The interview has been published in 2A Magazine issue #41
Architect, President of Shirish Beri and Associates in India
How can architects, Planners and landscape designers intervene to alleviate the human afflictions in the realm of the built environment?
Shirish Beri: We can only intervene through our own “medium” of work – the “space” that we design and articulate. To me, this “space” that we inhabit every nanosecond of our lives, consciously and unconsciously affects our state of mind, socio – cultural behavior and so on. Thus, through our work, we as architects/ planners need to make an attempt to address our concerns for these human afflictions in life.
I feel concerned about man moving away from nature, further away from other fellow human beings, his cultural roots and finally from his own self. As an architect try to design spaces (within the limitations of site, budget, available technology etc.) that help in bringing man closer to nature. I create interactive spatial nodes that facilitate the reconnection between various people. I design courtyards, verandahs, niches, transitional spaces that help in reestablishing our spatial link with our cultural roots. And finally, can our spaces embody that quality of sanctity and silence that would take us closer to our own selves?
Please follow this idea:Between the countries from different civilizations in the different continents(Asia and Europe in this case) , there has been a constant history of trade, migration and sharing of cultural practices, which has extended strongly, even in the field of architecture. I realized these countries have a deep and true connection with moral principles, which has affected all aspects of its society (Culture, Architecture, Art and their identity in general), their root and identity has influenced their architecture. I also understood that their traditional architecture has been naturally developed in a sustainable manner, I believe that the underlying cultural, historical and spiritual values has led to creation of this form of natural sustainability.”
It is the differing uses of history, to create varied sets of architectural languages within our contemporary framework that is of interest. This is especially true in the context of globalization, which has a powerful tendency to homogenize.”- Hence, I would like to ask you as a member of the jury member of 2A Asia Architecture Award 2017, do you consider this thought when you design and practice?
While designing, I do not tend to make a conscious consideration for the for the above thought mentioned by you. As an architect with Indian roots, these overall design considerations seem to happen spontaneously and almost sub consciously. In a few specific projects, these considerations become more conscious efforts of introducing traditional architectural vocabulary and systems.
My designs happen more in response to the traditional / cultural attitudes to life rather than responding to visual traditional architectural elements, with this sustainability also happens effortlessly. In today’s reality, it is important to balance our universal expressions with our perennial value systems … to balance the new unity with the traditional diversity of form … to balance the measurable with the immeasurable.
In order to understand the contemporary architectural and urban landscapes in different continents, in your opinion, what are the emergent manifestations of the world in contemporary Architecture and Urbanism?
I am sorry, I do not understand this question clearly…. However…. I feel that the emergent manifestations in today’s architecture and urbanism should not be purely anthropocentric but evolve as an inseparable part of this wonderful web of life. They need to create more open, vulnerable and equitable spaces that foster an empathetic, compassionate feeling of oneness, and closeness with everything around us.
These new manifestations should help in shifting our present day emphasis on saleability to sanctity, from glossy, outer wrappings to meaningful inner content and from greed and overconsumption to restraint and simplicity.
How important is context in Contemporary Architectural Design? As a professional, researcher and educator working in Asia/Europe, what are factors, criteria or even constrains that have influential impact on your profession?
Context, for me is of utmost importance. Our design context can be a measurable, physical context such as the site, the tree, the rock and the climate or it could be the immeasurable one, such as the socio – cultural values and behavioral patterns. Even the physical site or the tree will have immeasurable undercurrents that surely influence our designs.
However, most contexts today are being swept away by the single overpowering commercial context of economic returns. This is the major reason why we see all over the world, the boring, monotonous homogenization of the built form. My designs tend to respond to a variety of contexts – even to the seemingly unimportant and irrelevant, small ones. This multi layered diversity and plurality creates a very special, spatial experience for the user.