A perfect product of architecture may be said to be that in which technology. function, and aesthetics are not in conflict with one another and which yet, possesses that spark of genius which alone gives vitality to any creative work.

Technology is the function of mathematics and the nature of materials. It has always influenced building forms. In fact, it is the limiting factor tor in architectural expression. To the Greeks, the stone lintel was the limiting factor; to the Romans—the arch; of the Gothic period, the pointed arch,—the ribbed vault, and flying buttress are well known. The renaissance period, although it presents many magnificent examples of architecture, cannot be said to measure any advance in architectural expression except in so far as dome technology was concerned.

In India the Buddhist cave architecture was essentially sculpturesque but Hindu architecture is an example of magnificent expression of stone technology without the arch. The Saracenic period utilising stone lintel, arch and dome was the peak period in Indian architecture.

Until the 18th century, stone was the chief building material and its limitations guided the form of architecture in most parts of the world. Gradually this limit was transcended in the 19th century with the introduction of steel and concrete. But at that period the new mathematics failed to find expression in architecture. Only recently we have started to grow out of the rut of ancient forms and are trying to give rise to a new architecture. There is no doubt that our conception of building technology is undergoing great changes. It is now possible to put up vast structures of very light weight the form of which is the product of balance of natural forces and is sheer beauty itself. It is now possible to carry the components of a whole house on a truck and erect it on site in a few hours.

Timber is no longer the material subject to dry rot, wet rot, full of shakes and knots, liable to attack by termites and easily inflammable. There are now many new names in timber technology like—


laminated wood with which many forms like parabolas, hyperbolic paraboloids spanning vast spaces can be achieved.


stressed skin construction from resin bonded plywood making it possible to build thin external panels which can withstand stresses and weather.


latticed beams which can span as much as steel beams.


joists of glued ply-wood.

All these structural uses are made possible by the treatment of timber against all sorts of attack, removal of inherent defects in the material, inventing new weather resistant and strong adhesives and some imaginative mathematics.

When one speaks of reinforced concrete, it is not just the old material of 1:2:4 mix with ½’ mild steel bars at 6” centres. Now there is shell concrete, prestressed concrete, post-tensioned concrete, precast concrete, precast prestressed concrete, mushroom construction, flat-slab construction etc. etc. In fact reinforced concrete technology may be said to be on top these days. This versatile material is capable of easy moulding into any shape or form and, combined with the use of high tensile wire, it is doing wonders. This material which was once unfortunately considered base—something which needed applied finishes like stone cladding or plastering or something—has now been rightly recognised as a noble material on its own right.

With steel and aluminium big space frames, geodesic domes, latticed beams are being constructed. Although still scarce aluminium is quickly replacing steel in struc­tural works. Its inherent advantages are lightness and practically no maintenance with almost the strength of steel.

The problem of architecture is ‘enclosure of space, and organisation of space’. The quest is always to be able to enclose the space in such a manner that organisation can be done with least obstruction from means of enclosure and with maximum possibility of flexibility.

To the modern urbanist the problem is (and to the future urbanist the problem will be more so) that sufficient amount of nature may also find place in our cities which are rapidly attracting more and more people and activities into them. In a rapidly changing world the functions of buildings and cities i.e., systems of living, working, care of body and spirit and circulation are also rapidly changing. Thus the system of fulfilling these functions should be capable of readjustment. Thus technology is in fact a product of our needs of buildings and cities.

What do these new technologies point to?

It is now possible to cover vast areas of unobstructed floor space. It is possible to build vertically. Thus the problem of architecture today resolves more and more into fi the most suitable structural system to enclose space, to find adequate systems for lighting and ventilating this space, to find, again, adequate systems of circulation­—vertical and horizontal, and to locate essential services at suitable points, and then the remainder floor space is at your disposal to divide, subdivide, redivide as you wish and change the divisions to suit the functions at any time. The most adequate systems are those which do not interfere with one another. Thus structure should not interfere with lighting and ventilation and the position of partitions should not be tied down by the structure and fenestration. It applies to house design as much as to the design of offices, factories, civic buildings, commercial buildings, educational buildings. places of entertainment and recreation.

It would not suffice to draw up a huge multi- storey structure and show it supported on a few sturdy columns, and then hope that some crafty structural engineer, by some occult process, will give you what you exactly desire. He may perhaps manage to suit his structure to fit your design, but that is not the same thing as having a form evolved out of the structure and materials or technology, in the same way as form evolves from the function of the various components of the building, and the means of protection against the elements. I do not mean to say that technology must always result in good form. Aesthetics cannot be subdued to function and structure. But it must be realised that technology cannot be set aside for the sake of aesthetics.

Today an architect has a feeling of much greater freedom in planning. He is no more tied down to the location of load bearing walls, and walls upon walls to carry the floors and roofs which obviously restrict the size of enclosures and freedom in planning. The means of dividing the space can be light and portable, the windows can run from floor to ceiling to throw light to greater depth and to cut out glare. Thus in a modern building the various functions can be performed without interference to one another, with greater overall economy and efficiency. But at the same time it should be understood that modern building technology is a tool which in the hands of an untrained person and one lacking imagination can produce grotesque results. But in the hands of experts it can produce works of everlasting beauty. Look at the works of pioneers like Nervi, Fressinet, etc. They come out with bold structures of original conception which are sheer beauty because of their mathematics. They look so straight­forward that one is left wondering why it has not been done before and why, indeed, it is not being done even now. Their form tells the story of their structural balance. Whether you are able to resolve a form into mathematical formulas or not, the time has come when straightforward logic will have to be given a trial in evolving new methods of covering space. It may be by making scale models and straining them to destruction that we can fi how stresses are distributed and then derive empirical rules for further guidance.

Thus our need today is to rationalise and bring up to date the mathematics of structure and it is for the architect to exploit that mathematics for evolving new systems of expression for the buildings and the cities while tackling new problems of the scientific age. I have a feeling that architects in our country generally have a tendency to treat technology as something alien to them. This is very much manifest in our schools of architecture which are ridden by prejudice. It is a serious mistake, for without intimate knowledge of the structure of a building the process of design tends to be like fumbling in the dark. No painter of human figure can do justice to the form without intimate knowledge of the bone structure. No sculptor can carve perfectly without having a feeling for the material he is using. And no architect can design without adequate knowledge of building technology. I think an architect is much better qualified to study structural mathematics because he has the capacity to visualise a whole building together. Today a lot of architects like to specialise in town planning after finishing studies in architecture. It will be worthwhile if a number of them turned their attention to specialising in structures. They can do a lot in exploiting building technology and carrying it further. There is a crying need for masters of structures in our country.  I do hope that sooner or later-sooner rather than later-the soil of this land, like in times gone by when masterly structures of the Saracenic period were created, will again give birth to the brains which will be torch-bearers of the nations of the world in the art of enclosing and organising space. Without that the future of architecture in this country will remain a day dream.