Urban historic identity and sense of belonging through Architecture

Architecture has invariably been a symbol of three critical junctures—past, present, and future—across a given time-space continuum. When a building is constructed, a spatial connection is forged with the urban fabric where it physically belongs. Moreover, architects often instill their own interpretation of the past into its present context and identity. This way, architecture becomes both the material and immaterial marker of the history associated with the urban fabric.

Architecture is, therefore, a gizmo to convey a sense of cultural belonging. Architectural interventions forge a distinct urban-historic identity and inculcate a sense of belonging by building on the existing context rather than breaking away from it. Architects have to be conscious of the cultural background that the building reflects. It is equally significant to propel the local flavors—material culture and history—through their designs. Vanijya Bhawan is a classic example in this regard. Located on the C-Hexagon in Lutyens Delhi, abutting the Akbar Road, it is an office complex for the Department of Commerce, Government of India. Since the building is close to India Gate, one has to be conscious of the materials, motifs, and scale incorporated in the design. Building in Lutyens Delhi which already has a robust planning template developed classically by Herbert Baker and Edwin Lutyens, brings challenges along. One of the challenges is to synergise with that template to forge the urban identity created over the last 100 years but also to protrude a coherent identity.

Architectural space stands on the foundation of the rich cultural context embodied by its urban setting. However, it is also important to project it as a monument of modernity, suitably grounded in the rich historical context. Urban historic identity is strengthened by architectural projects rooted within cultural, historic, and material contexts. For instance, Connaught place is defined by its building style and the radial movement, which the architect has been able to bring into effect through the design itself, is now a part of its urban identity. Thus, architecture—buildings, design, landscape and streetscape—not only define the identity of an urban setting but reinforce the holistic identity and, thereby the sense of belonging associated with it.