The Architect does not enjoy the confidence of the society. This statement is justified by the expressed opinion of tradesmen, builders, consulting engineers, the great majority of clients, i.e., the general public and the bureaucracy both at the Centre and the States.
It is borne out by the fact that no architect has been elevated to a position of eminence outside his profession. In politics, national development and industry our leaders are other than men trained as architects. Even the trivial importance of wealth and social prominence is denied to them.
It is indeed ironical that whenever a great person is to be honoured, he is attributed the compliment of being a great architect of a nation, industry, ideology or any other such field of his eminence and the architect whose very position is borrowed to do the above honour should be considered as someone quite insignificant.
The architects have been for much too long patting themselves on their backs and fooling themselves in spite of their lack of recognition and importance in the society. It is about time the architects did some serious stock-taking of their position and started doing something constructive to uplift their status and that of their profession.
Architecture has failed because it gave itself to the pretty boys and intellectual no-hopers who insist on producing and in fact reproducing what has been done in the remote past with a few clichés of modernism here and there. All this is being committed in the name of Modern Indian Architecture, which needless to say is neither modern nor Indian in expressing its cultural background, climatic and other essential aspects of contemporary architecture.
Thus when the architect resorts to the tricks and clichés in architecture, all he succeeds in communicating to the public are the tricks and clichés. This naturally does not help to gain the admiration, approval and confidence of the public.
People in general are deeply confused by the conflict between the traditional and contemporary conception of design in architecture as is being presented to them by the architects in queer ensemble. And judging by the over-all results, the architects themselves seem to be more confused about it than the public. Design has undergone changes through the times immemorial with the social technological and scientific· progress and with the development of new ways of building and not with this or that transient ideology and ism of political government.
It is a matter of great regret that whereas in India her leaders have been very progressive in their approach to politics and, after gaining Independence have been still more progressive in the planning of the nation’s future, yet strangely enough they are the very stumbling blocks when it comes to architecture. It is most disheartening that these very great and progressive thinkers should now dictate the design policies of our national buildings by insisting the use of Buddhist arches and domes and Red Fort architecture in the buildings of this era of atomic reactors. If it is a policy of coexistence of the present with the bygone past, it is indeed a very unhappy one.
We misinterpret the creative sense of tradition if we try to perpetuate any of its episodes for its nature is dynamic and not static. The Buddhist arch and dome and the Moghul architecture expressed excellently the living conditions of its period. But our present-day living conditions and our means of production differ ever so much from those of the Buddhist and Moghul times.
Today imitation has become a fatal habit. People humbly accept as a gospel that beauty is something that has been decided upon centuries ago and all we can do now is to study it carefully and then apply it to our present-day surroundings.
Architecture essentially is a way of life and not just buildings and structure. Creative architecture must, therefore. satisfy both the spiritual and the material needs of life.
No architect can, however, continue to be an architect without the client. His accomplishments as a master of fine arts, engineering skill and planning ability and the proper use of materials depend to a very large degree on the quality of the client as it does on his own ability. It still is for the client a form of advertising and establishing a status. Johnson’s Wax found its original investment in Frank Lloyd Wright very well worthwhile and came back asking for more. General Motors think that their new plan should be at least as good as one of their products—the Cadillac. These are all commercial motives fi appropriate contemporary expression.
Architecture demands a frame of reference, a set of rules and plenty of imagination. Of course the genius breaks the rules and so does the incompetent. From the broken rules of the genius come the expanding body of organised knowledge, which is a further contribution to the profession and the society.
So to overcome all the shortcomings in the status of an architect in society, he must work with his hands to understand his craft, master his structure and services, train his mind with logic, know his men on the job, the economics of the buildings; know the philosophy, science and sociology so that he may deepen his understanding of life. Doing all this, he will certainly regain the confidence of the community and will be chosen to lead the community in matters outside architecture and who knows, he may not only succeed in raising the prestige of his profession but may add to the stature of man.
Human beings spend more than ¾ of their day in some building or the other, whether it be a house, an office, a factory, a shop or a store or a place of entertainment. The architect can make a very big contribution in making his work a pleasure in well designed surroundings. His important role in this essential aspect has already been recognised in many other countries. His contribution there in religious, domestic, commercial, recreational and industrial fields of the society is second to none.
The musical composer within the limits of what sound can express may go wild. The painter, once he has learnt what he can and what he cannot do with the paint, can run riot. The poet has to submit to the limitations of the language, unless like Shakespeare and James Joyce he coins new words for himself. But the architect has to under go double discipline—the discipline of his purpose and the discipline of the materials. To ask Beethoven what was the purpose of his Ninth Symphony would have been to ask a meaningless question. Titian would have stared in bewilderment if anybody had asked him why he painted this or that.
However since the architect’s position is not worthily recognised, it is for him and his profession to assert itself in the community and establish a more realistic and effective public relations beside silently making very useful contribution over the drawing board and the sites of his buildings. It is essential that he and his profession should enlarge its activities to make his work and position better appreciated, understood and respected by the society.
The architect and his profession need to be revived badly by reorganising it and making it strong enough to speak on behalf of his members and safeguard their interests.
The forming of such a body as at present in most regions to meet for picnics and teas only has little effective justification for its existence.
Regards for and the use of professional ethics have been brought down to a most humiliating level by its members. Unless the profession takes hold of itself and does something constructive soon, with the confidence and zealous support of its members, the architect will be reduced to the level of a mere “Naksha Navees” as most of them are in reality no more than that.
The architect in India is very fortunate in having a treasure of some of the most refined examples of architecture through the ages to inspire him. These beautiful buildings even today continue to attract thousands of visitors and tourists from abroad. It is a matter of great disappointment and somewhat embarrassment that we have produced few buildings in more recent years to compare with the proud record of our ancestors, while we have the added advantage of new materials and techniques at hand today.
It is a matter of further embarrassment that a few recent contributions of international bracket buildings are the works of overseas architects, who have been able to appreciate our climate and tradition and be inspired by some of our best show pieces of architecture of bygone days without stealing and sticking their facades and other features to their buildings of today.
So all is not well with the architect and his profession in general. Therefore it is obvious that the profession needs a thorough overhaul to formulate an imaginative and strong realistic policy so as to create and restore much of its lost dignity and confidence in society.