Towards an Architecture of Goodness

Veteran architect, artist and poet, Shirish Beri reflects on whether and if so, then how, goodness can be translated into architecture.

by Shirish BeriPublished on : Jun 03, 2019

For me, it is almost impossible to separate architecture from this wonderful fullness, richness and inter-connected complexity of life. Both seem to be the reflections of each other.
Since I was in college, I have always indulged in frequent and regular breaks and pauses to understand myself and my work’s role and position in this fascinating web of life. In those silent pauses, so many answers were revealed and so many new questions were born. This has been going on till date. And all along, I have attempted to bridge the longest journey in my life – that between my head and my heart.

I now realize the full meaning of what Samuel Mockbee said, “As architects, our goodness is more important than our greatness and our compassion more eventful than our passion.”

I find this most relevant in today’s noisy, fractured, artificial and consumerist environment.
Media, they say, is many a times the reflection of our society. What do we see in newspapers, on TV and in other media today? All over the world, so many relevant area-specific contexts tend to get lost and usurped in the one powerful universal context of commercial returns, which has also become the major governing force in our architecture. We live in an environment where our sole purpose seems to be gratification through voracious consumption, and to achieve that we resort to manipulation, dishonesty, corruption and violence etc.

Thus, in a “society that is suffering from the fatty degeneration of its conscience, where our single minded pursuit of money is impoverishing our mind, shrivelling our imagination and desiccating our heart,” don’t you think that we need an architecture of goodness for a better life in a better society?

The architecture that has evolved from this questioning tries to find a vulnerable expression in the meaningful interface between the enclosed space and the open space.

What can constitute this architecture of goodness? How can goodness be translated in the architectural language?

a. Would striking a rapport of empathy with nature bring in goodness into our architecture and then, into our lives?
The creation of empathy and bonding with nature through our designed spaces will definitely help in creating an overall sense of harmony and well being in the person and in the environment, as we all are an intrinsic part of nature.

Gandhi Farmhouse Photo Credit: Courtesy of Shirish Beri

b. Wouldn’t an architecture that brings us closer to other people also bring about goodness in our lives?
The quality of our architectural spaces could encourage interaction between various people and help in fostering a sense of humanitarian brotherhood between them.

Drug De-addiction Centre Photo Credit: Courtesy of Shirish Beri

c. Can unified, holistic architectural spaces create that ambience and goodness of bonding with the surrounds as well as with one’s own self?
If the spaces that we design do not bring about a sense of division, isolation and compartmentalisation, they would help generate a sense of wholeness and oneness.

BV Agriculture College Photo Credit: Courtesy of Shirish Beri

d. Wouldn’t a caring, compassionate and simple sustainable design evoke and spread a sense of well- being and goodness in the environment?
Sustainability has become such an overused, misused, and abused word that we seem to feel that sustainable and green features can be added on to a design just like a tapestry or upholstery.

Andur Lakehouse Photo Credit: Courtesy of Shirish Beri

“True green sustainable design happens as a result of a unified, holistic and compassionate attitude to life – attitudes of simplicity, empathy and caring concern for mother earth and for the present and future of all species – living and non living."
So I ask myself - can my work help in the shifting of our emphasis…
...from the measurable saleability to the immeasurable sanctity?
...from glossy wrappings to inner content?
…from vulgar overconsumption to beautiful simplicity?
…from divisive thoughts to unifying visions?
…and basically from an anthropocentric approach to life, where everything is supposed to be for the consumption of man to a more integral, universe-centric approach?

My architecture seeks joy, a sense of wonder and a special spatial beauty by befriending the simple, the mundane and the ordinary. My works are not designed to create iconic, grand, exhibitionist, sculptural forms that attract the eye, but to create more humane, socially relevant, more natural and sustainable spaces that nurture the human spirit.

Thus, when we experience ourselves as this fascinating universal energy, we will drown in its intrinsic goodness…and then…
…sound becomes music
...colours become a painting
...words become poetry
…movement becomes dance
…the formless becomes a form
...mind becomes meditation and
 …life becomes a celebration.

Let’s celebrate LIFE through our work.

(This article has been extracted from Shirish Beri’s speech at the 2AA International Awards ceremony held in Berlin on October 30, 2017)

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