Ar Prem Nath: COVID-19 pandemic is ‘reminder-of-the-decade’ to conscious & sustainable living


Human being is a social animal; however, the current outbreak of COVID-19 has ceased our social activities altogether and forced us to lock ourselves in our homes with only virtual contact with the outside world. Any major world event has a significant effect on architecture and the current pandemic is no exception. SURFACES REPORTER (SR) spoke to renowned architect Prem Nath who provided a peek into the future of architecture and world at large once it is all over. This conversation is the first part of the series wherein SR has spoken to prominent architects, designers, and think-tanks on 'Re-imagining living spaces post COVID-19 Pandemic'. 

SR- How do you foresee the architecture and interior world post COVID 19?

Ar Prem Nath- As an architect, my job is to foresee the future; we have faced a grave situation through this corona pandemic. I foresee that we shall get through this and survive to live further. However, this natural disaster is a reminder to humankind to live in peace with nature. This pandemic is a ‘reminder-of-the-decade’ to “conscious & sustainable living”. In a nutshell, today everyone is concerned about the increasing cost of utilities and daily needs, one is concerned regarding less income, but no one probably realised that we are going too fast. There is no stopping anywhere – fast travel, fast money, fast food, and so on and for that, too much automation and gadgets are being used. Life shall now get difficult in the coming weeks & months, there is surely a greater recession expected, income sources shall drastically reduce and so shall the other resources. Also, we have somehow forgotten our ancient architecture and went on to emulate the western countries with a lot of high-rise towers & glazed structures with high volume air-conditioning, missing on the natural light & ventilation. It is definite that “luxury is out”, one shall have to now live with optimised resources. This is nature’s way to tell us Go Slow – Live Minimal.

"It may lead to positive or drastic changes in the work / public spaces. All things (like the sensor-based urinals & taps) shall now be planned touch-free, along with other utilities. The sanitizer dispensers shall now be part of the specification. The work culture shall also change, after this biggest ever stint of work from home."

SR- Do you think that now we need sustainable architecture more than ever?

Ar Prem Nath- During my 55+ years of practice, I have always made sure all my designs are nature friendly & sustainable- this is nothing new. Sustainability has been there in India’s ancient architecture – take the example of Indus valley civilisation, one of the best examples of the most modern, yet very green way of the living way back then.

Thanks to this my township project at Punjab, for HP-Mittal energy ltd. (HMEL) is awarded green gold grading by the MOEF and has also been bestowed the award of HUDCO green design, similar is the case with my campus architecture project at Vadodara, for Cygnus world school, which is rated as IGBC platinum, while another commercial project of mine, for SBI at Gift City Gujarat is aspiring for IGBC platinum rating – so, be it a home, a school or a college or an office/workspace, all need to be design sustainable.

Home Architecture designed by Ar Prem Nath with plenty of green balconies & verandah allowing easy access to be the best of natural light & ventilation, overlooking the garden.

SR- Never before we needed design interventions for terms like social distancing and physical distances. In what ways, do you think, our offices, homes, public places will change in the future?

Ar Prem Nath- I foresee that the way we design workspaces & public spaces shall change now – even if the lockdown is over, the pandemic doesn’t yet get resolved, so for a few more months, people will practice social distancing; people shall now be more hygiene conscious – leading to positive and maybe drastic changes in the work / public spaces. All things (like the sensor-based urinals & taps) shall now be planned touch-free, along with other utilities, the sanitizer dispensers shall now be part of the specification. Moreover, thanks to the reduced income & recession, spaces too shall be designed more compact and economical. The work culture shall also change, after this biggest ever stint of work from home. henceforth, ‘over the table’ meetings, conferences, etc. shall all drastically reduce and more webinars & e-meetings shall be held – thus this too shall affect the workspace design; let alone, probably the good old handshake shall now be greeted with “namaste”.

"This makes us wonder, ‘What is our real need in life?’ If you ask anyone during these pandemic days, "Would they prefer to eat only a particular brand of food over staying hungry?' The answer is obvious!"

SR- How to live self-sustainably?

Ar Prem Nath- We are living a very hectic lifestyle. We need to start living in-sync with nature – one needs to start living sustainably. Look at what this lockdown has done to us, our country and the globe; the earth is truly in repair mode. It is healing itself –not just cities but a whole lot of country’s skies are much clearer now. Even the issue of global warming has disappeared– thanks to virtually no vehicle on the road, all planes sitting grounded at the bays and last but not the least all those energy guzzling & heat emitting machinery being off-duty.

This brings us all to wonder, ‘what our real need in life is?’ – If you ask anyone during these pandemic days, would they prefer to eat only a particular brand of food over staying hungry?, the answer is obvious! So, what we need today are compact living, self-sufficiency, self-sustainability and not just self-sustaining homes, but cities and at a macro level, a country.

SR- Any advice or warning you could give for the future?

Ar Prem Nath- The future is in our hands. We shall surely get out of this pandemic situation within a few weeks, or few months and its effects shall subside within a year or so. it is upon us how we further treat the mother earth – how we use this decade to improve ourselves and change our lives –we can simply forget about all that happened and live-on with our current “lifestyle” or work towards a better healthier future with conscious efforts towards eco-friendly living & self-sustaining development!

Also Read: How the World of Design is Facilitating Fight against COVID-19

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