BY S. WOODS HILL, A.R.I.B.A.,
Consulting Architect to Government, Fellow of Bombay University.
FOR facilities for Architectural education the Bombay School is more fortunately situated than any other similar school that has ever come within the writer’s knowledge.
Situated as it is in the same pleasant garden as the most progressive School of Art in Asia, and working alongside it in recent times in the happiest harmony of aims and ambitions it is safe to assert that the training of the future architects of Bombay will be of a very high standard and the work produced of a notably distinguished character.
Those who are in touch with architectural education in England will know how to congratulate Bombay on the possession of facilities which cannot fail to correct the unfortunate tendency of much modern English Architectural Education, a tendency which can be best described as the “Paper plan factory system”.
Under such a system a student grows up almost unaware that architecture is an art at all, that the design of buildings is anything but a matter of numerous and frequently over elaborated drawings, and that the craftsmen in the other arts are anything but his natural enemies.
In the Bombay School of Architecture the student is consistently taught that all the arts are one, that noble and dignified buildings are essentially problems of structural sculpture and that the craftsmen in the other arts are the only people who can assist him to bring his conceptions into being.
On such a right foundation the Bombay School of Architecture lays with perfect confidence the numerous practical and scientific details of the modern architectis education.
The curriculum at present brings the student who completes the five years’ course up to the standard which confers exemption from the Intermediate Examination of the Royal Institute of British Architects and it is hoped that in the near future facilities for a sixth year course will be available which will confer complete associateship with that body. The training in architecture in India will then, in the Bombay School at least, be such that its students can hold their own in any part of the world; such as distinguish themselves will be competent to take up positions of responsibility with complete confidence and the rank and file will always be sure of that fair livelihood which sound and thorough training in any profession always confers.
The present fifth year course confers in addition a Diploma upon all successful fifth year men, a qualification which, with certain additional practical experience, is accepted by the Bombay Municipality as sufficient professional capacity to warrant the issue of licenses to such students, as qualified structural supervisors.
The scope of the school curriculum is divided into four main grades, viz:—
- Elementary grade,
each stage confers a certificate upon successful students, the certificates being issued under the auspices of the Board of Education for the Presidency, by the authority of the Director of Public Instruction.
The issue of these grade certificates is unavoidable in India at present. The conditions which prevail are such that frequently students have to interrupt the course of their studies (for financial reasons usually) since Indian Architectural students are rarely of the wealthy classes.
The certificate in each grade serves to mark the stage at which the students interrupt their studies and it is also throughout India a guarantee to employers that competency up to the face value of the certificate is possessed by the holder.
The certificates are very highly valued, perhaps no other qualification in India is considered more desirable by junior craftsmen, for students come from all parts of the Peninsula to the Bombay School knowing that the possession of even the lower grade certificates ensures a very definite market value to their services.
The school is divided into two terms of approximately four months each with a brief vacation at Xmas. No classes are held in the hottest part of the year namely:—From May to July.
The school hours are entirely morning hours from 7-40 to 9-40, this being considered the most practical period of the day both as regards temperature and the exigencies of Indian Social Customs.
It will be readily appreciated that such an arrangement entails a great deal of discomfort on the European section of the staff and but for their loyal and consistent support under such trying conditions, it may be safely said that architectural training in Bombay would not be where it is to-day.
The staff consists of ten European and Indian Professors all engaged in the practice of architecture, ably assisted by a cadre of eight assistant teachers who are also practical men. In addition to this an interchange of Professors from the adjacent School of Art is permitted by the Principal as regards tuition in such subjects as drawing, shading, modelling, etc.
It is hoped that an even closer liason between the School of Art and the School of Architecture will be effected at an early date by the inauguration of a course of lectures on practical Mural Decoration by the Principal of the former school, for, as already indicated, one of the chief aims of the School of Architecture is to avoid producing the artistic starvelings which are the products of too many Architectural Schools of Europe and it is only by such interchanges that the desired result can be attained.
The curriculum aims at the greatest possible practical result. It may be safely said that its chief underlying principle is to produce trained students who will be able to render skilled assistance to any employer who engages them during any part of their training.
The curriculum concludes with a course of lectures in Town Planning and Zoning and a brief survey of the elements of professional practice.
Every effort is made to keep the tuition in all sections in close touch with actual building conditions. Theory is only taught in conjunction with practical experiment and many of the lectures are delivered on the bricks, stones and mortar of buildings in course of construction.
Particular attention is paid to the practical value of experimental mechanics. The principles underlying the numerous formualae in everyday use regarding stresses and strains are deduced from actual model beams and stanchions under proportionate loads, the conduct of various materials being accurately recorded by the students from personal observations and the formulae compiled from such observations.
Nothing is omitted to impress the students with the knowledge that an architect’s work must eventually depend for stability and permanence on the capacity to grapple with practical structural problems and the capacity to shoulder responsibility in this respect.
The principles of architecture are taught comparatively as far as it is practically possible, that is the classic styles of Europe and India are examined collaterally.
It is safe to assume that India can take much from Greece in the development of her own incomparable Arts and every step is taken to encourage Grecian studies with this end in view.
It is believed that the more clearly the principles of Composition Proportion and General Design underlying Grecian monuments are understood the more clearly will Indian Students be able to grasp the principles which underlie the classic works of their own country. It is felt that the future of Indian Architecture and the solutions to be solved for modern problems of architectural design by the employment of Indian motives will be based on safe and sane principles if the work of Indian architects is animated by a spirit which aims at something deeper than the more repetition of past forms however attractive or suitable these may be.
Briefly it may be stated that an intermarriage of the principles of the classic Greek and Indian styles is aimed at; the fruit of such a union must be essentially Indian in character and should contain the strongest essentials of both.
Those who understand such matters will see how far removed are such aims from the hybrids of the past, where all that was desired was a veeneer of Indian detail on a classic conception.
It remains for the future to show how far Indian Architecture can benefit by such classic studies but it is the confident belief of the writer that greater and nobler monuments of Indian Architecture will be evolved by such means than by attempting to restrict research to the monuments which India has produced in the past.
It will be seen from the foregoing description that the aims of the School of Architecture are broadly speaking equally practical and artistic.
To fail in either of these two aspects of architectural education is equally serious, the tendency to-day as already stated is to squeeze out the latter and under pressure of modern conditions such a tendency must increase with the most far reaching results.
The phenomenally rapid development of India to-day provides a most fertile ground for the transplanting of Western Institutions and it cannot be denied that many of the bad ones have come to finer fruition than the good.
Bombay is fortunate as regards architectural education for its stands for the best Western ideals only.