The consideration of the place of an architect in the society primarily needs a historical review of his position in the society. In the pre-historic days architecture was a popular art, as it was designed first for the benefit of an individual family and later on for the tribe. As civilization advanced and as authoritarian and despotic systems of government emerged art became less and less democratic. The art of architecture became servant of the king, the baron, the priest and the overlord class. Generally serfs and slaves did not have any place in the scheme of architecture. The buildings which were provided were largely for the benefit and protection of kings and not the subjects.
In old times there was nothing like a person doing separately the job of an architect as in those days his duties were combined with the duties of a painter, a sculptor and a master-builder. With the expanse of industrialization, the needs of the society became complex and common man came to the forefront.
The increased complexity of the social structure has made it obligatory that the capacity of an architect should be separately trained. This has also resulted in an appreciable increase in the responsibility of an architect. An architect has got to be conversant with new materials, new technique, history, law, sociology, politics, economics, town-planning and bylaws of the local authority. Furthermore, the routine work of obtaining permits from various authorities viz. local authority, Controller of Steel and Cement, Director of Industries, Chief Inspector of Factories and others has become so cumbersome that his creative ability greatly hampered, in the process of fulfilling obligation mentioned above.
At every stage in the history of architecture the impact of the society has always been visible. When kings were in prominence architecture was mainly concerned with palaces and palatial building, etc. During the period of wars architecture was reflected in erection of forts, castles, etc. Belief in religion resulted in erection of temples, mosques and cathedrals, etc., and due to Industrial Revolution architecture is being reflected in construction of industrial buildings, factories etc., and consequently erection of residential buildings for labourers. Architecture cannot be separated from material conditions of life and from the way of living and from social and political structure of the community. One of the main functions of the architecture in high civilization has been to give significance to man’s physical environment.
During the period of Industrial Revolution and after the First World War there was a speedy growth of industries which required immediate construction and this was achieved without proper consideration or planning resulting in haphazard development.
The age of industrialization and democracy has brought to an end most of the cultural traditions. The conjugation of the forms of architecture that have been traditional for over three thousand years are declining on account of the new possibilities of structure and materials giving rise to a new type. A good architect always tries to preserve the best in the old traditions, though with the present resources he has to cater to the needs of the community.
With the attainment of Independence great responsibility was cast on leaders and government officials responsible for government administration, who appreciated the growing needs of the national development. for which construction work of varied types was absolutely necessary for an all-sided development of the nation.
At present the greatest driving force in social life is democratization. The last World War was a conflict between democracy and tyranny, Christianity, conservatism, liberalism, socialism, communism—and all preach the doctrine of the common man. The importance is now attached to the community and its needs which arc unavoidable. This development has a direct impact on the art of architecture. The architectural profession is now called upon to serve a new client and that is the community.
During the last decade the government was not in the picture and best opportunities were exploited by private enterprise as individual or companies to execute their own plans which needed construction of their buildings. Recently the government realised the limitations of private enterprise and thought it desirable in some cases to take over entire management in their own hands. This increased the number of government official architects and lessened the work of private practising architects. As some of the practising architects had practically no work they chose to accept government jobs because of the conditions of security of service and decent emoluments and other facilities of service. It is also observed that the official architects are so overworked that it is high time that the government transferred some of the jobs to practising architects. Besides, in the case of large projects the government and public bodies should introduce the system of public open competitions. Thus the two trends stated above, viz., industrialization on one hand and democratization on the other hand have tended to widen the field of official architects.
When we consider the relation between the private architects and society at present times, we cannot forget the fact that the two are inter-dependent. The architect bears the responsibility of giving his client not only an enclosure of space but by devoting considerable time for preserving aesthetic value by rendering maximum comfort of his clients which conduce to a high cultural standard. It is, therefore the responsibility of the client, whether individual or social bodies, to pay ungrudgingly professional fees to the architects on the basis of the scale as laid down by the professional body.
With the spread of democracy public expenditure has been increasingly employed as the chief motive power for higher and better standards of living. With the intention of improving the lot of the community as a whole, particularly lower and less fortunate classes there is a great flow of public money. Collective expenditure has become the basis of our social economy and has been accepted as a common law of social progress.
There is another factor which merits our attention, that is the development of machine technology. Applied science and technology have affected to a great extent the conditions of existence in society which has become non-human. Prior to the Industrial Revolution there were cottage industries which have been replaced by machinery. Thus industrial capitalism on one hand and social process of democratization on the other have been moving on parallel lines. The introduction of “Combines” has led to the employment of official architects who carry out almost all their building projects with the result that private firms get fewer jobs.
Nationalization has also influenced the position of an architect. Even in a country like U.S.A., which is a stronghold of individual enterprise and capitalism, there are trends of concentration of such activities in the hands of the government. Importance of the needs of the community has got to be accepted by the profession of architects. Architecture by “Committee” has become a rule of the day. Formerly an architect did not experience much difficulty in satisfying an individual client but now the architect has to deal with a composite number representing the collective bodies and the architect experiences a great difficulty in satisfying them on account of the dominance of the combines on such representations. This peculiar position has resulted in the deterioration of architecture. The private client and personal touch are lessening. If the profession of architects is to continue its rightful place in the life of a nation, it must completely change its views and ideas. It must try to adjust itself with the needs and opinions of the common man, but under no circumstances should the profession sacrifice the artistic sense. This is the biggest challenge to the profession.
In the past architecture served the principalities and powers; now the stress is on community planning and buildings which in other words is a part of “Town and Regional Planning”; architecture is thus based on ethical, sociological, practical and aesthetic considerations. The architect must make an effort to cover both the needs of the citizens as individuals and as a mass. An architect is thus a social worker and a paid specialist of the community who advises in designs for different types of buildings in order to meet the needs of the community. The architect had a common aim and common philosophy which manifested itself in the sympathy of their buildings and on the merits of each architect. It is the duty of the architects to have sympathy and respect for one another, to unite to work together, to determine a common policy whether they belong to the local government or national government or private firms.
The place of the architect in the community from the material point of view is that of divinity which shapes our ends. Thus the architect is the real creator of a project in which engineers and specialists and traffic experts assist in execution of the projects under the control and guidance of the architect. They do not shape, whereas an architect by his trained sensibility gives an aesthetic representation; so all are intimately connected with the social fabric and stand on equal footing. 1t is, therefore, necessary that they should pool their capacities to the best of their abilities and the modern architect has to make an experiment to find out how far the structural possibilities of modem material are capable of performing externally the humane, sensuous and aesthetic function. The expression of human values in architecture will depend on the architect continuing to be an artist as well as an engineer cooperating with other artists, painters, sculptors, designers of tapestry and craftsmen. Thus creation of these conditions of delight could be quite separate from structural forms which would have aesthetic and human value. Architecture is both science and art; therefore the relation of the scientific side of architecture to the artistic side is that the two are inseparable.
It is interesting to compare architecture with other fine arts, viz. painting, sculpture, and literature. The works of art in the last three arts always remind us of their creator whereas in the art of architecture the architect is left in the background and what we arc particular about is the spirit of the age reflected in the piece of architecture.
It is difficult to foretell what will happen to our profession in future. One thing is sure that our profession will have to change with the times. There is a threat of atomic bomb with its terrible powers of devastation that humanity has to face. If this deadly weapon is employed on the large scale, it will destroy architecture with other cultural factors in the present civilization or the entire technique will undergo a great change. We only hope that such a calamity does not befall humanity. In spite of this impending danger architects should continue to work in the service of humanity.