Factors Affecting Transformation in Architecture

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As quoted by Greek philosopher Heraclitus – “Everything changes and nothing stands still.” Its right to say that with time there is a change in lifestyle, culture and environment which tends humans to reform their minds and surroundings. We adapt ourselves to our environment and surroundings. Our first immediate context is the surrounding in which we live - shelter. The purpose of shelter is to help satisfy the physical and psychological needs of man. This calls for a shelter that would protect and fulfils all the needs. This shelter is what we term as house.

“Shelter is of supreme importance to man. It is the prime factor in his constant struggle for survival. In his efforts to shelter himself against the extremes of weather and climate he has, over the ages, evolved many types of dwellings.” (Schoenauer,N & Seeman,S 1962, p3)

“The house is an institution created for a complex set of purposes. The building of it is a cultural phenomenon and its form and organization are greatly influenced by the cultural milieu to which it belongs...If the provision of shelter is the passive function of the house, then its active purpose is the creation of an environment best suited to the way of life of people.”(Bhalla,A 1998, p5)

The above very clearly states that the form and design of the dwelling unit is based on the climate and culture (way of life of people). Both of these factors are transforming due to intrusion of science thus transforming the living spaces we reside in.

This is an attempt to study these evolving variations of dwelling unit from traditional typology of courtyard house to match-box type apartments in Delhi, mainly focussing on the latter.

Delhi being the one of the ancient as well as newest city, provides us with the opportunity for studying not only the earlier or latest pattern but also all the subsequent stages of evolution. In Delhi, housing transformations have changed general traditional pattern of house form to contemporary style of mass housing to meet the increasing demands of housing stock and to fulfil modern aspirations of people.

Various questions raised during the brainstorming that the study needs to answer: Change in living spaces was required or it’s just the western influence? How buildings response to culture, are they interlinked? How the changing lifestyle has changed the typology of dwelling unit? What are the factors behind these transformations? Are we heading towards right change?

To find answers to above questions, I would like to study an example of dwelling unit of Shahjahanabad, Colonial Delhi, and plotted development each and research on the evolution of flats from DDA Housing to Co-operative Housing to latest trend of P.P.P. (Public Private Partnership).

Factors influencing the transformations

There is shift from ancient house designs to current times. House in older times was a place of social gathering where people had their emotions attached, with more people but less furniture / appliances while today house is like a big machine with less people handling all the hi – tech gadgets. This is the journey from the natural ventilation to conditioned air, from natural light to LED, from social entertainment to television, from green fields to high rise buildings and so on. There are some influencing factors that lead to these changes and hence leading to change in built forms.

These determinants are listed in various ways by various authors, philosophers, architects, students etc. For example; Ar.Charles Correa, in his essay ‘Transfers and Transformations’, referred that “architecture is at the intersection of major three forces. The first represents technology and economics, the second, culture and history, and the third, the aspiration of people...Architecture is an agent of chage.” All three forces are changing with the time and therefore changing the architectural style. Viewpoints of some more people are discussed below:

Various factors considered by Amos Rapoport in his book ‘House, Form and Culture’ to study their influence on the built form are:


Climatic determinism has been widely accepted in architecture. One need not deny the importance of climate in determining the role in the creation of built form. We build houses to keep in a consistent climate, and to keep out predators.

Materials, Construction, and Technology:

These are not the form determinants but are the modifying factors. They decide neither what is to be built nor its form. They make possible the enclosure of a space organization decided upon for other reasons, and possibly modify that organization. They facilitate and make possible or impossible certain decisions, but never decide or determine form. Change of materials does not necessarily change the form of house.

Site / Topography:

It is not certain that any consistent theory of site as a form determinant has ever been proposed. It is still a question if the site has determining influence on the built form.


Defense has been cited more to account for tight urban patterns that to determine the form of dwellings.

Economics / Occupation:

Economics has been widely used to explain settlement and building form and its importance is indeed great. For example, herder living among agricultural people fails to accept their economy, way of living and house form.

Religion / Culture:

Amos Rapoport refers to the ‘The Temple and the House’ by Raglan who demonstrated that the house is much more than just a shelter, there is something ‘the sacredness of the house’. Some cultures separated the house from their religion while for some – the house was the only temple. Amos Rapoprt inferred that religion affects the form, plan, spatial arrangements and the orientation of the house but that is not universal or inevitable determinant. He linked the culture to religion and stated the examples from all over the world where settlements and built forms are influenced by the cosmos and directions as proposed by religion.

Basic needs:

There are some basic needs as considered by Amos in his book ‘House, Form and Culture’ that determines the house form such as family, position of women, privacy and social intercourse.

Various factors considered by Dharmender Aggarwal in his thesis ‘Transformations of residential areas in walled city of Delhi – Shahjahanabad’ to study their influence on the transformations of living spaces are:

Role of Lifestyle:

The outlook of man changes from time to time. The way he sees the world around him, the manner in which he wants to establish with the outside, the way world is like to projected to him and the way in which he would like to project himself – all these constitute major part in his lifestyle and all these shapes the space in which he lives.

Personal values:

The man has become more introvert. People want minimum and formal relations with others. The nature of attitude towards outside world has changed. As the house to accommodate human beings along with his values, therefore such change in his values do change the house form. Also, people’s personal choices have changed, aesthetic values have changes which calls for the transformation in their dwelling unit.

Social values:

The families are breaking up. The concept of joint family is no more acceptable to majority of people. The house which used to relate to larger scale is now related to smaller scale and hence less complexity. Now, one wants minimum intervention and the sense of territory is more definite. Such changes do determine the house form.

House Hold Belongings:

The industrial revolution has great impact on many facades of society. The industry and science have more to offer for luxury, for entertainment, for functional facility and comfort. These additions have changed the lifestyle and house form has to respond to these changes.


Climate has major influence in the modification of house form. Temperature, humidity, wind, rain, and radiation are major components of climate that need to be taken care for while determining the house form.

Material and Construction Technology:

Material and construction technology have significant impact on the house form.

Availability of Land:

Availability of land affects the transformation due to degree of division and change of land use pattern. The subdivision leads to higher density and catalyst to transformation.

Inferring from above and as per my understanding and discussion with my guide, following are the determinants influencing the transformations of living spaces:

Housing = Land + Development + House


Social is a broad term that brings under many sub factors under itself. It constitutes cultural, personal and religious determinants. With the fast moving lives, we are at a stage where we have almost left behind our ancient social values.

In older times, similar families not only stayed together but a­­lso functioned as one huge macro family where distinctions were few. With the gradual breakup of the family system and diffusion of society, the families moved away and the need to stay together was no longer felt. Thus, these days, nuclear families are more than joint families, especially in metro cities like Delhi. People are self sustained in terms of interaction. They have their own gadgets to be busy with instead of social interaction and if they have social interactions, then those are just the formal ones. It is the time of more of individualism.

As we are heading towards a globalization, aspirations of people have changed, culture have taken a turn. Now, house is not just a shelter but it represents the status symbol. Conditioned lobby with LED television has replaced open to sky courtyards, getting away from nature. The culture has been influenced by west so much that it has changed the attitude and behaviour within the family structure. The individualism has evolved very strongly in present times. Now, every individual member in family needs their own private space in the house while in earlier times, family of ten children slept, read and resided in single room / courtyard. Earlier family functioned under the leadership of single head. The members followed and respected his / her opinion. In course of time, family grew smaller and the children and women gained equal importance. Due rise in status of women, direct consequence can seen on house, kitchen has become a place of main emphasis while designing, while earlier, it was the most neglected element. The present generation have let toilets to come in their bedrooms as compared to traditional times when those were placed away from house. Thus, with changing culture we need to transform the spaces we inhabit in.

Hence it is very rightly stated “The house form is not a simple consequence of physical forces or any single casual factor, but is the consequence of a whole range of socio – cultural factors seen in their broadest terms.” (Seminar 4, 2002, p62, S.P.A.)

Economic / Functional:

The house needs to provide the required space for every function. But in the course of time, the functions to be served have completely changed. Earlier it was the cooking, sleeping and other household work to be done in house and also to serve as their place for occupation. People used have cattle, farm equipments, and the storage, but now, one has segregated their occupation completely from their house. Today’s house is just supposed to be lived in having the maximum facilities, making the living at its best.

Also, with the globalization and incoming of MNC’s in and around Delhi, it has increased purchasing power of certain section of society. With this, people are opting for latest technology. Again this technology has intruded in all the parts of house from living to bathroom, thus changing the form of house. The new house has become the prime means to announce their arrival in higher class. Thus, economy has direct consequence on the house.


The house needs to be built in coordination with the climate to provide comfortable environment to the inhabitant. Though, there is not much change in climate of Delhi from earlier times, but there is introduction of technology and newer theories that lay down guidelines to built. Earlier too we had guidelines that might be based on climate, but were practised in the name of god. Since we have intervened new proved guidelines and innovative technology, thus we have transformation in the living spaces.

Identifying the sequential housing typologies in Delhi from 17th century to current times.