Sunday, November 23, 2008

Urban Mandala

A mandala is any plan/chart which metaphysically represents reality as a microcosm of the universe. An 'Urban Planning Mandala' may seem far fetched, but in India there is such a practice, called Vastu Shastra.

Vastu Shastra is the Indian science of direction, movements and architecture. It aims to balance the natural elements with man and materials. The five elements in Vastu Shastra are interpreted mystically, but also can be applied within the framework of sustainable technology. Lets have a look:

EARTH (Bhumi)
Indian: Its magnetic field and gravitational force has considerable effects on everything on the Earth, living and non-living.
Sustainable design: Earthen walls, heat storing aqueducts, and geothermal energy.

WATER (Jala)
Indian: Rain, river, sea and is in the form of liquid, solid (ice) and gas (steam, cloud). It forms part of every plant and animal. Our blood is mostly water.
Sustainable design: Smart water design in the form of rainwater collection, greywater reuse, and blackwater anaerobic digestion can improve the efficiency of buildings and cities.

AIR (Vayu)
Indian: As a life supporting element, air is very powerful life source. Human physical comfort values are directly and sensitively dependent on correct humidity, air flow, temperature of air, air pressure, air composition and its content.
Sustainable design: Ventilation is very important in a house to remove polluted air, however, smart design is needed to capture the temperature of the exiting air in the new air.

FIRE (Agni)
Indian: It represents light and heat without which the life will extinct. All the days and nights, seasons, energy, enthusiasm, passion, vigour is because of light and heat only.
Sustainable design: Heating and lighting can be improved by the use of LED bulbs and radiant subfloor heating.

Indian: It is the shelter provider to all the above elements. It is also considered the primary conductor of all energy sources within the universal context - physical energies such as sound and light, social energies such as psychological and emotional, and cognitive energies such as intellect and intuition.
Sustainable design: This can be translated as planning on the human scale to promote healthier lifestyles.

Vastu Shastra claims an invisible and constant relation between all the five elements. Properly designing buildings by understanding the effectiveness of these five natural forces can improve the living conditions.

There are also cryptic meanings behind the cardinal directions which are applicable to urban planning with an emphasis on solar energy.

North: Wealth, prosperity
Translation: Storerooms and industry where there is less sun.

East: Progress, growth
Translation: Schools and businesses should receive the rising sun.

South: Sleep
Translation: Apartments in the south to receive the full sun.

West: Pleasure
Translation: Cafes and nightclubs should recieve the setting sun.