With the national planning and reconstruction programmes in this country, architectural profession is gaining importance day by day because of the role it has to play in the fulfilment of this plan. However, the profession is on unstable footings due to the diversified practices and the lack of clarity amongst the professionals and authorities connected with buildings. This being so, the quality of architectural expression and the physical planning are of a questionable character which can be seen from some of the major projects taken up both by the Government and the Private Sector during the last few years. Some of the so-called best examples of work show that they are utterly lacking in the basic fundamentals while the others are merely adorned with embellishments of archaeological past. To quote, the Vidhan Sabha of Mysore where Rs. 20 lakhs have been spent on the dome alone to signify the national style—a fancy dictated by some political leader.
If architecture is a living organization of the time, it has to have the power of creating an environment necessary to foster healthy growth both for body and mind. It is an activity which is vital in the planning of our communities and needs be nurtured so that the same can be established on a sound footing in order to serve the masses of this great country. It is an accepted fact that the problem facing architects in the present-day set-up is not the same as in the past age. This is evident from the changing pattern of society, new problems and new tasks we are facing. Our social and economic problems amidst the scientific and technological development, also the advances made by the sciences connected with humanities and visual art, have a great impact on the presentday culture and, therefore, on architecture. The possibilities of world participation through modern means of communication has made it possible for us to develop science and technology on an international basis and architecture cannot be separated from this activity. This is bound to produce an expression which is international in character.
Our present tasks connected with the national development programmes are many. They are primarily planning communities for all income groups, industrial developments for both public as well as the private sectors, and planning towns and neighbourhoods for corporate bodies. These problems must ensure the right physical planning patterns that will knit together in the order of present-day culture ensuring environment of the right kind for the healthy growth of future generations. These tasks are unique and were unknown to the past age because the architects’ work in that period was dictated by very different conditions. It primarily aimedat planning of palaces and monuments to kings and temples for glorifying religious sentiments of the people. The present age shows the dawn of democracy where science, technology and humanities are the backbone of culture shifting the emphasis of architects’ role, unknown to past age. The architect of today is basically a social planner and a designer. This being so it is incorrect to have preconceived ideas about contemporary architecture as a renaissance of Buddhist, Medieval or Moghul and neo-classic periods. It has got to be functional and true to its purpose. The ideas of function are commonly limited to the human circulation and physical needs, but to an architect it implies the use of materials, and is based on an organization of space and form. If this is true and if the architect with his qualifications can ensure this activity, it may be necessary for the nation to realise it so that this profession can determine the right order and ensure an aesthetic of our time.
Unfortunately, our citizens and a good many professionals including government architects are not aware of their responsibilities. It is necessary, therefore, to establish a rigorous drive for a right kind of education and for a realisation amongst professionals, the Government and the public about the contribution an architect can make in the fulfilment of our programme.
In this connection the following few points are suggested for implementation:—
1. To arrange popular lectures on contemporary architecture in all Indian Universities and educational institutions for the purpose of educating future citizens. Similar lectures to be organized in clubs as well as social organizations.
2. To demonstrate through pictures and films the role which an architect can play in the rural as well as urban areas; such films should explain the ideas of village planning and housing, self-help programme and community planning with reference to architects’ service.
3. The Indian Institute of Architects as a body should intensify their activity popularising the service which a professional architect can render to the common man and to society. This propaganda can also be organized on a bigger scale through periodicals, journals and the Press.
4. The present programme of building research and national building organizations and engineering institutes are not coordinated in an organized way. The best of the talents of architects are not fully harnessed to work. These organizations can draw up a programme to attract the best talent. The major problem facing these bodies is the housing for masses which can be worked out in a more thoughtful way.
5. Organizing seminars and exhibitions with a view to rousing interest amongst professionals and public about architecture.
6. There is an obvious need to vitalise our schools on a better footing. It is desirable to have a few good schools rather than many mediocre ones. The purpose of architectural education will not be served unless they bring out responsible architects.
7. The need to organize the work of government agencies in a right manner requires the greatest consideration. Both State as well as Central works departments are today very disorganized and without any objective whatsoever about their approach. There are exceptions, and although, it is not possible to change the set up easily, efforts must be made to improve the conditions as the maximum load of nation’s work is today handled by these organizations.
The following points may be considered for improvement in the existing set up:—
a) That the selection of responsible architects allocated to the departments be made by design competitions and not on the strength of academic degrees. Selection should also be made from architects who have previous experience of private practice.
b) The scales of salary in government departments be revised in order to attract better talent from architects.
c) Important buildings should be carried out by open competition and work commissioned to the winner. The idea of selecting architects by open tender is likely to deteriorate the standard of work.
d) For important projects, Government must promote collaboration with talented architects in the private field in order to ensure better results. In this connection works involving town planning and neighbourhood design, as well as civic designs would be worked out in the above manner.
e) To establish an advisory panel of architects at the planning commission level consisting of architects both from private field as well as government departments who could guide Government from time to time in their work on a sound basis,
f) It is necessary that the place of an architect be recognised and he be given greater responsibility in the Government than merely allow him to produce designs on paper over which he has no control. The practices of other countries in the West in this regard is worth studying where architects are given the role as coordinator. The results seen in architecture of these countries are due to the rational methods adopted there.
And lastly, we must realise the importance of specialisation and its part in the technical development of the present age. It is advisable, therefore, to leave the expert knowledge in architecture to the specialist. Unfortunately, our politicians are giving talks on architecture, for which they are neither qualified nor have any devotion. It is desirable they limit their activities to politics alone and not become ambassadors of culture as is happening very often in this country. This has had a damaging effect on architecture at least. It is particularly important to bear this in mind as the Government is the biggest builder and the politicians’ remarks and directions are likely to lead the profession astray.
National policies pertaining to architecture do not mean the policies to be followed by the Government only. It is an outcome in which all educated people, Government and professionals must participate, and, we shall have a few objectives in the larger interests of the country and community as a whole. The need is for a more rational thinking and for a keen creativeness and not for mere formulations and conventional solutions.