Mr. Winston Churchill had very aptly quoted, “We shape our Buildings thereafter they shape us.” The post has had a lasting effect on me. The spaces play a very important role in influencing the way a user behaves and thinks. They essentially shape us, our thoughts, our actions and our behaviour. Our bodies start to resonance with these spaces as they affect our routine, our senses, the way we listen, see, feel and smell.
Traditional architecture had the understanding of this relationship which spaces share with the people. The building typologies and the human behaviour both had developed along each other for the finest rapport. The visual senses thus worked best with this soothing passive daylight and body with the calming thermal comfort achieved by the design itself. As the time progressed, the built vocabularies had also evolved to suit human empathy effectively; be it the Jalis for perforated lighting or roof with squinches for advanced acoustics.
Contemporary architects have taken these traditional planning and design principles as a challenge and seem to have pledged to do things differently (For better or worse!). They design with a form in mind where functionality takes a back seat and architect’s vision assumes the paramount place of importance. The building material should be in sync with their imagery rather than native context which led to the selection of alien materials with Indian conditions like glass, metal and concrete for finishing purposes.
The increasing land pressure has led to increased built space requirement which has surpassed the capability land can cater to. This has eventually broken the connectivity our spaces shared with the nature. Building confined within themselves lack in both thermal comfort and ventilation, hence mechanical air-conditioning becomes of paramount importance. Sparse vegetation in communities leads to lack of oxygen which raises the level of distress our body experiences in these spaces.
Outside the home, schools are the first place a child interacts with. Since, it has been well established that architecture shapes us and institutions play a role of prominence in shaping the future of humankind; it becomes absolutely important to understand the institutional architecture. When a child steps out from the protected environment of home and steps into a school to connect with the world outside, the environment there has a lasting impact. The proportions, colours, texture, sensory experience all directly influence the nature and behaviour and also the cognitive ability of students. Sustainable architecture can be that winning factor for the segment which would revolutionize the teaching environment and student performances. Mr. P.S.Barett in his research on classrooms world over has concluded that the environment in a classroom directly impacts progress of a child over a year by as much as 25%. One in every six students is not able to listen to faculties in classroom contentedly under absence of proper acoustics. It has been found in a research that students sitting beside windows outperform those who site besides blank wall. (University of Salford, 2012)
It is widely known that builds designed by Architects are aesthetically pleasing and mostly good to look at, but the true victory would be when those building would be good to be in. Instead of designing solely for eyes, all senses should be taken into account. Acoustics, air quality, thermal comfort all become critical while education is considered. Complete attentiveness can only be attained if body is calm to concentrate completely solely on learning. If any of our sensory organs are uncomfortable, then one part of our brains would be working hard to get that at ease.
Hence, the design for schools and classrooms should be done considering all senses and a complete state of comfort, where the only function of body stimulus becomes to concentrate on studies and not managing with the uneasiness around. While doing a research lately, I have discovered that if all the senses and comfort factors are looked into at design stage in building then it will directly impact the performance and productivity of its users. I’ll be talking in detail about the classroom design in the next posts.