With the intent to spread awareness on how a good design can play a substantial role in changing lives, architect Gita Balakrishnan has embarked upon a 1700 km walk from Kolkata to New Delhi. This walk has been organized to shed light on the role of the architecture and design fraternity, their contributions to society, and issues that they aim to address through design. Ethos Foundation in collaboration with The Council of Architecture and The Indian Institute of Architects has conceptualized this initiative.
Gita Balakrishnan founded Ethos in 2002 as an initiative to bridge the gap between students and professionals from the ACED fraternity (Architecture, Construction, Engineering, and Design). As one of the four verticals of Ethos, and an initiative under the Ethos Foundation, she introduced Arcause as a platform for acknowledging, enlisting, and actualizing social responsibilities of architects, designers, engineers, and others associated with the ACED Fraternity. The walk will commemorate the milestone of Ethos completing 20 remarkable years in June 2022, and celebrate the spirit and architectural magnificence of India after 75 years of independence.
After covering a distance of 142 kms when architect Gita Balakrishnan halted in an adivasi village called Madhabpur in West Bengal, she joined the Sunday Guardian for an exclusive conversation about her journey. Excerpts
Q. Please provide some perspective on the Ethos Foundation and your experience in the last 20 years?
A. The foundation of Ethos was laid in 2002, to build awareness of our built environment, to provide more opportunities to budding professionals, and to create a platform, a network of young designers and civil engineers who will be decision-makers in the years to come. Today, Ethos has developed to be a bridge- between students undergoing education in colleges and the outside professional world. Over the years, Ethos has grown and branched out into various avenues. While Ethos dabbles in multiple ventures, the thread that binds all is the common goal of Ethos- to create an ever-growing, ever nurturing community that upholds the best of Architecture, Construction, Design, and Engineering.
Q. Kindly elaborate on the four verticals of Ethos and the purpose for creating Arcause?
A. August 2018 saw the advent of Acedge, an online learning platform to further aid outside-classroom learning and complement college education. Ideace came about as a stage for vibrant ideas and a sporting competitive spirit. ConnectAID has helped meritorious young graduates find their fit in the professional field.
iDeAce- Ethos, through its vertical, iDeACE works towards sensitizing students to the culture and the ethos that their designs would need to respond to. There is an effort to equip students to be agents of change, to lead, not just follow and to contribute towards building a harmonious society.
ACEDGE is an offering from Ethos towards ensuring that architects and designers of this country’s destiny are better-equipped to face the challenges of an ever-changing ACED industry. Manifesting as an online education platform for learners in the field of architecture, design and construction, ACEDGE seeks to bring to the fore, the basic human values that are needed to be a full-fledged human being; a decent, productive citizen of this country; a responsible and creative professional contributing positively to society. ACEDGE is the medium through which we guide and nurture young minds with care and attention.
Connectaid is an attempt to fill the void existing in the field of architecture and construction. Through this service from Ethos, firms looking out to recruit architects and engineers at different levels will be able to access talent. Young and mid-level architects and engineers looking out for job opportunities will be able to showcase their abilities and Ethos will make the same available for interested firms to view. Those interested may register themselves on Ethos Connect and fill up the online form.
As the newest of the four verticals of Ethos, Arcause is a platform for acknowledging, enlisting and actualizing Social Responsibilities of Architects, Designers, Engineers, and others associated with the Construction field (ACED Fraternity). Arcause (Our Cause) is positioned to be flexibly interpreted as addressing the cause of the ACED fraternity and also the fraternity supporting a cause. Arcause aims at nurturing sensitivities and actualising the role of initiatives from ACED professionals and students in contributing to societal well-being.
Q. What is objective of the 1700 km walk from Kolkata to Delhi?
A. Walk for Arcause is designed as a campaign for awareness on the role good design can play in changing lives. We do this by taking thoughtful, empathetic and sustainable design ideas to the masses. We focus on the difference architects and designers have made, through their holistic interventions, in different spheres of life. Conversely, this walk is an opportunity to identify action areas through interaction with communities in villages, towns and cities along the way and throw them open for designers to act. The overall intent of Walk for Arcause is to bring the focus on architects in the social realm and on Architectural Social Responsibility.
Q. How can good design play role in changing lives?
A. There are different ways in which design touches lives. For instance, a well designed piece of furniture besides being comfortable, may help you save some space, while offering a storage feature within and can also be cost effective if materials are chosen wisely. If efficiently harvested, rainwater can reduce your consumption of fresh water during the dry months of the year by a significant factor. Insulated or cavity walls can create better thermal conditions and reduce energy consumption for air conditioning considerably. Well designed streets and side walks can encourage people to walk shorter distances than relying on motorised transport. Design is everywhere.
Q. How have you managed to raise funds for this journey?
A. Supporting Ethos’ initiatives through the past years are industry partners – Saint-Gobain and TATA Tiscon who have joined hands with the campaign and through ‘Mera Ghar’, an interactive module for educating lay persons on common building practises. Kohler and Vivel bring gender sensitivity to the fore through activities engaging with women and girls, talking about their claim to spaces. Some stretches on the route would be traversed by Gita during the night to emphasise on the need for safety in our cities. Merino Laminates, TATA Structura and Varmora have also come forward to support  the cause.