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According to UNESCO, cultural landscapes represent the combined works of nature and of man. Architect Rich Hillis, Planning Director for the City and County of San Francisco, defines it further by stating that a cultural landscape is a place with many layers of history that evolves through design and use over time. An example of such a layering is seen in the development of the Dastkar Office developed at Kisan Haat. The project clarifies how cultural landscape is embodied through various physical features as well as intangible elements to give the space a sense of place.
The human experience in the contemporary times may at its best be represented by the sustained engagement with the evolving artefacts and practices that draw from the arts and culture of the place. In the globalised world of the present times however, the cultural landscape across is more cosmopolitan than ever before with design being at its core. In the age of the Internet, especially now where culture across continents is slowly homogenising––where consumption is key to the existence in flux––it is the framework of design on which culture operates. Right from the device on which one might be reading this to the condiment shaker on the dining table all were specially designed to ensure ease of going about things. Not to forget it is at the cost of the ‘local’, the culture-specific crafts and practices that might be contextual to the space traditionally which once struck an ecological balance between nature and culture.
The global economy is in a volatile state with highest inflation in a generation, sinking consumer confidence and rising geo-political tension. The role of the consumer has shifted from one of passive observance to enabled dominance. They are no longer content with simply buying products. The consumer is now more driven towards social responsibility, consciousness, and sustainability. These words are no more just jargons but have become a necessity.
The need is to create customer-centric solutions, opening up simple and intuitive interfaces, and establishing creative collaboration with designers, artisans, subject experts and other stakeholders for building innovative solutions on business and social challenges. The central theme is if we do not adapt we will die. The big question to answer today is how could design solutions add value to new age enterprises?
-Text from an unrealised art project named, "Is this civil?"
"Culture dictates the demographics, morphology and scale of a settlement. Pre-colonial capitals were defensive in nature; Shahjahanabad was surrounded by a fort wall for protection from invaders, During British Raj the rulers got rid of these defence walls to control the city better and built large peripheral roads for ease of trade. Today when you enter the capital you are welcomed by a long strip of large garbage mounds with raptors flying atop and nostrils filled with the smell of failure. A city truly is the best reflection of any culture and its politics."
India is fortunate to be a land of practising crafts and living traditions, especially when it comes to textile crafts. The continuity of practice for centuries has given opportunities to young learners to understand what 'embodied knowledge' means. Core in sustainable practices, these smaller towns, villages and communities bring forward a profound understanding of material culture, tools and techniques that honour interdependency of communities, respect for the soil, the land and the rivers. Each motif speaks of specifics of clothing and a distinct practice. Chances are that several generations have practised and passed on the craft to reach such a high level of craftsmanship.
Even today the facade of the village house can inform whether you are entering a weaver's or a dyer's home. The intensity of the indigo can tell you which river the textile was washed in. Even today one can find shepherds spinning wool on drop spindle, walking across the hills. You can wishfully come across a young girl weaving diligently, her own sarong, on a backstrap loom or a group of women mindfully discussing the colours and placements of embroidery patterns.
It is the vibrancy of our culture that makes fabrics, textiles and clothing meaningful and sacred in India.
To understand Cultural Landscape is to find the connection between human beings and their natural environment. Nature and natural resources have been an integral part of human habitation through centuries. The discipline of traditional Indian architecture - Vaastu Shastra was developed in ancient times as a method to build congenial places to work and live in. Vaastu Shastra primarily incorporated the attributes of the Five Elements of Nature - Earth, Water, Fire, Air, and Space into a balanced whole - the result was the building of an architecture that remained in harmony with the culture and natural environment of the "place". In physical terms, the application of the principles of Vaastu Shastra produced buildings that were energy-efficient, used sustainable materials, and were in accordance with laws of nature. Today these very same attributes can be understood as the urgent demand towards a future of sustainable architecture.
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