The scope of this paper is not to outline a detailed syllabus and length of various courses in architectural curricula or to suggest the orientation of architectural design subject towards modern or traditional style; it is to outline the various basic approaches, and needed changes at school level, cooperation from the profession to help build a sound educational system and a clear cut Government policy at national level for fundamental recognition of architects and their profession.
The architectural education has recently drawn the attention in various quarters of India and hence it will be in fitness of the time and tempo to correleate various issues in this paper for our nation’s perpetual record to reflect our times and traditions which could be passed over to the coming generations as heritage they could be really proud of.
It is imperative to explain something about architecture, the architect and his schooling before any statements concerning these are made. What is architecture? It is a ‘big question’ to which there exists no short answer. It has been defined in a number of ways during different eras. For our times the meaning of architecture could well be as follows:—
Architecture could be defined as the art and science of planning, designing and erecting edifices with due regard to functions, aesthetics and stability. And an architect also undertakes on himself the solemn obligation to depict the time, location and spirit of that era in which the building is erected.
Therefore, aims and objectives of teaching at a school of architecture should include the stress about synthesis of arts and science so that the students could reach the final goal of designing edifices aesthetically pleasing, structurally strong, functionally true, climatically comfortable, socially acceptable and economically suiting to the purse of the people. Integrated with the above “time, location, spirit and functions” should al be expressed on facades of buildings.
Some of the important forms are formal schooling, informal education, education for the outstanding only, and last but not the least is the one discipline following—e.g. Frank Lloyd Wright’s fellowship or Mies Van Der Robe’s teaching at I.I.T., Chicago. The best form of schooling for an architect to be is formal education in which he could have a definite scope of improving his abilities and increasing his imagination for architectural conceptions. Again, the schools which make experiments on the beginner to find out his higher abilities are much in the wrong than the schools following a progressive curriculum. In progressive system, during my student career as well as teaching career I have found numerous examples in which very poor students in architectural design have shaped up by 4th or 5th year of their studies and exhibited their abilities as excellent designers. However, formal education poses a problem. A ingenious designer who is weak in theories and more particularly so in structural engineering should be also given scope to get a degree. Ways and means to help such students are still unknown in our country. The possibilities exist if extra courses in architectural design or town planning design are prescribed as substitute courses for structural engineering. Again, the civil engineering courses now being offered are rather old fashioned and need complete reorientation to interest a student.
It should be inherent in the curricula and training that the final objective, for which a student is being trained, is for becoming a designer or architectural engineer or civic designer or contractor or an ‘all-rounder’. Unless this is decided in the beginning good product from a school will never come out.
Process of Schooling
There are five principal divisions of training:
- All the learning at the school only.
- Schooling with six months integrated training (e.g. at l.I.T.).
- Home preparation and appearing for examination (e. g. as in National Diploma; G.D. Arch.; and R.l.B.A.).
- Evening courses and day time office work (e. g. in U.K. and Delhi Polytechnic).
- A Sandwich Course:
This is the best form of education for an architect. In such a system after completing about 1½ to 2 years’ basic education at an architectural school, he is sent out six months for training and taught six months at the school. This continues till he graduates. The school teaching should be on accumulative system rather than grand intermediate and finals. If sandwich courses are incorporated, the architectural students will have the opportunities of having training as building craftsman (i.e. carpentry, masonry, etc.), supervision of projects under construction and training in architects’ offices. A training of this sort takes a minimum of six years (as at the University of Cincinnati, U.S.A.) and should not be allowed to go beyond seven years, as there will be no summer vacations for sandwich course students.
Role of Group Projects and Seminars within the Schooling
It is an accepted fact that teaching has to be rigorous and highly disciplined upto intermediate level. After this, it is expected of the students to be on their own. In order to promote team spirit, so essential in offices and self-confidence for under taking a project and for carrying it to final execution, the introduction of group project system is extremely useful For the fulfilment of such an objective typical outline of a group project as conducted at I.I.T. and the thesis outline are attached in Appendix I. It will be seen from the mechanism developed for “Group Projects” that four students are preparing a scheme in a collaborative way. The load of investigations is divided in four different categories and thus each student presents his paper at one of the sectional seminars. In the seminar classes he is given an opportunity to develop his ability for public speaking, as well as answer the questions posed by the teachers and his class friends. The sketch designs are prepared by all the four participants. For final selection, a professional expert is invited to act as one of the jurors. One of the schemes is selected and all the four participants work simultaneously on presentation drawings. This method puts them in close cooperation with each other and orients them very closely to what happens in an architect’s office in production line.
From this extract of the thesis instructions, it will be observed that a student visits the site, discusses the matter with client department and comes in close contact with outstanding professional men specialized in the subject. He passes through the seminar stages, his sketch design and preparatory investigations are thoroughly scrutinized by the thesis committee, and in some cases the prints are sent to client department and outside advisers for comments. Finally the finished product is examined by external examiner on viva voce lines. Thus he is thoroughly grounded to shoulder professional responsibilities after his graduation.
There are definite possibilities of make-believe clients for teaching in professional practice classes, and the building construction could be taken at a higher plane of experimentation.
In the present recruitment system a teacher is drawn from the profession and his qualifications, experience and qualities are judged at the point of entry only. Once he has joined nobody cares to see that he keeps uptodate; or let us say, no facilities are provided to keep him uptodate. This state of affairs results in statement of his knowledge. And thus deterioration enters the school. Therefore, it is essential to establish exchange of teachers for higher learning, in the country and abroad. A co-operative exchange with P.W.D. and private architects will be extremely useful. The method could be a simple one. The P.W.D. architect coming to teach half-time is relieved of his half-time office duty and paid about Rs. 100/- extra per month and enjoys the benefit of summer vacation. The term is renewable every academic year. The full time teacher is allowed to work half-time in the P.W.D. and is relieved from half-time teaching duty and gets Rs. 100/- extra allowance and enjoys the summer vacation. The term is in rotation from teacher to teacher. Another method is by way of establishing Departmental Joint Practice Committee. In such a set-up all the members of the teaching staff participate in tackling a professional assignment. The students could also be allowed to participate according to their merits and abilities.
The third way is of the order of catching two birds at a time. The teachers should take lead in establishing “architects’ cooperative” in which fresh “graduates will participate under the leadership of senior teachers. This system will put the teachers in professional contact and create jobs for fresh graduates.
Role of Liberal Education
The liberal system of education at high school and college level should be encouraged to incorporate technical subjects and its credit counted for admission at advanced level. Thus a boy saves one or two years at a technical institute. Taking specific example of architectural training the present courses in arts and crafts at multipurpose high school should be reoriented to be acceptable for entry in architecture at second year level.
If a boy continues his studies in the liberal colleges with architecture as optional subject he will, in all probability, be able to cover up as much as two years’ study, normally being covered at architectural schools. This system will have a few additional advantages (i) reducing congestion at the principal centres of architectural education, (ii) attracting young or retired architects to go to district towns and teach part-time as well as establish practice and (iii) the highly-paid staff’s time is more profitably utilized at the principal centres. The above proposal envisages admission to the students with advanced standing. This must be guaranteed by the principal regional institutions.
Transfer from One School to Another
It should be not only accepted but encouraged that a student can get transfer from one school of architecture to another school of architecture for good or for one year as he wishes. This exchange will establish greater and closer contacts between the students and the teachers. It will also quench the thirst of a student to take educational training under the teacher he likes though at a different school, where he might not be able to spend five years for financial or other reasons.
This practice is in vogue in the U.S.A. for advanced level students to teach the juniors and thus earn their subsistence for higher studies. In India, it should be accepted that a student having passed 3rd year with good grades be appointed as a part-time teaching assistant to teach a group of 10 to 15 students at first or second year level under the overall guidance of a senior teacher. The half-time assistant has to put longer time to complete his remaining education which will be minimum three years. If this is accepted then the dearth of teachers will be solved once for all.
Role of Practising Architects and P.W.D. Architects
With regret it is being mentioned that, unlike European and American practice, on the whole Indian architects have not played their legitimate part in the development of architectural institutions, because they have been getting trained personnel anyway. The majority of them have always complained about the quality and inexperience of fresh graduates but have never come to the forefront for improving the training institutions either by way of advice or finance or honorary participation in teaching or taking students for practical training or freshers on apprenticeship basis for equipping them to be more useful to the profession.
A glance at the list of visiting lecturers at any English or American school of architecture will reveal the extent of professional participation. Again, we all do realise that an architecture student can easily get a job in U.K. or U.S.A. and complete his studies without financial burden to his parents, while this is not possible in India. This shortcoming needs serious consideration from practising and P.W.D. architects, that the students’ time, teachers’ efforts and Government’s money is being invested for their future benefits. Therefore, it is in the fitness of time that they rise to the occasion to help the architectural schools in most appropriate and noble ways. Their role is most vital in providing significant guidance in shaping the architects of tomorrow.
ACADEMIC AND PROFESSIONAL STANDARDS
Role of Universities and All India Board of Technical Studies in Architecture
The syllabi and curricula should be controlled by the respective Universities. The coordination and new proposals should be framed by the A.l.B.T.S. in Architecture. At both of these places the teachers of architectural schools should be represented on the Board, since without their representation the objectives in their true perspective will never be achieved.
Professional Standards and Protections
The professional standards and protections should be taken care of by the Indian Institute of Architects. It is being talked in architectural circles that I.I.A. is not playing its legitimate role. Maybe the talks are true, but it is upto us to bring about changes and make the I.I.A. function better. Thus the rejuvenated LI.A. could play its signify role for advancement of our profession.
It is also necessary to rethink a little on this business of control on advertisement and publicity. This is an outdated control for 20th century existence. If all professions could put up their advertisements, there is no reason why we architects should not put up collective or individual advertisement. I am putting forth this idea due to the fact that I.I.A. will have no control over unattached architects. If unattached architects solicit work by publicity then there is no reason why we attached architects should not do this. In view of this fact a revision is called for in the I.I.A. code of practice.
Role of NASA in Promoting Architectural Education
The students of architecture having formed NASA (National Association of the Students of Architecture) have not only surpassed other technical students but have proved to be an eye opener for others (i.e. architects and teachers in architecture) to follow suit.
NASA hold their convention once a year in rotation at different schools in India. Their hold design, debate, art and photography competitions open to all the schools and for all the years. This has promoted contacts between students of different schools and have awakened the professional man from his long slumber.
Association of Teachers of Architecture
It is necessary to for an Association of Teachers of Architecture which should also be open to such professional men who might be interested in promoting the cause of architectural education. The author has been contacting teachers of various schools to find out the possibilities of forming such an association, and hopes that it will be formed before long.
Role of Government Policy
The following few points are most vital for architects’ existence and promotion of this craft, of which Govern should take due care at national policy level.
Only architects should be eligible to practise architecture. This could be done through legislation and compulsory registration. Any other person desiring to practise architecture should pass the National Diploma as external candidate or be admitted to I.I.A. as associate. A civil engineer should not ordinarily be permitted to practise architecture as he has a much greater field to practise engineering. However, if he desires to practise, three courses could be kept open to him: (i) admission at 4th year level in architecture; (ii) passing National Diploma as external candidate; and (iii) associationship of I.I.A.
Govern architect and/or planner should be independent of P.W.D. Chief Engineer. To substantiate this view, it is necessary to point out that in P.W.D. they have C.E., Buildings and Roads; C.E., Irrigation; C.E., Water Supply and Sanitation; C.E., Electrical; C.E., Mechanical, etc. Then why not have the Chief Architect or Chief Town Planner independent? The author would like to go a step further and suggest that P.W.D. should form a supreme council of their technical heads of the departments and the chairmanship should be in rotation for better coordination of various departments works. Thus architects and engineers will be able to help build India of tomorrow in a much sounder way than is being done at present.
No one person should be allowed to hold two positions at a time, irrespective of the superior qualifications he may be holding. Suppose, one person is holding a position as Architect-Engineer or Architect-Planner. He is not only depriving the other person equally qualified from getting that higher job, but creates and spread dissatisfaction in many others who could have otherwise got promotions, and thus incentive for better work. Again, it is not possible for that one person to do justice to his two portfolios. In view of this fact professional bodies like I.I.A., I.T.P., and Institution of Engineers should join hand and call explanations from their members and if necessary take disciplinary actions.
For obvious reasons competitions should be promoted for important architectural projects. The categories could be as follows:
(a) Open National competitions.
(b) Open International competitions.
(c) Closed National competitions.
(d) Closed International competitions.
(e) Closed National competitions for young architects only.
It will be out of place to describe rules and regulations for these competitions. But one thing certainly needs not only mention but emphasis, that once a competition is promoted, all the prizes must be distributed and the final prize winning design must be executed without delay. In case Government wants to postpone the project or wants it to be redesigned by P.W.D. architects, double the amount of fees that were agreed in the competition rules must be paid.
It is being acknowledged that Government should give some works to private architects. It is a good decision indeed. But the way that they are giving work is not proper. The best way will be on open tender basis and those bidders who could fulfil the conditions must be given work.
The building division of municipalities should be under the overall control of an appointed Municipal Architect.
Another important point to be decided at National Policy level is an architect’s participation as a member of the designing team for structure other than buildings. If such a practice is started then bridges, dams, fa etc., will have greater aesthetic value.
Governments have been struggling hard to cut down the cost of the buildings. The architects have helped them by designing buildings without decorative surfaces, or cutting the plinth area or by any other research that they were able to do. But there stands Civil Engineer and P.W.D. code of practice at least 25 years old which does not allow the savings in cost. Many of us will agree that if the P.W.D. code of practice for construction is revised and brought uptodate then there is a possibility of saving money between 20 to 30%.
The discussion presented in the foregoing pages could be summarized as follows:
- Practical minded creative graduates should come out of the school.
- The best method of architectural education must incorporate integrated practical training at the site of construction and in the architect’s office
- Seminars and make-believe clients at school level for understanding the depth and extent of a problem.
- Cooperation from professional and P.W.D. architects in school system.
- Ways and means of keeping full-time teachers uptodate.
- Introduction of part-time teaching assistantship.
- Liberal education should have technical and architectural options for saving time at the institute level without lowering the standards.
- Possibilities of transfer from one school to another for an architectural student.
- Academic and professional standard and role of A.I.B. of T.S. in Architecture and I.I.A.
- Registration of architects, provided they have passed a degree or diploma or have been admitted to I.I.A.
- Architects and Planners should be independent of Chief Engineers.
- Architect must be appointed in building division of Municipality.
- Architect as a member of the team of designing dams, bridges, factories, etc.
- Promotion of National competitions.
- Publication of literature, magazines and books.
- Architects should also be nominated by the President of India as members of the Upper House.