Currently, 55% of the global population lives in urban areas, a proportion that is expected to increase to 68% by 2050, compounding problems such as housing shortage, traffic congestion, and pollution, and impact the quality of life of citizens.
The built environment affects its surroundings and the people who inhabit it. Sustainable architecture, therefore, must push beyond its traditional boundaries of meeting environmental guidelines and energy efficiency. While factors like energy consumption and carbon footprint are objective and easy to measure, the influence of buildings on people is often less obvious and difficult to measure but equally important. It is derived from positive outcomes that enhance quality of life, including health, wellness, resilience, equity and accessibility.
Hence, a truly sustainable project must focus on inclusivity, ensuring that the idea of growth is all-encompassing and gives back to the local community. Buildings contribute to social sustainability by fostering environments that support communities and take into account the needs of both the present and future generations.
Design-led cultural engagement
The east and west frontage of the tall, soaring stone facades of the ITC Campus in Kolkata are designed as vertical canvases to showcase art and craft in the Bengal School tradition. The campus has a mixed-use program with IT and corporate offices, a hotel, a convention centre, and residential towers. The urban space is developed to celebrate the Bengali socio-cultural ethos, which is one of discourse, deliberation, and communal festivity. Inspired by the Durga Puja pandals (temporary pavilions) set up in public spaces to host large gatherings, a partially sheltered central spine and adjoining courts are articulated as open-air museums, with sculpture and art installations shaping a distinct sense of ‘place’. Involving an extensive artist community across Bengal, the campus celebrates the rich crafts and cultural heritage of the region.
The Ansal University campus in Gurugram is modelled after the street structure of the old city of Shahjahanabad, a city model emphasising pedestrianisation to enhance social interaction. The structure’s ground floor is designed to function as a public zone comprising an auditorium and lecture theatres. A conventional basement is reinterpreted as a student interaction zone containing recreation facilities, research pods, exhibition spaces, a food court, and bookstores to facilitate interdisciplinary exchange while creating a sense of community. The building has been designed to accommodate a diverse brief across five levels – new educational programmes and associated learning spaces, administration services, and conference rooms, establishing the institute’s identity as a dynamic educational and cultural hub. The campus serves as an example of an inclusive architecture that allows for the emergence of ideas at the intersection of various disciplines, thereby providing an architectural solution to an interconnected and democratic education format.