Glimpse into the Past

The subject is comprehensive and divides itself into three parts: (i) Ancient Architectural, Education, (ii) Medieval Architectural Education and (iii) Modern Architectural Education.

The demand for efficient architectural education and for the development of the individual geniuses of our young architects is great due to the planned constructional activities of our country. Hence, when we think of speaking on such a subject which is so vital from the national point of view, we are naturally inquisitive to know the earliest form of this education and the method as how it was imparted to the students. Another object of studying the past history of this subject is to see whether some of the important features which contributed for the best results can be incorporated in the modem method of teaching. In this connection it is necessary to note at what level India was as compared with Greece, the ancient architecture of which is taught to begin with in every School of Architecture.

Recent research has revealed that India did not lag behind. Advancement in philosophy is the basic factor that indicates the progress of a nation and a country which is forward in philosophical thought is bound to be forward in other arts. It has been generally recognised that philosophical speculations in Greece cannot be treated earlier than the 6th century B.C. and when we look at India of the 6th century B.C., we see comparatively a different picture. In India this period witnessed not the beginning but the development in philosophical thought. It was not a case of the dawn of philosophy as in Greece but what may be described as the full glow of philosophical days. One can, therefore draw a conclusion that the art of architecture suitable to the people living in that age also flourished in India side by side. Such a conclusion can be substantiated by reviewing the Indus civilization which was in a fairly matured state as early as 3000 B.C. The buildings constructed in that region during this period were of astonishing stability. The principal buildings were oriented with their sides towards the cardinal points. The walls of private and public buildings were constructed with a pronounced batter. They were built of burnt bricks and were in two or more storeys in height. The bond adopted for construction of walls was the same as the modem one known as “English Bond”. There were market halls, offices, palaces, religious buildings and also bathing establishments and each city was divided into different wards for protective purposes. All these show that the builders of these cities were not only proficient in the art of building houses but they were well skilled also in the art of town-planning as proved by the methodical manner in which the cities were laid out with straight streets at right angles, the main thoroughfares running almost due north and south and east and west. This method of town-planning closely resembles the modern American method of town-planning characterised as chequered board town-planning. It is, therefore, quite evident that there existed teaching institutions which produced such builders and town-planners. Unfortunately no records in the form of inscriptions in stone or manuscripts of any other kind indicating the means through which architectural education was imparted to the master builders of that age are available. In this connec­tion I would like to make a suggestion that one or two candidates appearing for the final examination of the R.I.B.A. should take up this subject for their thesis and with the help of other literary persons who have made some research work in this direction should try to throw some light on such a subject which is so vital to architects.

Means of Imparting Education in Ancient Times

The Upanishads constitute the basic springs of Indian thought and culture. They pour forth their findings in the form of stories and parables, info discussion and intimate dialogues.

The meaning of the term is “to sit close by devotedly”. The doctrines embodied in the Upanishads were learnt by pupils in small conclaves sitting near their respective teachers and they were imparted only to those who were competent to receive and benefit by them. Merit was considered a criterion in selection of a pupil irrespective of sex or age. Such competent pupils could be only a few at any given time. This method of teaching though very ancient is most appropriate in modern times for coaching up students doing particularly research work; because there are only two basic requirements, namely a competent pupil and a competent teacher. Real research work can only be expected to be accomplished when the teacher and the pupil get engrossed in their work. The efficacy of this system can well be realised by those who have seen the Marathi picture “Ram Shastri” produced by “Prabhat”. Having seen in Ram (later on Ram Shastri) ardent zeal to learn, the teacher gave up paying attention to the band of other so-called students and concentrated all his energy and time on this worthy pupil at Banaras who ultimately mastered all philosophical books and scriptures and served as Chief Justice in the Court of Peshwas at Poona. Therefore, with a view to developing the individual geniuses, the Upanishad method of teaching namely that the pupil most devotedly should come in close contact with the teacher and learn from him would be found most effective. A living example that can be quoted in these days to illustrate the Upanishad method of teaching is the way in which the students of architecture are trained by the famous architect Mr. Frank Lloyd Wright.

The above method of teaching and learning will be very useful in the case of every day teaching also. For this purpose the students themselves should undertake to study thoroughly a portion of the subject already taught lo them through common lectures given in the class and after it is studied, they should individually sec the teacher at the end of every fortnight or so and get the difficulties solved from the teacher. Thereby the student will throughout the year keep himself busy with his studies and achieve the goal ultimately. The student should keep with himself a record of his personal discussions with the teacher. Under this system the student cannot deceive himself and bluff the teacher all the while. He has to study compulsorily and steadily through­ out the year with the result that he will not be strained due to pressure of study at the time of the college or university examination. As an outcome of such a system, the number of successful candidates also will be bigger.

Medieval Architectural Education

It is only after the great Indo-Aryan migration from the north-west and which in the course of time laid the foundation for the Vedic age, that some authentic information was available with regard to the author of architectural works and the method of teaching in general. Cities largely of wooden construction began to appear in various parts of the country and according to Dhammapala, the great Buddhist Commentator, they were planned by an architect of the name of Maha-Govind who is stated to have been responsible fo the layout of several of the capitals in northern India in the 5th century B. C. This is the first mention of an architect in the annals of the country.

Models to scale were also prepared. In the Upanishads it is related that an architect of the name of Suradeva exhibited to his patron a model of a temple which he had built at Pataliputra. The architects of that age followed the “shilpas” or the rules of the craft, a miscellany of religious formulas and astronomical propositons. All these were committed to memory by them and were sufficient to enable the builders of this age to construct buildings without any constructional difficulty. It is, therefore, clear that architectural education on systematic lines was received by the architects of India during the medieval times. The subjects such as the principles of design, plain and solid geometry levelling, building materials, practical and theoretical construction, painting, modelling and sculpture were definitely taught to them as can be evidenced from the numerous marvellous buildings constructed by them. The education available then was mainly directed as aesthetic considerations and it went on developing from this point of view only as the method of construction was very simple. No arch construction was intro­duced by them in their buildings with the result that they had no opportunity to study the nature of thrust and the means to counteract it. The theoretical knowledge of the medieval architects was, therefore, very limited. Yet in spite of this drawback, the principles of design which they were taught were perfect. The mode in which the art was practised was clear and intelligible. For certain qualities the Indian buildings are unrivalled. It can, therefore be well deduced that architectural education was scientifically imparted during the medieval times.

Architectural Education duri 17th and 18th Centuries

Architectural education in India must have surely attained a higher standard after the medieval period as compared with that of Europe. Perhaps it might have attained the highest standard in the world. In the European system, it was considered more essential that a building especially in its details should be a correct copy of something else than good in itself. Such was not the case with the Indian architects. The Indian builders thought of only what they were doing and how they can best produce the effect they desired. The wonderful edifice of Taj Mahal and Gol Gumbaz which are unique and unrivalled and other buildings of such class arc enough to prove that architectural education in India available during the 17th and 18th centuries was of the highest order as compared with the contemporary architectural education of the other parts of the world; because without possessing scientific education, it is never possible to conceive of such extraordinary planning and to execute it.  

In the case of Taj Mahal, the architect, in addition to observing the principles of design, had to study the bearing capacity of the soil in close proximity of the Jumna, construction of retaining walls, effect of wind pressure on minarets and many other constructional problems. The fa that the surrounding open spaces have been well laid out with marble paths, flower beds, lawns, trees and fountains shows that the subject of landscape also was well known to the 17th century architects.

It is significant to note that modern Rajput architecture came into being with building of the city of Jaipur in 1728. The plan of the city of Jaipur showed the develop­ment of modern town planning during the beginning of the 18th century in India when the subject of town planning was regarded as a recent invention of European science. Gol Gumbaz is a wonder of constructive skill. Its stupendous dome is the biggest in cubic contents in the world and the entire construction of the monument demands sound knowledge of theoretical construction. This and many other monuments constructed by Muslim emperors bear testimony to the fact that architectural education in India during the 17th and 18th centuries was of a very high standard.

Modern Architectural Education

After the conquest of India by the British, the Indian master builders who heredi­tarily followed the building craft had seldom opportunities to keep themselves busy in constructing the buildings in Indian traditional style. Government and private buildings in big cities of British India and Princely states were built in European architectural style. The designs were prepared by European architects and the works were carried out with the help of the blue-prints supplied by them. This state of affairs. however, could not be continued for long as the architects in government employment in India felt a keen necessity of having tracers and draughtsmen with them, who would be just able to trace and do reproduction work for them. The creation of one or two classes where such persons could be trained was inevitable.

The Government of Bombay took the lead and started a two years’ “Draughts­ man’s Course” in the Sir J.J. School of Art, Bombay in 1896. The boys used to learn in the classes which were held only in the mornings from 7-40 to 9-40 and earn their livelihood by working in governmentt architect’s office or elsewhere during the day. Thus with the introduction of this two years’ course, the Modern Architecture Education or rather the Historic Architectural Education in India was born and was in its tenderest infancy till 1908 when it was extended to four years’ course. Although important subjects pertaining to architectural education were included in the syllabus of the four years’ course, yet the subjects taught particularly the technical subjects were of a rudimentary nature. The theoretical construction subject designated as “Stresses and Strains” was being taught for the first time during the second term of the fourth year. The students used to get hardly five or six lectures on the subject of theoretical construc­tion throughout the four years’ course and the time that was allotted for these lectures was utilised for drawing a typical stress diagram for a king post truss only without being taught previously even the most elementary portion of applied mechanics, theorems of triangle of forces and polygon of forces, the knowledge of which is absolutely essential for drawing a stress diagram. The way in which this subject was taught simply exhibited its mockery; but those days of our being bluff ended in 1922 when the four years’ course was converted into full five years’ course.

A new era of architectural education was heralded with the opening of the five years’ course. Having realised that theoretical construction is the backbone of architec­tural education, the then professor of architectural section introduced this subject in the syllabus of all the five years. Many more radical changes were made by including new subjects and extra-curricular activities in the curriculum. The architectural educa­tion thus became full-fledged and a diploma was awarded after passing the fith year final examination. It was recognised by the Bombay Municipality for the purpose of issuing Surveyor’s Licence to practise in the city of Bombay and even the Council of the Royal Institute of British Architects recognised this five years’ course for exemption from the Inter R.I.B.A. Examination.

Ambitious students who could not afford to go to England for passing the final examination of the R.I.B.A. and who were craving to gain still higher education were striving hard to devise ways and means for getting further facilities in India and as a  result of their efforts the Government of Bombay started in 1929 Atelier Classes (evening classes) for the purpose of coaching students for the Final and Special Final Examination of the R.I.B.A.  and the Final Examination of the R.I.B.A.  was held for the first time in 1930 under the auspices of the Indian Institute of Architects and since then these exami­nations are being regularly held in Bombay under the supervision of the R.I.B.A. Examination Board in India. The modern architectural education in India already attained its status and high standard during the time of the final phase of freedom fight  and after the achievement of Independence, got full scope to expand throughout the length and breadth of this country. Professor Claude Batley who was the body and soul of this education played an important role in the expansion of this education and saw Delhi, Agra, Lucknow, Baroda, Hyderabad, Nagpur, Howrah and Kharagpur giving birth to new in situations of architectural education. These institutions arc now in a matured state, some of them being affiliated to their respective Universities.

Necessity of Thorough Technical Knowledge

The curriculum prescribed by the various Universities has been adequately framed so as to give complete knowledge of both architectural and technical subjects to the students. Buildings of multifarious nature such as fiats, factories, schools, colleges, libraries, offices, municipal buildings, museums, art galleries. hospitals, theatres, hotels, public halls, stadia, aerodromes etc. which an architect is called upon to design involve a lot of technology. He must avail himself of the most modern method of construction and materials such as pre-stressed concrete, mushroom concrete, shell concrete, aluminium. etc. We are passing through a mechanical age and days of bullock cart speed are gone. We must move fast and future scientific discoveries pertaining to building trade will compel us to move faster. Therefore we cannot segregate aesthetic considerations from technology. Our creations should not be a prey to adverse criticism and if we claim to be experts in the building profession, they should be such as would exhibit a happy combination of aesthetics and technology.

In these days of competition, an architect must be an all-rounder in his own professional field, otherwise he cannot survive. “Survival of the fittest”. In the days to come when the supply of architects will exceed the demand, they are likely to fall short of their reasonable average income. Under such circumstances, there wilt be no alter­native for them other than doing specialist’s work also. It is a common practice in Bombay that a practising architect asks an R.C.C. specialist to prepare R.C.C. calculations and drawings in respect of his work and that the specialist is generally paid 2 to 3% on the cost of R.C.C. work. In the case of those architects whose professional fees will not be commensurate with the labour and time they spend, they can augment their income by preparing their R.C.C. drawings and calculations themselves. Hence for this and many other reasons it is necessary to become an all-rounder.

Post-Graduate Course

The Department of Architecture, Sir J. J. School of Art, Bombay, has been affiliated to the Bombay University and the first batch of graduates came in 1957. Many others have obtained their degree from other universities but no university as yet provided for a Post-Graduate Course in architecture for further development of individual geniuses. In absence of such facilities, candidates wishing to specialise in certain technical subjects will be completely handicapped. Hence it is necessary to start post-graduate course to create proper atmosphere for research work to enable gifted students to enter into the field of advanced knowledge.

Suggestions for Improvement in Modern Education

There should be uniformity in education so that quality of knowledge of the students should not vary from State to State.

Educational tours should be arranged and works of both architectural and engineer­ing projects in progress shown to the students. They should not be mere sight-seeing tours.

Discipline which is expected to be observed by students is found deteriorating. Some college students have gone to the extent of molesting Principals and State Governors. Such tendencies should be curbed by instilling in them the moral obliga­tions of a student. Cordial relations between students and teacher should always prevail and to this end some casual talk be given to students in an appealing manner during the course of various lectures.

Teaching staff should possess the necessary practical experience so that they can impart real spirit of the knowledge to the students. It is the practical experience that really counts. Therefore, practising architects should preferably be employed as part­ time visiting lecturers in all the colleges of architecture in the country. Since the lecturers have to shoulder the great responsibility of imparting education which is conducive to creation of efficient architects, they must be all-rounders. In ancient times, while selecting a “guru” (a teacher) it was seen whether the person under considera­tion to become a “guru” possessed all the learnings or not. To suit our requirements in modern times, a lecturer should have sound knowledge of both architectural and technical subjects; but there is something else which is still greater. That is the burning desire to teach. A lecturer cannot be perfect unless his academic qualification is accompanied by this desire. It is this desire that takes a man to the high pedestal of self­ sacrifice. Having been strained beyond the elastic limit due to pressure of work in the office, the partners of the firm of Professor Batley requested him to give up teaching in the school and to concentrate on his professional office work. Prof. Batley promptly replied, “I would give up practice rather than giving up teaching in the school”. What a glorious example to be followed!