Sustainability In Culture Cultural Studies Essay

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Sustainability plays a vital role in almost every facet of life be it economic, environmental or cultural.Sustainabilty is important as it not only helps in determining that the present needs are met but also makes sure about the future needs.Sustainabilty is a never ending process of learning and adapting to the surroundings.

Culture is treated as the key link to the various kinds of sustainability as it helps in determining the identity and ethnic commitments and also helps in building the values that drives collective and communal action for a sustainable future in the new global context. Culture may be viewed as a source of sustainability for both the present and the future. Cultural heritage preserve and cultivates the aspects of the past which is passed on to the future generations which leads to cultural sustainability.

Singapore is a multi ethnic country which includes people from different races and cultures. There has been an increase of Indians in Singapore over the past years. The Indians living in Singapore have been successful in maintaining and preserving their culture. Hints of the Indian culture can be seen in areas like Little India. However, one of the main drawbacks of Little India is that it is very overcrowded and thus many Indians do not like to go there.

The proposed space for the project revolves around an Indian cultural hub that promotes Indian culture and helps in creating awareness. Exhibition spaces form the major attraction in the space as it exhibits and thus sustains Indian culture. People are reminded of their link with India through these exhibitions .The space has been designed in a way that it is visible from the outside and thus attracts a person to go inside. Elements of Indian culture like the water element have been incorporated in the design.

The design helps in promoting cultural activities which leads to cultural sustainability.

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1. INTRODUCTION

Sustainability is a pattern of resource use that aims at meeting the human needs while preserving the nature and the environment so that these needs are not only met easily in the present but is also readily available for future use. Over a period of time, Sustainability has become a wide-ranging term which is being applied to almost every facet of life on Earth, from local to a global scale and over various natural, social and economic phenomenon's that are complimentary to eachother.Sustainabilty also means to maintain and to support. It is a term that aims for the future and helps in the survival of mankind. It should be given a lot of importance and should be treated as an important issue.Sustainabilty is rapidly becoming an issue of critical importance for designers and society as a whole. However, sustainability is a never ending process of learning and adapting to the surrounding. To Design for sustainability, not only requires us to redesign and rethink our habits, lifestyles and practices but it also requires us to think about the way we implement these design. In the case of sustainability, wide spread participation is required where communities from all around the world need to think and shape local, regional, and global visions of sustainability and to offer strategies and ways which would turn visions into reality.

Design plays a central role in shaping a sustainable environment. The development of sustainability is a community-based process of co evolution and learning which involves decisions from an integral perspective. Design for sustainability is not about control and prediction but also about participation, flexibility and constant learning.

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2.1. CULTURAL SUSTAINABILTY

Culture has been described as the integrated pattern of human knowledge, belief and behavior that depends upon the capacity to learn and to transfer this knowledge to the future generations. In an everyday sense, "Culture" is often used in two ways: as a "way of life" and it is also referred to the "expressive arts". Thus, culture is increasingly been seen as way of life and a way of living together rather than jus a shared pattern.

In early times, culture was treated passively and was almost ignored and not given much importance but today culture is being promoted in almost all the countries in various different ways and measures. The human dimension can be enriched and enhanced by harmonizing social relations and culture.

"A sustainable world is a world developed with political, economic, social, cultural, as well as ecological sustainability. And in all these aspects, culture is the key link."

[Gao Xin, cited by Nadarajah, M. &Yamamoto, A.N., 2007, p21]

The main reason why culture is treated as the key link to the various kinds of sustainability is because culture helps to determine the building blocks of identity and ethnic commitments and moulds attitudes to work. The society is able to maintain its cohesion through a feeling of identity and belonging which is provided by culture and thus this helps in the preservation of the mental balance of the mankind. Culture helps in building the values that drives collective and communal action for a sustainable future in the new global context. Culture binds together all the other concerns and has become one of the main issues of sustainability in this century.

Culture is very closely related to literature and arts. Performing arts such as music, drama, dance, puppetry and opera, the material arts or crafts such as weaving, pottery and engraving, the literary arts such as poetry and literature, the visual arts such as painting and sculpting and lastly the environmental arts such as landscaping and architecture is what culture is composed of. There are various definitions of culture but the most classic and complete definition was originally put forward by Sir Edward Taylor in his book 'Origins of Culture'

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"Culture or civilization, taken in its wide ethnographic sense ,is that complex whole which includes knowledge,belief,art, moral, law, customs, and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society".

[Edward Taylor, cited by Nadarajah, M. &Yamamoto, A.N., 2007, p24]

The definition of Culture by Sir Edward Taylor is a complete definition which represents the sum total of all activities in a society. Culture forms a particular framework which makes social and economic transactions and human relations feasible and meaningful.

Every city has its own unique culture and thus has an identity of its own. A city is usually made up of diverse and various identities that express themselves in varied lifestyles. Looking at each functional area from a cultural perspective is the cultural approach to sustainabilty.Cultural traits such as arts and crafts, food, music, dance, festivals and other traditions are used in making the specific symbols of a city and its neighborhood visible which is very important in the process of sustainability. This helps in creating awareness about culture and encourages a person to come together which in a way sustains the culture. Culture includes groups of people, institutions and activities in society. Sustainable development is conceived as being people centered i.e. something which has to be brought in and sustained by people themselves for their own progress and benefits.Cutlure may be viewed as a source of sustainability for both the present and the future. The aspects of the past that people preserve, cultivate and pass on to the next generation is termed as cultural heritage. Cultural heritage helps people to adjust and become accustomed to their past and in relation to one another. By sustaining and preserving culture, the future generations can inherit the values and beliefs which are handed over from their ancestors.

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2.2. INDIANS IN SINGAPORE

Singapore is a society where people live harmoniously and cordially and interact with one another and among different races. Singapore has a lot of different cultures like the Malay, Indian, Chinese and European which have intermingled with one another over the past. Behind the facade of a modern city, these ethnic races are still evident. Sir Stamford Raffles designated areas for different races and these areas still remain. Each still bears its own unique character. Despite being minorities in the cosmopolitan map of Singapore -Indians have figured prominently and remarkably in almost every field, be it, culture or commerce, scientific research or social work, politics or pedagogy(education), law or simply the labour force.

In the more recent past, the steady and continuing flow or rush of professional groups and the enormous social progression of the existing communities have helped Indians to contribute to the success of Singapore. There has been an increase in the number of Indians in Singapore and this includes a large number of professionals in the filed of information technology and many other technical and managerial professions. Other than the arrival of the Indian professionals in Singapore, there were substantial and concrete numbers of Indian students who were attracted by the universities and colleges. With this migration to Singapore, the Indians brought along their culture. Settling down in a new country can be a challenging and difficult task as one not only has to adjust to the living conditions but also has to overcome the language and cultural barrier.

The Indian people living in Singapore are a close community who have been successful in maintaining their rich range of religious, social, dietary and professional customs. Fortunately, most of India's classic culture has survived in Singapore. The traces of the fascinating heritage of India in form of the dance, art and literature can be seen throughout the city. The Indians living in Singapore are careful in preserving their old customs among the various cultural influences which surround them because it reminds them of their link with India. For all the people who have studied or worked in a foreign country for a period of time would at some point or the other miss familiar things about their home. Thus preserving the culture makes them stay close to their links with India and also helps them to overcome cultural barriers.

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The Indian culture has survived in Singapore over a large period of time and can be seen in the area which is known as 'Little India'. Serangoon road is the main road where most of the activities take place in Little India. Indians and people from other ethnic backgrounds visit Serangoon road to buy or purchase Indian commodities ranging from food to clothing and also other accessories which are used in religious rites and rituals. Little India has become a window into the world of Indian cultural, religious and artistic achievements.

fig.1

The image above is that of the Little India on a Sunday evening. The main drawback of Little India is that it is overcrowded as a result of which many Indian students and other professionals avoid going there.

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2.3. DESIGN SOLUTION

The site for the proposed space was decided keeping in mind the main drawback of Little India. The Singapore Sports Council which is located on farrer road is the site chosen for the project as it is still within the vicinity of Little India but is not very crowded.

Utopia is an ideal environment which is very much related to sustainability. A Utopian environment is an ideal environment which comprises of a smooth blend of its surroundings. The design program revolves around an Indian Cultural Hub. The hub is a place where all the Indians living in Singapore can gather together. The main aim of this space is to preserve the Indian culture so that it can be carefully passed on to the future generations. The design intention is to create a utopian space where the Indian culture can be sustained and retained for the future. This Indian community space in terms of its function is a focal point where interaction takes place; it is a place for everyday life activities and for the celebration of festivals.

In the proposed space, Indian culture has been sustained in different ways. In Indian culture, the transition from impurity to purity is very important and water is the means of such a transition. The image below is that of a water ghat in India where people take a dip to purify themselves from all the sins.

Fig.2

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Elements like water which is a very sacred and holy element in Indian culture has been incorporated in the design. The image below is the plan of the space. The water element which has been marked in the colour blue has been amalgamated within the site so that people inside the space have constant interaction with water. The main entrance (red) has been designed in such a manner that a person has to cross over water to get inside the space. Thus constant interaction with the element of water in the space helps in sustaining and retaining the element of Indian culture.

Another way in which Indian culture has been sustained within the space is through exhibition spaces. The exhibition spaces display the various forms of art in Indian culture which helps in promoting the culture and creating awareness. In the above plan, the exhibition area has been marked in the colour grey. The exhibition spaces have been designed in such a way that parts of the space can be viewed from the outside which attracts a person to go inside the space. This space have been elevated from the ground level to a higher level and the façade has been designed such that there are no obstructions or walls in front of the exhibition spaces so that it is easily visible from the outside. In order to sustain the culture, more people should be aware of it and that is only possible if more people visit the space. Thus while designing the space; a lot of importance is given to how a person would visually experience the space from the outside and how that experience would attract the person to go inside the space. Thus what the person sees from the outside which is the exhibition space forms the main attraction of the entire space which helps in creating awareness about Indian culture and thus leads to cultural sustainability.

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