On the contribution of architectural education to contemporary Indian architecture:
Uttam Jain, Bombay: The impetus into education are generally good but their implementation needs orientation. Every School must evolve its own philosophy and gear its programmes to conform to the chosen ideology. The system and emphasis adopted by each School should respond to the factor of change. It should relate to the context of each time period and be resilient enough to accommodate changing needs, priorities and parameters. The education today is not moving with the times.
Suryakant Patel, Baroda: Education has not really made a significant contribution. The system is not relevant because it was designed by foreign-trained architects.
Student’s don’t recall respect our traditions though they talk about them. Sixty percent of Baroda students go abroad. The education system does not teach Indian values and hence the students have a low social-consciousness. Even the clients are oriented to the West. The English language used in Schools brings a foreign culture and foreign values.
Anant Raje, Ahmedabad: The schools of Bombay, Delhi and Ahmedabad have made significant contributions.
K.T. Ravindran, Delhi: If one looks at education as imparting information and awareness, Indian architectural education is comparatively strong in its information base and is rather weak in its awareness base. The result is that the field is full of people who can build, but rather mindlessly.
I think the loss of meaning in modern architecture in India is a direct result of the mediocrity of minds involved in education.
Kuldip Singh, Delhi: Architectural education in India has been essentially quantity oriented rather than quality oriented.
Joseph Allen Stein, Delhi: By and large our architectural education has served the middle classes and the industrial sector of the economy fairly adequately judged by international standards and definitions. Standards of execution, however, are far below international levels. Design-wise we are good; in execution we fail. An ordinary building in Sweden looks good. Here even a brilliant design is let down by the shabby level of the construction industry. This raises a fundamental issue in education; what is the point of brilliant designs which cannot be executed? There is a mismatch between design and social and technical realities.
On the standard of student work compared to international standards:
Uttam Jain: There should be no comparisons drawn between us and others abroad. We should build our own objectives related to our own context. Their priorities differ; we should not aim to be like them.
Suryakant Patel: The intellectual standard is second to none; our students are more creative and they often have a better design sense.
Anant Raje: In Ahmedabad and Delhi there is excellence. The attempts made by even the poorest students indicate that we have good students. Our students are mentally more mature than most foreign students. Professional education means professionals will work for the best opportunity anywhere. So high professionals standards now mean big returns later, no matter where they choose to live and work. However, the awareness of our own background and traditions is only just the beginning – the search for roots is very exciting. We are exploring remote situations which were myths till today. We need people who will understand and interpret our own symbols.
K.T. Ravindran: In the four Schools I have had a chance to interact with, the basic student material is better than the work they produce … but having worked in teams with Western-trained architects, I can safely say that in actual performance on the board we compare very well, or even have na upper hand, in dealing with cold information. What was missing was the ability to sell an idea with confidence; this was mainly a result of the stick-and-carrot system in our education and the consequent oppression of the minds by a teaching hierarchy.
Kuldip Singh: I consider the standard of student work in various Schools to be average… The Schools are too isolated. For instance, the Delhi School sits alone, completely outside the University. This thwarts all interdisciplinary exchange at the level of students and faculty, and results in a very confined, narrow, and static viewpoint. This deprives architectural education of any social context, or a wider intellectual base…. Due to a virtually complete absence of Indian architectural publications, the Schools are entirely dependent on the material published in the U.S.A. and Western Europe. This affects the thought processes of the faculty as well as the students. It generates an attitude of viewing all local problems from a Western point of view…
Joseph Allen Stein: The work compares well with the international standards. Students who go abroad do well both at the academic and professional levels. But let us also admit that the fact they can do well anywhere abroad tends to make them do poorly in India.
On the influence of International trends:
Uttam Jain: Fresh minds can be influenced by anything glamorous. So we must tell our students more about Indian Architecture. We should take them around and show them our own traditional building styles, have them study our own culture and country.
Suryakant Patel: Students are influenced very greatly. The foreign magazines are the great destructive forces. Students see finished buildings and do not understand the underlying causes. So they copy. The libraries should be burnt: burn the photographs in particular, leave the written material.
Anant Raje: Influences were always there. Now, the exchange of print-media will expose students to more international experience… this is a good progressive situation.
K.T. Ravindran: Students have been influenced to a large extent by international trends, mainly because there are no other indigenous models to follow. Students always look forward to creative and intellectual leadership from the profession. This has not been forthcoming from the profession. However, there are indications that this may change in future.
Kuldip Singh: Students are influenced entirely by such trends.
Joseph Allen Stein: I think students have been strongly influenced with unfortunate consequences. They have chosen the wrong forms. Let us look at Japan which has a highly developed technological base. They had a problem with wedding international culture with traditional culture. In their architecture we can see how the pine tree has produced pagoda-like roof forms. They have maintained such analogies and continuities in form even while using the most up-to-date building technology. So when Indian students copied alien forms they were turning a blind eye to the gentleness that is so characteristic of the Indian landscape. They displayed an insensitivity to the continuities that link a mud hut to a place in traditional architecture. Corbu’s forms were alien and hostile to the visual culture of India. Chandigarh introduced sharp discontinuities. Kahn on the other hand, made a more positive contribution in Ahmedabad.
Now India is part of the modern world and a telephone is undoubtedly a telephone no matter where it is located. But for a long time to come there are going to be two Indias: the India of modern industry, education and management, and the other India which is ten times the size of the first, an India where technology is oriented – through no fault of its own – more towards the 14th century than the 21st century. Both Gandhiji and Schumacher have thought about how reconciliation could be brought about between such disparate levels of development. Students too should be thinking and researching on these issues so as to identify forms which are appropriate for these realities of India.
On the contribution of architectural education to contemporary Indian architecture:
Uttam Jain: Interest in our own traditions is growing. We should imbibe more self-confidence through exposure to our own crafts and culture. This may provide a framework in which we can evolve a vocabulary and a style of our own.
Suryakant Patel: Contemporary architecture should not attempt to do this consciously. A conscious effort will only give you external forms to please the foreign appreciator, for example. The identity should come through in the making, in solving problems of climate, and addressing social conditions as they are. Aesthetics should take a back seat.
Anant Raje: The art of architecture is a medium of expression. Anyone who honestly uses this medium, in context, to understand materials, relationships and region, will produce a regionally relevant architecture.
K.T. Ravindran: The problem with seeking a national or regional identity is that such efforts are basically reactionary in spirit. Historically, they have been an important cultural manifestation of fascism. In short, such a search could lead to a dangerous variety of historicism and subsequent “fads” or “styles” in architecture. If as designers we are able to feel and participate in the cultural continuity that undoubtedly exists around us, the architecture we produce could retain the flavour of that culture. This is definitely not something that can be cultivated, but has to find a spontaneous expression in what we build. Surely a re-oriented educational system is a pre-requisite for such a situation.
Kuldip Singh: It is my belief that in the next decade, architecture with a distinct national identity could emerge in India.
Architects in India until now have fallen into two distinct categories: those who work for the government as employees and those who work for themselves as consultants. The Government of India has been the single biggest builder so far. It is well known that in its own departments as well as in its extension of patronage to private consultants it has been motivated by bureaucratic considerations and attitudes. Poor patronage, therefore, is one reason why a distinct national style has not emerged so far. Architects, particularly those outside the Government, are either overburdened with work or too busy chasing commissions. The profession on the whole is somewhat lacking in well-defined objectives. All this results in greatly reduced creative work. However, the intellectual and social environment is gradually changing. A better appreciation of our own history is beginning to colour our thoughts. This is partly due to a greater appreciation of environmental values identified with distinctly historical and geographical factors in the rest of the world. I hope this awareness does not end up purely at a cosmetic level in architecture.
Joseph Allen Stein: Regional identity can only grow out of an environmental context. The basic orientation in Schools of Architecture has been wrong. Too much emphasis and attention is paid to so-called ‘originality’ and too little paid to research. Schools should be developing local regional vocabularies through research. For example, there should be a school for mountain architecture, one for desert architecture, and so on. This approach to research and training would produce simple styles which the architect of average ability should feel comfortable with and handle well. Such methodologies would not require geniuses. Furthermore, these regional vocabularies would have to be evolved at two levels for the two Indias. Both are needed if the architectural profession is to truly serve the majority of our population.
You have to start with a regional analysis first and then work your way to an architectural vocabulary appropriate to the region. Therefore, architectural schools cannot be allowed to exist without strong planning wings. These environmental context would never be understood otherwise. Regional land use and transportation planning must come first. Without a coherent regional land use solution, you can’t have a coherent urbanism and thus you can’t have a coherent architecture. We should start planning, and executing plans, for a population double the current population and we should start this today or else things can only get worse. I fear if some headway is not made on the above issues our contemporary architecture will continue to miss or the misplaced priorities of today. You will get a concentration of abilities spent on creating oases, such as India International Centre in Delhi.