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Nitin Phafat

Recycling Architecture: While mastering the new…let’s NOT let go the old!

By: Prof. Saranga Naval (saranganaval@jnec.ac.in)
Date: 5th July 2021

While falling off from the ‘routine’ since last year I was apprehensive about what lay ahead and simultaneously a pause felt…a pause to think over where we are leading to… The thoughts which were lying in some corner of my mind have started entering into my head. The hush-hush that is going around ‘Delhi Architecture’, since last few years, has stirred my thought process leaving me brainstorming.Well, I (in fact no one) cannot really comment upon the Central Vista Project but the demolitions which carried out at Pragati Maidan (Hall of Nations and four more), in April 2017, have signalized and confirmed the scary vision of architecture in India.

Those were the structures which had been part of learning for architectural institutions across the world. Irrespective of their significant role in Indian architecture or in general, what worries me is the attitude and approach that is being shown by us to the world and to our very own young generations. To put it in plain words, let me keep aside all the emotions, philosophy, historical significance attached to these structures. And let’s just focus to the scenario of architecture of today.Talking from the practical grounds, through this act of demolition, we have actually demonstrated the disrespect towards those structures as a form of energy resource. It is contrary to the seven lamps of architecture, especially sacrifice, life, obedience, and memory. To be more precise however, it is contrary to the world outside which is engaged in Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. Why are we so ignorant to the environmental impacts caused by such approaches? Why our leaders are demonstrating this attitude which is absolutely not healthy for the field of architecture? Why can’t we think effectively for leftover or abandoned buildings? Why can’t we include and adapt them? Why can’t we prioritize Brownfield sites over to Greenfield ones? All the questions lead to those solutions which will certainly be beneficial not just for architecture but overall life in India.

ARCH

Brilliant juxtaposition of old and new!
(Image Credit – www.lincoln.ac.uk)

ARCH

Interior of GCW Library, University of Lincoln (UK)
(Image Credit – www.lincoln.ac.uk)

It is a known fact that, construction industry itself is the major contributor, around 40%, in carbon emission. The constant extraction of raw materials, production of other processed materials is increasing the dangers of overall climate change. In this circumstance, when huge research is going in construction industry, architectural fraternity equally needs to revise the mindset towards planning & designing. In Indian context, this is the bigger picture and to initiate it there are several challenges right from socio-cultural frame of mind to blending it in professional practice with enormous research. At one point when we are still lacking in architectural awareness (right from individual to society) as well as professional security, it will be even more difficult to include this concept of accepting leftover buildings, materials, as a source of energy, to recycle the architecture.There are professionals, in different corners of India, who tried to be out of the box and had set examples but these are very rare. I believe if Government agencies acquire and implement such strategies in respective addition, alteration or reform projects it will be a meaningful demonstration to follow. However, on top of everything, architectural education should include Recycle Architecture as a core subject to inculcate this approach amongst the budding architects.

Instead of going just for palatial infrastructure, universities being the learning centers should also opt for this recycled attitude.While pursuing Masters at University of Lincoln (UK), for me it had been a phenomenal experience to spend hours at GCW Library – Great Central Warehouse Library. This University library building was actually a warehouse from the era of Industrial Revolution. This few decade old structure has been successfully transformed into a liveable use that demonstrates how so called abandoned structures can be best retrofitted to life again. The Lincoln Campus also possesses a canteen called ‘Tower Bar’ which was previously an engine shed for adjacent Lincoln Railway Station. Such transformation in architecture have convinced me, as a student and professional too, and the University students to walk on this conserving attitude.

It’s pleasant that Architecture program at MGM University has included Recycling Architecture as an elective. I am sure it will be helpful to students to think beyond the framework. It will open several opportunities to do research and innovation. It is a tough task but it is worth to invest in waste! However, let’s remember that it demands a need to unlearn –which is known so that we can relearn what we need to know! This is just a fraction of a drop in the ocean; there is a long way to go ahead. Let’s close the old doors to open the new ones. Let’s Reflect- Renew- Restart.

(Author is Associate Professor from Department of Architecture of Jawaharlal Nehru Engineering College (JNEC) which is constituent college of MGM University, Aurangabad.)