Due to the unique role that the architect plays in society, a comprehensive approach is absolutely necessary in the study of architecture. Architecture is associated with the entire spectrum of human activities. Architects need to be educated to become sensitive, concerned human beings fully aware of the complex relationship among natural phenomena, human activities and man-made institutions.
The architect’s choices have vast implications for societies. For example, the choice of an appropriate level of technology of construction, which relies heavily on traditional building crafts, can greatly help the economy of a region. With regard to material resources, the training of an architect can encourage him to use optimally any building materials drawn from non-replenishable resources. Unless the architect has some general training in the local vernacular tradition, he cannot interpret social institutions in terms of the built environment, and the opportunity to bring people together and create a cohesive community spirit will be lost.
Architecture can embody certain deeply rooted symbolic, aesthetic associations of the community. The training of an architect needs to include a proper understanding of the symbolic and aesthetic associations of people and their architecture. Only then can an architect create built forms with which the community will wholeheartedly identify and which will become worthy of being regarded as the community’s heritage over time.
Today most architectural practise is concentrated in urban areas. The major occupation of most architects is to serve the needs of the estate developers and, in isolated instances, to design institutions and public buildings. Concern for the environment is lacking in most projects due to a lack of initiative and foresight as well as the architect’s self-imposed limitations in de igning for a particular task. As a result, problems concerning the needs of communities in the urban areas remain unsolved and the effectiveness of the architect as a parti cipating professional member of a corn munity becomes negligible. In the rural areas, due to a total lack of architects’ participation, problems are usually handled by others, and, as a result, the environment is changing without any cohesive plan. The cause of this total failure to participate in the urban and rural development is rooted in the professional and educational spheres. If the educational process would have inculcated an awareness of developmental issues, at least the graduates might have participated in the activities of the commmunity. But, unfortunately, this is not happening.
The more than twenty schools of architec ture now existing in India base their teaching on a curriculum formulated many years ago. The curriculum neither emphasises the excellence required of a technical graduate, despite the fact that there are too many technical courses, nor does it encourage social commitment by the professional.
There are degree courses of five years’ duration, diploma courses of two years’ duration and certificate courses of one year’s duration. In spite of this diversity, the choice of the student and the needs of the community are not really addressed. This has resulted from the pattern of starting courses based on available job opportunities and developing skills in limited specialised areas. The curriculum is rigid and denies students the chance to reorient their studies over time. For example, the engineering graduate undergoing the five-year course cannot opt for a new branch after the first year. As a result, he has to either give up or continue, even if he has no keen interest. The diploma student, on the other hand, cannot switch to join a degree course if he so desires. Such is also the case of students in certificate level courses. This stratification has not onlyntaken away the initiative to improve, but has also created bottlenecks in employment.
A solution to this state of affairs could be found if all technical education were considered as multi-disciplinary, consisting of allied components, with the core courses conducted in common. Then, the entering students in engineering, technology, architecture and planning could begin together, taking common courses for three years. The programmes for each discipline would differ in the final year, when required courses for practical training would replace others.
Advantages of such an integration for the student are several:
- It would allow students a choice to change to another allied discipline after three years.
- If for any reason a student is unable to continue, he or she can opt out after three years and still hope to continue in the future.
- Programmes of short and long duration could be adjusted among various institutions, thus reducing unnecessary expenditure in replicated plant and equipment costs.
- Well organised research and feedback could be maintained in all allied fields, providing a good basis for the modification of teaching methods and the curriculum.
- The performance of the students will be improved due to the variety of choices.
- Interdisciplinary education would develop greater interaction among various disciplines and would create flexibility, allowing the development of courses oriented towards actual problems.
This plan envisages co-operation and co-ordination among research centres, training institutions and organisations involved in building. Their combined efforts would not only help to raise standards, but also prevent waste of limited resources. The Table below explains the general scheme of such an approach to technical education. The Centre for Environmental Planning and Technology at Ahmedabad has been set up on the basis of such an approach. Over the years, beginning with a School of Architecture, a range of schools have been established which offer courses in planning, advanced structural design, building construction and supervision as well as mid-career refresher courses on interior and landscape design taught in the evenings.
These units have been, in the recent past, complemented by a Visual Art Centre, School of Fine Arts and a Community Science Centre for popularising science and technology. A wood workshop, ceramic work shop, a material testing laboratory as well as a metal workshop aid the faculty and students to shape their ideas in the medium of their choice.