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Architecturing Happiness In War-Torn Zones

An aspiring architect, hailing from Pune, designs an underground play network for the children stuck in war-torn places.

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Tanay Narendra Bothara, Asia Young Designer of the Year.
Tanay Narendra Bothara, Asia Young Designer of the Year, AR Category.

Pune based architecture student was crowned the Asia Young Designer Award (AYDA) 2019 routing over 8,400 applicants from 15 geographical locations across Asia to win the coveted title in the award’s Architectural Design category.

Tanay Narendra Bothara, 23, won the gold medal for his design concept ‘Children Uprooted’ that aims to explore ways in the 'transformation of war-torn places', like Syria, for future generations.

Commenting on the inspiration behind the concept, he said, “I saw a video on Facebook shared by the UN where the Syrian kids were talking about how their childhood is under ‘fire’ due to the war and that emotionally struck me. Then I started researching and watching documentaries about the Syrian war. And that’s how the question triggered in my mind that ‘how can we, as architects, help them bring their smile back?”

The theme for 2019’s edition of AYDA, “Forward: Challenging Design Boundaries”, seeks to bring disruptions to the design industry and propel aspiring designers to be one step ahead in bettering the quality of living for the people in their societies.

Talking about his journey with AYDA, Bothara expressed that initially the concept was meant for his thesis project but while working on it and discussing it further with his mentors the idea of ‘subterranean play network’ was developed.

“I was working on the concept and discussing it with my mentors - architects, psychologist and artists who are dealing with the similar psychology of the concept. And eventually, we came up with the ‘subterranean play network’ as the architectural outcome for the war-torn zones”, he asserted.

The soul of Bothara’s project aims ‘to bring back smile on children's face’ and the objective is ‘to find happiness amidst the war’. The design look is to reuse the basements and abandoned buildings to create an underground play network. The concept can be implemented in any war zone and spread across the world to find happiness.

Bothara also claimed that after being selected for the Asia level he was guided by the jurors and eminent architects to efficiently fine-tune his project.

One of his mentor and juror, Architect Gita Balakrishnan, Founder & Curator, Ethos and ACEDGE said, “What set apart Tanay’s entry was the humility with which he approached the issue he had chosen as his focus theme. I particularly commend him for taking suggestions offered by mentors at different stages of the competition with a positive outlook. Not only did he internalise them deeply, but also had strong justifications for not incorporating some suggestions. This is a clear indication of clarity of vision”.

All the finalists were provided with the opportunity to present their submissions to a live panel of judges that comprised of experienced professionals and veterans in the architecture and design industry. In addition to the design concept, planning and functionality, finalists’ works were judged based on their design innovation, sustainability and relevance that address ongoing issues, aesthetic and visual impact, colour usage, theme compatibility and forward thinking and delivery.

Swanzal Kak Kapoor, Design Principal, SAKA studio who was judging the AYDA said, “Tanay Bothara represents a new generation of thoughtful, sensitive and socially driven architects who are global thinkers. The empathy and feeling that is palpable in his choice of subject and the maturity and restraint of his design solution are of special note. Given the theme of Future Forward this year, his attempt to bring a smile to the faces of children in war-struck Syria was both relevant and critical”.

Bothara was awarded a cash prize of Rs 50,000 in the Nation finale which he donated to Syrian Children's Fund, to be used for their education. And $10,000 at Asia finale which he intends to spend on the unique opportunity, that he has been awarded, to attend a fully-funded 6-week Design Discovery programme at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design in Boston, Massachusetts, USA. 

“The fact that he intends to donate his prize money to the cause of children in war-torn zones is a testimony of his dedication to the project. I am certain that this Harvard design program will be a life-changing experience for him and wish him all the best” said Gita Balakrishnan.

Launched in 2008, the Asia Young Designer Award (AYDA) is part of Nippon Paint’s vision to nurture the next generation of design talents across Asia. It has since then grown in terms of reach and stature and has now established itself as one of Asia’s premier design award across 15 countries including Japan, Malaysia, Pakistan, Iran, Indonesia, Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Vietnam.


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