Gubbi Alliance for Sustainable Habitat is a self-funded association of habitat professionals and researchers that seeks to mainstream sustainability as a core concern in design, policy and habitat management. Gubbi has come into being over a series of meetings that began with a workshop near Bangalore in 2008. Among its 20 members spread across the country, are pioneers and leading Indian practitioners of genuinely sustainable approaches in architecture, construction and participatory rehabilitation. The word Gubbi means ‘sparrow’ in Kannada, and also creatively misinterprets the name of the place where the association members first met to explore joint action.

Today, ‘sustainable’ has become a buzz word that means different things to different people. It has also become another way in which market interests are promoted.  Gubbi believes that we need to develop an approach to sustainability that is consistent, just, anchored to human and ecological survival, plural, and critical. To do this architecture needs to consciously embrace values related to sufficiency (reducing consumption and questioning demand), justice, resilience, equity, and the cultural identity. All of this inevitably means that we must question every tenet of society currently taken for granted. Such tenets include the adequacy of values related to technological efficiency, the market economy, unceasing consumption and undemocratic governance.

For Gubbi, the challenge of sustainability offers the possibility of real architectural innovation that matters. Such innovation goes beyond the narrow formal and technical pursuits ruling over the architectural imagination today. Real innovation may be based on traditional wisdom and materials, modern scientific knowledge, advanced technologies or very often on a combination of all these as some of the writings and projects in this issue demonstrate.

Independence, innovation, openness and sharing are among the core values that matter most for Gubbi. Gubbi seeks to be a convivial organisation. There is no patent on the Gubbi way, no material rewards (except for the satisfaction of doing the right and sensible thing creatively) that Gubbi asks or promises for a rigorous practice of sustainability. Gubbi recognizes that the social and technical challenges that must be overcome to move towards a significantly more sustainable architecture are serious. But it believes that the will and the creativity exists in a scattered way, to meet these challenges.

To catalyse dialogue that will help this process along, Gubbi has organized and will continue to organize various activities and platforms (including a website that is in the works) on which conversations for shaping a better present and future can be conducted. The first interdisciplinary workshop was dedicated to unpacking the idea of sustainability from different perspectives. The second focused on challenges of practicing genuine architectural sustainability. Another which Gubbi members helped conceptualise discussed the possibilities of cooling without airconditioning. The themes reveal Gubbi’s commitment to connecting the philosophical dots to the practical ones, so that we see the bigger picture more clearly than before, and act to improve it.