Tallulah: architecture should have social responsibility

ACCCRN Champion Author: Nyoman Prayoga Comments
ASIA: India
Tallulah D'Silva at Shape China 2015

Tallulah D’Silva was born and raised in Panjim, Goa, India, but spent memorable holidays in her parents’ villages of Mashem-Canacona and Velim. As a child, she spent most of her time outdoors.

“My home was very near fields, mangroves, khazaans (unique manmade network of dykes and sluice gates where salt, fish and rice are harvested), and the beach, so they were like my backyard. I realize then how much it would influence me in my adult life!” said Tallulah remembering her childhood.

She loves her hometown as a coastal city. She could go cycling or walk to the Miramar and Odxel beach with her friends, climb trees and hike to the Altinho hillock to pick local berries, sleep on hay stacks in the Taleigao fields, and other things. It was a time where she celebrated the outdoors and enjoyed the simple pleasures of exploring the city with abandon.

Tallulah D’Silva was felicitated as one of the 50 young architects and designers’ who are currently shaping India in June 2013 at the iGen Design Forum, Mumbai. She won the Goan Achiever’s Award for Environment April 2012.

Mrs. Tallulah mentor a college student working on a thesis report for her assignment in the Goa College.

As an architect, she loves outdoor activities from trekking to exploring the lesser known places in Goa and India, and also road trips and wildlife trips. Her interest in the environment was sparked and nurtured by her father who loved the outdoors and she had the opportunity to accompany him on many of his excursions to the forest, beach and riverine mangroves in our ancestral village, Mashem-Canacona.

“I used to take afternoon naps under the canopy of the coconut and mangrove trees! And in the last 10 years I have been able to share these experiences with young children, students and friends as I experiment with my 'learning outdoors' modules,” said Tallulah.

She loves community work and sharing her experiences. She frequently writes on her blogs so people can acknowledge her work better, inspire others, also to receive feedback from those who are involved in similar activities.

Tallulah also writes regularly in local as well as national publications such as Sanctuary Asia, IIA Newsletter, Business Goa, Goenkar magazine and local dailies about architecture, education, issues impacting the city, environment, wildlife, etc. Besides, she regularly conducts environment awareness and citizen initiatives under the aegis of Mission Green Goa.

Now, running her career as an architect, she loves the process of building the designed structure on site, working collaboratively with her team both at the office and on site. And in recent times when clients approach her saying that they would like to consult her to design their house because of her passion and concern for the environment, they are very humbling moments for her.

Looking back at the time before she became the successful architect that she is now, Tallulah was inspired by one of her neighbours that studied architecture too. She also had some insights into the creative profession so she confidently chose architecture major with full support from her parents . In 1996, she completed her study. After gaining practical experience for a couple of years, she began her own design and building business. Now, she is the founding curator of the Global Shapers Community Panjim Hub, an initiative of the World Economic Forum.

“I discovered my strengths in using local material and traditional building construction technologies besides an interest in contemporary architecture. Over the years, different opportunities and experiences have led me to nurture my passion and concern for environmental issues, teaching children to raise their awareness with outdoor learning modules and citizen initiatives to address issues at the grassroots!” she explained.

She believes that, as an architect, she does not only have a responsibility to design and build functionally good buildings but also buildings that have social responsibility that they need to fulfil. 

“My interest and concerns for the environment were nurtured at a very young age thanks to my father who spent a lot of his time outdoors in nature. This connection with nature binds me to my responsibility to both the environment as well as local community,” she said, thanking her father for that.

The creative practice of architecture is a perfect platform for her to fulfil her responsibilities. This is how she put it: “As architects we must also look beyond our current practices and a future India that we now have an opportunity to shape.”

Speaking of the future, she also has experience in climate change issues. She has been doing a number of walks along the Khazaans of Goa with students from schools and colleges in Goa. The Khazaans are unique systems of dykes called ‘bunds’ and sluice gates, built some 3,500 years ago on the coastal flood plains along Goa’s rivers. Here, traditional communities have, since their inception, harvested rock salt, a variety of fish and shrimps, and even cultivated a variety of rice resistant to salinity. These walks have helped in raising awareness about these cultural landscapes and their role in mitigating the negative effects of climate change.

Over the last 3 years, she has also ideated and helped implement the Ecoloo project in the village of Carambolim affected by the lack of toilet facilities, severe water pollution and water shortage.

Working with community in Carambolim Village to beat open defecation. Photo credit: Tallulah D'Silva

Throughout her career, Tallulah has been really concerned with environmental and development issue. The biggest learning for her has been the importance of a connection to the natural environment we live in.

“If we connect to it, only then will we be concerned and want to protect it. And this connection needs to be understood by children too. So sharing or teaching about the human relationship with nature is extremely important,” said Tallulah, expressing her thoughts.

The other learning has been the importance of public participation or consultative planning or collaboration. When we work on issues or challenges, not just in architecture or planning, but also environmental as well as social ones, it is very important to involve local community and adopt a very inclusive, participative and transparent way of understanding issues and working out possible solutions.

“In architecture, the challenges that need to be tackled are - how does one design and build more sustainable buildings, manage resources better, achieve energy efficiency, understand climate change, recognize the city's climate resilience assets and devise ways to conserve these, educate students about these critical issues, raise awareness, and so on. Climate change is real and the more we reach out to children, students and the local body the better we will be in building capacity and disaster preparedness.”

Recommended videos by Tallulah to watch:

Tallulah D'Silva: Shape China 2015: Future of mobility

Losing Ground: Climate Vulnerability of Cities in India

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