Has Globalization and Technological Advancement made Traditional Knowledge irrelevant?

Architecture Dated:  Sept. 28, 2015
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High Rise Buildings

The cultural environment  comprises of a variety of elements, each of which, for sure, affects its evolution. These components include religion, belief systems, ecology, economy and social aspects, such as family structures and gender roles.

cultural environmentSource: http://www.afai.org.za/local-provincial-international-cultural-policy-developments/

Vernacular architecture is a manifestation and physical representation of the culture of a particular set of people. All forms of vernacular architecture are built to meet specific needs and to accommodate values and economies (Lim 2007).

Pupil tree academyPupil tree academy, Bellary - vernacular architecture.
Source: http://www.vernarch.com/projects.htm

Globalization is the process of creating a free environment across the globe where there are free and frequent movements of goods and services across the boundaries of nations (UNESCO 2010). Though the term globalization has now been used more frequently due to the rapid interlinking of economies around the world, it existed from a long time in the history of mankind, but not so prominently. Only during the voyages undertaken by countries like Portugal, Spain, France, United Kingdom and other European countries, the linkages between geographic regions became more defined and functional (Adam 2012).

GlobalisationGlobalisation
Source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rf-hemphill/5-international-business-_b_7789280.html?ir=India&adsSiteOverride=in

Ignorance towards context:

Globalization has given rise to new forms and styles of architecture like neo-classical, modernism, post-modernism, minimalistic architecture etc. driven by a motive to experience more economic gain. On the other hand, religious and cultural architecture styles like the Islamic and the Mughal had more elaborate design elements like domes, ornamental columns, windows etc. People tend to follow the same type of buildings irrespective of the geographical locations and this in turn, has created monotony in architecture and loss of rich identity of a place or city through its architecture. Taking the example of the city of Dubai, which is characterized by sand and rocky surroundings yet, has opted for modern high rise buildings similar to the buildings of USA rather than any Arab country, as shown in the figure1. The buildings have artificial ventilation and have used up huge amount of energy during the construction as well as in the form of materials which have high embodied energy.

high rise buildingsFigure 1, High Rise Buildings
Source: http://www.filterfast.com

Let us now see how the opening up of the economic boundaries, better connectivity, information technology and easier movement of commodity has influenced the traditional architecture of the various places.

Influence of globalization on traditional architecture:

There are two factors or forces which tend to shape the outcome of globalization on architecture – 

  • One, which promotes and supports preservation and practice of tradition, vernacular forms, materials, techniques etc. and the other being.
  • Other, which encourages new innovation and flexibility based on the current needs and system (Lewis 2002).

Globalization leads to introduction of new knowledge in the local context and tends to modify the features of it. It also creates new opportunities but promotes migration from rural areas to the urban areas. Thus, it seems that the culture and tradition of one place gradually dilutes and fades away (Bhattacharyya 2015).

Spreading local knowledge using technology:

However, if considered from another point of view technological advancements have led to local knowledge being circulated and spread over a vast area, irrespective of land boundaries. In this way, globalization nurtures and nourishes tradition. With the access to a broader market, the knowledge finds a greater chance of survival than just being practiced in specific regions only. This is because, with the passage of time,  society comprising of human beings, the needs and  wants,  are reshaped and redefined. So, globalization has not just influenced the quantitative aspect of vernacular and traditional architecture but also the quality and methods of it in order to suit the requirements of the current scenario.  The incorporation of jaali pattern and chajjas in the modern day buildings is an excellent example of this phenomenon. These were used in old traditional buildings but are very widely used nowadays in many modern buildings, not only for lighting and ventilation purposes but also targeted at aesthetic needs.

Mughal window jaaliMughal window jaali
Source: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/264727284321300848/a

“With the development of communication technologies, it is difficult to achieve the integrity of an object. Conventional forms create fakeness due to discrepancies between the material and construction techniques of a product. The product may visually resemble the original, but it is quite different from the original in its construction. In this case, the conservation of cultural heritage gains importance to avoid constructing buildings that are like the original. The new built areas will be created from historical sites, and bridges to the past will not be broken” (Mahir & Mucahit 2008).

Relevance of Traditional Knowledge with respect to Sustainability:

“In other words, there are no reliable bases for judging one worldview to be a superior reference point for reality than the other. We can of course arbitrarily choose. Given science's institutional power in mainstream society, it is not surprising that the 'objective and rational' scientific method is repeatedly called upon to judge other knowledge systems” (Nakashima 2000). With the increase in energy consumption and a dynamic change in the functioning of the modern day world, there has arisen a need to conserve resources. Globalization has completely overlooked the need for sustainability and seem to be focusing more on the economic terms. Traditional architecture in most places has been in consideration of the environment and less mechanical services. Using locally available materials with low embodied energy, active and passive cooling techniques, sufficient day lighting, insulation to heat, reduction of humidity etc. are some of the arms of vernacular architecture of any place.

 Conclusion:

Though the process of urbanization, globalization and industrialization has led to the development of new perspectives of design and building construction, the relevance of traditional knowledge has still not been subjugated. In fact, with the increased developments, it has only become important to consider the ideas and practices of our ancestors or local people,  in order to fulfill the requirements of the present generation without hampering the resources for the future generation. It is also important to preserve this knowledge in order to conserve the identity of a community, city or section of the society. Globalization and technology can give a vast and diverse perspective of the traditional and vernacular architecture whereas traditional architecture itself provides in depth knowledge about the practices and techniques in the local context. Both of them complement each other and a perfect balance between them is what is the key to a sustainable development in all fields including architecture. Local people need to participate in the process of globalization through their existing skills and vocabulary of architecture and buildings.

References

1.   Adam, R,  2012,  The Globalisation of Modern Architecture, “The Impact of Politics, Economics and Social Change on Architecture and Urban Design since 1990”, Cambridge Scholars Publishing, Cambridge

2.   Bhattacharyya, R, 2015, “Traditional Knowledge and Environment in a Globalised World: A Study a, “Journal for Studies in Management and Planning”, Volume 01 Issue 02, e-ISSN: 2395-0463

3.   Globalisation- UNESCO 2010, Viewed 9 August 2015,

<http://www.unesco.org/education/tlsf/mods/theme_c/mod18.html?panel=3#top>

4.   Lewis R,  2002, Will Forces of Globalization Overwhelm Traditional Local Architecture a,  “Architecture and the global city”, Washington Post, USA

5. Lim R, 2007, Cultural Sustainability and Development: Drukpa and Burman Vernacular Architecture, Designing Sustainable Cities in the Developing Worlda, Wiltshire: Antony Rowe Ltd.
6.   Nakashima D, 2013,Traditional Knowledge: Resisting and Adapting to Globalisationa, UNCTAD Expert Meeting on Systems and National Experiences for Protecting Traditional Knowledge, Innovations and Practices, Geneva

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