Education is the life stream of a country’s progress. The vigour and vitality of its flow determine the advance in the arts, the sciences and all other spheres of life. A sluggish and hesitant flow will retard not only progress but will hinder the full utilisation of the resources, physical as well as intellectual. This stream, to be of maximum use, should be full at the source and its branches and capillaries must reach the farthest nooks and corners of the country. The educational policies must be sound, broad-based and all-embracing in character and should be propagated widely and enforced intelligently to give the maximum benefit to the nation’s millions. Proper education in every sphere of life, be it mathematics, physics, chemistry, oil technology, etc., is the foundation on which future progress rests.
The various scientific and artistic activities must, in order to prosper, be housed in buildings, designed to create suitable environment conducive to planned progress. Each activity has its own requirements, problems and functions and needs specific atmosphere which would enable the artist and the artisan to receive necessary impetus and inspiration for creative work. The strenuous responsibility of designing such buildings devolves upon the architect.
Architectural education thus assumes primary importance in the educational system of our country, and needs to be properly thought out and carefully orientated to produce efficient architects who would help the completion of the multifarious construction projects envisaged by the various plans.
Broad Outlines of Architectural Education
It is difficult to define properly education in the sphere of architecture. Broadly speaking, it should give thorough knowledge of the various aspects of the profession. It should be so adjusted as to impart a sense of responsibility in the student to foster a creative spirit so as to enable him to design with initiative on sound functional basis. It should be orientated in such a manner that the student would, in course of time, develop a personal philosophy which would be translated in the expression of his buildings. A good grounding in aesthetics with sound knowledge of technology and methods of construction are vital to architects. The student should not only study existing modes of construction and use of materials known at present but should be capable of using his knowledge in such a manner as to make his own innovations and bring into use new materials put on the market.
The All India Board for Technical Studies in Architecture and Regional Planning was formed in 1946. A number of architects and town planners are appointed on this Board from time to time. In the absence of any definite lead from the Indian Institute of Architects in the matter of education, these persons act in individual capacities. The Board has, during the last thirteen years of its existence. formulated an extremely elaborate syllabus and processing of examinations. However, very little has been done towards implementation of the syllabus. As stated by Prof. Thomas L. House, an A.I.A., “A sound educational programme is not just a syllabus for prescribed courses, but the co-ordination of course content so that students may become aware that they are not studying design, structure, material, etc., independently but architecture”. The Board must pay serious consideration to the availability of proper books and trained teachers to reduce, if not completely wipe out, the disparity between the syllabus and the curricula of the regional schools.
There seems to be some difference of opinion as to whether this education should be in the hands of the educationists or the professional institute. Obviously the professional institute would be in a better position to judge if students arc being trained on proper lines and decide if such education is leading to general progress in the profession. On the other hand, the professional institute could gain considerably by the knowledge and experience of educationists in the formation of educational policies.
It may be mentioned here that the R.I.B.A. guides the education of architects in the United Kingdom through its board of education and the American Institute of Architects and the collegiate schools of architecture have co-ordinated their services through the Director of Education and Research in the United States of America. It is essential for the Indian Institute of Architects to play its part in this sphere, so vital to the profession.
Lately the study of architecture is being taken up by various Universities. It is sad to note that in some instances the task of setting the curriculum was entrusted to a single individual who hardly possessed the knowledge and experience in architecture and education to take up the onerous duty of moulding the future of an entire generation of students.
Entry to Schools
The standards set for entrance to architectural schools have progressively improved since the inception of architectural course at the Sir J.J. School of Arts, Bombay, and aptitude tests have been introduced in most schools at present. Strict tests in mathematics and inclusion of higher mathematics in the syllabus however tend to keep out many students extremely good in drawing work and composition who really have an aptitude for architectural design. Perhaps some bifurcation of architectural design and architectural science in the syllabus is indicated by this.
As pointed out at the Conference of Architectural Education held at Oxford in April I 958, “The difficulties of staffing are of two kinds. There is the danger that the promising student may find himself promoted to teacher without any really adequate period of practical experience or even any understanding of teaching. On the other hand schools have also relied on young people who are starting practice and who may treat a teaching salary as a basic income. These people may bring enthusiasm; but when their practice is established, they go. What is necessary is an arrangement which brings into teaching architects with creative ability and extensive practical or research experience so that they may add to the fund of knowledge that is available in a school. It requires realism on the part of able practitioners and specialists to take their place from time to time as teachers. It is simply no good for the profession to complain about the standard of education when those who have become skilled practitioners feel unable to collaborate”.
This applies lo Indian conditions as much as it does to those in the United Kingdom. Matters are further complicated by the fact that a majority of trained practising architects have congregated in major cities like Bombay, Delhi and Calcutta. The schools in other cities have practically no chance of obtaining services of practising architects and have to rely entirely on full-time teachers. Very few architects would choose such a career willingly as it makes them extremely academic in their outlook. The scales of pay offered are also not enough to attract proper talent to this field. In some places the conditions arc so serious that two or three full-lime teachers try to teach all the subjects. The futility of such training is quite obvious.
The All India Board has painstakingly laid down the number of hours to be devoted to training in various subjects. This would serve as a guide. The method of teaching is very important.
The importance of good draughting and preparation of well-thought-out presentation drawings should be brought home to the student. He should be made to realise that draughtsmanship is the medium through which his thoughts have to be expressed. If this medium is not developed to the required fluency not only the expression of his thoughts will be limited but the development of coherent thought itself will be hampered.
In case of design, the student is left almost entirely to his own initiative. He does not receive sufficient guidance in the development of form and expression or space utilisation. This is partly due to the fact that many of the teachers who are themselves good designers do not possess sufficient power of expression to criticize constructively and analytically the design produced by the student. The students are thus tempted to copy forms and shapes from magazines without understanding, which brings on their minds certain influences foreign to their own environment and culture, resulting in production of hybrid structures. It is, of course, not possible at the training stage for a student to form any definite mode of expression or to develop a personal philosophy. However, the seeds sown during this stage, would, with practical experience later in life, create necessary maturity of thought. The training must be directed towards encouraging the thought processes of individual student. Exertion of undue influence of any rigid ideas will stultify the rational development of the mental alertness of the trainee.
Proper study of history of architecture is absolutely essential if continuity of style and tradition are to be maintained. It is not intended thereby to say that architects must design in traditional style. On the contrary, as Frank Lloyd Wright has stated, “If an architect has sufficient respect for the tradition of a country, his designs will not only be in keeping with the tradition, but will enhance it, even though he may be designing in modern materials for modern requirements”. Teaching of history should be directed to create this deep respect for tradition so that continuous development of related style is assured.
“Architects have imitated other periods, taken over their special shapes and techniques, in the hope of escaping from transitory work and achieving a timeless rightness. And after a short time their buildings have become lifeless masses of stone, in spite of the incorporation into them of details from works of eternal beauty. One of the functions of history is to help us to live in a larger sense, in wider dimension. This does not mean that we should copy the forms and attitudes of bygone periods, but that we should conduct our lives against a much wider historical background”.
The history of architecture in India needs to be re-written in this context. We must look back and try to understand how we came to be what we are, so that the directon of future progress may become discernible and deliberate steps can be taken towards a definite objective.
A lot of emphasis has been laid since Independence on revival and continuance of our cultural traditions. Culture has been defined as trained and refined state of understanding manners and taste—phase of this prevalent at a time or place. India has a proud cultural heritage and yet a comprehensive history of Indian culture and its influence on Indian architecture has yet to be compiled. The continuity of cultural traditions was rudely interrupted by our country’ s subservience to alien rule during the last 150 years. The achievement of Independence has heralded a resurgence of cultural activity all over the country. An influential section of people have advocated the use of traditional form, shape, in fact everything traditional with total disregard to its suitability. How serious was the hatred of these people for British influence can be gauged from the words of Shri Dinker Rao Desai, Education Minister, in his speech of welcome to the Chinese Premier at Sir J. J. School of Arts in 1954. He said “Let me assure our honourable visitors, that all the signs of British influence visible around the school premises will, in a few days, be replaced by things truly Indian”.
The second group, extremely revolutionary in spirit, probably because of the intense revolutionary atmosphere of the pre-independence era, wants to break away from all traditions.
Both these factions disregard the fact that culture is continuous process, depending upon way of life, historical facts and social and economic developments in a country. It must grow by a gradual process. For India, this is a period of transition. It is difficult to say what kind of economic or political set-up would ultimately be established At present there is chaos of ideas and ideologies. This has affected architecture. We are groping about for expression without knowing what we wish to express. A national expression in architecture will develop only when conditions in the country stabilise and the nation begins to move on the road to progress in a definite direction. Till such time, the architects must concentrate on perfecting their tools by training in art, science and technology, by training and refining their state of understanding and improving their taste not only in architecture but also in art in general.
Specifications, building materials and building construction are taught in schools with the help of books published abroad. The emphasis is on use of concrete, and yet trained workmen for concrete construction are available only in larger cities. Indigenous materials and construction are hardly understood resulting in the waste of abundant national resources. Surveys of construction methods and materials in different regions should be undertaken by various regional schools or special regional study groups. The results of such surveys can then be published in book forms.
The students, in order to know any material, must see it and feel it, so that they make use of it with understanding about its texture, colour and durability. In the absence of proper museums students simply read from notes and re-write for examination. This is cramming and not education.
Museums in form of building centres must be established if not in every town at least in important centres. These would not only serve the architectural fraternity but would help to educate and refine the taste of public in general.
R. Llewelyn Davies has said “Knowledge is the raw material for design. It is not a substitute for architectural imagination; but it is necessary for the exercise of imagination and skill in design. Inadequate knowledge handicaps and trammels the architect, limits the achievements of even the most creative and depresses the general level of design.
The advancement of knowledge is not merely an ornament to a profession it is its duty. This is the means by which the competence of the profession as a whole can be advanced. It is essential to improvement in both teaching and practice that a limited number of people should at some time devote themselves to advanced post-graduate study and research”.
The architects must establish closer contact with structural engineers, mechanical engineers, clients, sociologists, psychologists etc. and study interrelation between architecture and social needs, physics of environment and such other factors which influence the growth and development of architecture. The Universities can provide the best facilities required by the very nature of co-operation between architecture and several other disciplines. It is possible in Universities to bring together students of diversified interests willing to extend the frontiers of knowledge. It is only through post-graduate study of this type that specialised knowledge can be accumulated which must supplement the generalised knowledge obtained through practice.
At present there are hardly any facilities for post-graduate studies in architecture. The School of Town and Country Planning has only recently been established in Delhi. There is not a single school on Landscape Architecture. The work done at the Building Research Institute at Roorkee and the National Building Organisation is not given sufficient publicity. The work of these institutions must be coordinated and the advantage of their research must be passed on to students as well as architects.
Specialisation in science and technology arc as essential to development in architecture as artistic talent. The architect has to lake the best from art and artistic imagination, mould it with the help of scientific knowledge, keeping abreast of technological advances and create a design for living with indigenous craftsmanship. The Universities would be the best place where such specialisation can be carried out. There is need for splitting up the studies to train architects specialising in arts and those specialising in scientific and technological requirements of the profession.
Before concluding, it may be relevant to consider architect’s place in society and its effects on architectural education. Such education has not been considered necessary or important enough by society in general and of national education in particular. In fact architects’ work has been erroneously mixed up with that of civil engineers or builders. The fact is, architects not only specialise in planning and designing houses and buildings, but by their training are capable of designing all the objects of everyday use and create an environment of beauty and repose through coordinated design which would help human beings forget the tensions of everyday life and relax, thus helping them in the fulfilment and enjoyment of their life.
This aspect of architect’s function must be made known widely through exhibitions of architect’s works, talks on architecture and seminars.
People in our country lay great stress on degree courses and consider diploma courses to have very little dignity. The opportunities of architects in Government service are strictly limited by making architectural departments subsidiaries of wider P.W.D. organisations. In many States such departments are on temporary works charge basis. All this has resulted in diverting talented students to other fields. Very few students take up architecture as first preference. They usually drift into it when all other avenues arc closed to them.
If it is intended to put Indian architecture on a national footing every effort must be made to bring to its fold intelligent students who will be willing to dedicate themselves to training, practice and propagation of all that architecture stands for.