design solutions like the High Line have sprung in the world, and the future looks promising. Considering public space is vital for the health of urban communities, a similar proposal is also being made in Queens. Other examples such as the Chicago River walk Proposal are schemes to reclaim spaces for the public. The Rethink Project, by OKRA envisions changing the environment of the city in positive dimensions, by working on the urban layout of the city. They recognize and play major roles in planning livable communities.

Change is coming, and so far it seems good. In India, we can only wait for these changes to slowly seep in, and become a part of everyday life. The main goal is to not to try to be spectacularly unique, but to be definite, like the Monorail and recently-inaugurated Metro line projects in Mumbai, or the Integrated International Airport in New Bombay.

In the future we won’t be thinking out of a box, simply because we won’t know there was a box to start with. And that’s how evolution works.

Designer : N/A
Photography :Sources & Research

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