Compromised (Capa)City

simar kindra

Writer at Oneistox

October 09

09 mins read

We’ve grown up on rhymes of conspicuous twinkling stars, well-endowed black sheep and the inescapable motto of sustainable development- the present should not be at the cost of the future. This has been drilled into us all since we were children. And with good reason too because yesterday’s generation has sadly developed a rather myopic vision and, in their short sightedness, has left the environment the worse for wear thereby compromising the evergrowing next generation’s capacity to prosper.

This inconsiderate use of resources and unrelenting population growth, as is evidenced by the 2018 UN ‘World Urban Prospects’ document that projects India’s urban population to increase by 416 million from 2018 to 2050- surfaces as a crucial problem. For while a country’s citizens are certainly its most valuable and industrious resource, they can cause gradual environmental degradation and aggravate the depletion of resources when they continue harvesting exhaustible energy sources that were meant for but a fraction of their current number.

Increasing Populations

The World’s Most Populous Nations in 2050

We must tear our eyes away from the stand-alone goal of economic development that hovers tantalizingly on the horizon, and focus our attention, instead, on the management, careful administration. Thus, optimization of the resources that we do find ourselves left with- but probably not for very long- to ensure that they suffice the burgeoning homes to power.

It, thus, falls to the architect, as the secondary creator, to assume his role in this equation as a responsible planner and ensure our growth and consumption are mitigated and sustainable. With the current demand for space proving unceasing and with the inevitable exponential increase of the same in the future, one immediate concern, to which we find the others linked, is that of accommodation and transport.

Development must not be synonymous with a city’s sprawl but instead its compactness. To ensure this, firstly, they will have to be planned as more assembled, accessible and integrated settlements. According to the Working Paper, ‘From Mobility to Access for All: Expanding Urban Transportation Choices in the Global South’, the concept of accessibility refers to the ease of reaching a destination through a given transport system and not the quantitative transport supply.


Compact and efficient planning that ensures the presence of public facilities at a walk able distance from public transport hubs, thus justifying the use of public transport

Access needs to be inculcated within the city via the transport routes as well as through planning, or in other words- efficient land use. Cities within cities, much like the many townships on the outskirts of Delhi, may be created that are equipped with all services and requirements to function autonomously. While these will function independently and self-sufficiently with a mixed land-use, they will still remain efficiently connected for intercommunication, albeit (it is hoped) reduced. The denser a city, the lesser its sprawl and, thus, a decrease in vehicular transportation.

Thus, settlements must be made more conscious and integrated in that they reduce their carbon footprint and their dependence on non-renewable energy resources gradually recedes. Like the many cogs of a well-oiled machine, the buildings and other components of public space must surrender their isolated mode of operation and must, instead, work together to render the city its sustainable identity.

Secondly, this compact vision by the architect will only be truly implemented and realised when the many stakeholders involved in the planning of a town engage in a dialogue. This dialogue must be of such a character that it allows one to view and review development policies proposed by the other departments and ensures that each is coherent with, and complements, the other. Because, figuratively, various isolated and scattered blows to a metal sheet, will not cause as significant an alteration as all blows targeted at one point. That is how the metal sheet must, thus, shaped- through a collective, targeted and well-coordinated effort. An integration of and dialogue between the various transport, housing, development and economic agencies, policymakers and urban planners is the need of the hour.

Moreover, while these policies may be proposed, it is imperative that continuous evaluation and monitoring be put in place to ensure that all plans are realised as they had been conceived. A follow-up, review of collected statistics and implementation of corrective measures- in the case of a deviation- must be invested in both .


Venn diagram representing the standard dimensions of sustainable development. Adapted from Tanguay, 2009.

Thirdly, we as a race must surrender our monopoly on the earth’s resources. A Science for Environment Policy report on ‘Indicators for Sustainable Cities’ alludes to the metabolism of a city, illustrating how a city, much like an organism, needs energy to persevere and provide for its citizens and to eliminate waste and pollution. However, this current uni-directional energy-flow into the city is taking its toll on the environment and causing global climate change.

To minimise the city’s negative environmental impact, its dependence on non-renewable energy sources to satisfy urban energy and material needs must be reduced. This can be done by curating an efficient urban metabolism by ensuring the and resource allocation is made sparingly and critically based on the demand.

Lastly, the city’s most valuable resource is its citizens for the city belongs to them more than to any foreign policy-maker who can afford but only a small window into the multi-layered culture of the city. The citizens are the catalyst for change and must be involved at every step- from planning to materialisation in order to foster the growth of a dynamic and sustainable relationship between man and his natural environment.

An architect’s efforts must resonate with those of the citizens if we are to harbour any hope of survival. The ball’s in our court now. So, what is it going to be?

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simar kindra

architect At landscape foundation
Simar completed her architectural education in 2019 and has ever since helped lay the literary foundations for various ecological research projects with the Landscape Foundation. She is passionate about writing and especially proud of fandom trivia that she has acquired across years of reading, right from Ladybird to Tolkien to Arundhati Roy.

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