I thank the President of the Indian Institute of Architects for this opportunity to be present at the Annual function of the Institute, and am happy to be able to meet so many members of a profession which has a vital bearing on human welfare, security and happiness. I am grateful to your past-President, Mr J. Aga for his kind welcome.
I have listened with deep interest to the thought-provoking address of the President of the Institute, Mr Achyut Kanvinde. He has dealt with the problems facing the profession of architects in our country, and has suggested that its attitudes and objectives have to be oriented to serve the needs of our national development. He has also referred to the problem of urban development which is engaging the attention of architects and town-planners all over the world. He has made valuable observations regarding the teaching of architecture as an academic discipline which I am sure will receive due consideration from those in charge of this branch of education. It is gratifying to know that the Indian Institute of Architects had been longstanding member of the International Union of Architects and the Commonwealth Association of Architects, and that these international contacts have been beneficial to the profession as a whole and to our young architects in particular.
As you are no doubt aware, India has a rich tradition in architecture. We have ancient treatises on Vastu-Sastra and Silpa-Sastra dealing with sculpture, architecture, building, town-planning and allied subjects. While archaeological excavations in several parts of the country have revealed the existence of well-planned and well laid out towns thousands of years old, we also have standing monuments of architectural achievement in our ancient temples and forts, in the Buddhist stupas and viharas and in bold and imaginative structures like the Qutub Minar in Delhi and the Jaya Sthambh in Chittorgarh. These structures built centuries ago bear testimony to the traditional architectural and engineering skill of our people. Apart from such grand and elaborate structures, we also have settlements of the common people in the different regions of our country which testify to the innovative genius of our people in building habitations perfectly adapted to the climate and geography of the regions concerned. I may mention, as examples, the settlements found in remote Himalayan tracts, the inhospitable Rajasthan desert, the vast Gangetic plain and the narrow coastal strips. Each region has its peculiarities arising from the configuration and composition of land, the climate and environmental factors which condition the pattern of human settlement and the material of construction. Thus, on the one hand we have the architecture of palaces and temples practised by Sthapathis who were the master-builders of ancient India, and on the other we have the simple and functional architecture of the common people which has enabled them to build habitable settlements on every kind of terrain. Architecture has thus been a part of the life of our people at all levels from time immemorial.
It is common knowledge that the word architect comes from the Greek word meaning Chief Worker or Builder. It is an interesting reflection that in the past, before the engineer and the building contractor emerged on the scene, it was the architect who was concerned with all aspects of building, namely, its planning, management of material and labour, and construction. It would appear that with the advent of the civil engineer and the building contractor, the architect became more and more confined to his drawing board, separated from the actual work of construction and its many challenges. It is sometimes believed that the architect’s pre-occupation with past art forms which have little relation to current social needs has been responsible for this situation. The movement to remedy this state of affairs was initiated, we learn, by great master architects like Bahaus, Gropius, Le Corbusier and Frank Lloyd Wright. Through their efforts the true role of architecture in national development has come to be increasingly realised.
One of the most important tasks of the architect is, doubtless, Town-Planning. It has been stated that for possible 10000 years there were only villages in the world, and that for about 5000 years there were only towns and cities of modest dimensions. Between 1800 and 1850 there were only two cities, London and Paris, with a population exceeding one million. Since the turn of the century, however, large cities or metropolises have grown all over the world and the trend is continuing. There has been, apparently, little thought given to the consequences of haphazard and unrestricted urban development. The west is already paying the price in dangerous environmental pollution and the spoliation of natural assets. The Delos Symposium of 1963 was the beginning of an effort by the Athens Centre of Ekistics “to mobilize international resources in order to help face the crises of human settlement”. In the words of Dr. C. A. Doxiadis, the “goal is to save nature, man and the values man has created”. The impact of aggressive urbanisation on environment is regarded with alarm by architects who are aware of the intimate relationship between ecology and human survival. I am sure you know about Paolo Soleri who is described as an “arcologist” and is the creator of a new concept of urban development a mile above the earth. “Arcology” is defined as a combination of architecture and ecology which “is the answer to the modern malady or urban sprawl, pollution, waste and gradually desecrated and destroyed countryside”. Paolo Soleri has declared that today cities are not working for man but against him and urges architects and planners to infuse their profession with a concern for the whole system of human life. While on the subject of revolutionary thinking on architecture, mention may also be made of Buckminster Fuller whose Geodesic dome is re-cognised as the strongest, lightest and most efficient means of enclosing space. As you know Fuller is no stranger to our country, having had the distinction of delivering the Nehru Memorial lecture on “Planetary Planning” at Delhi in November 1969. I have ventured to mention these instances of advanced and original concepts in architecture as they are not only highly interesting but are also indicative of the vital role assumed by architects elsewhere in dealing with the problem of human settlements.
It has been estimated that, in our country, during the last two decades, the problem of housing has become acute in urban centres as the increase in urban population is about 20 million persons per decade. According to the latest census the number of cities and towns having a population of over one lakh was 75 in 1951, 113 in 1961 and 142 in 1971. The architect has to face the challenge posed by population explosion where land is scarce and becoming prohibitively costly. Vertical development seems to offer a ready solution to this problem, it ensures compact urban growth. It can be a means of removing slums from cities. But tall buildings create some special problems. They may cause abnormal strain on the arteries of communication and create problems of parking. The provision of essential utilities like electric supply, water and drainage in multi-storey buildings where hundreds of human beings have to live, may be a very difficult and highly complicated task. Then there is the danger of fire which can be particularly hazardous in a tall building. Further, residents of tall buildings may have certain psychological problems arising from the sense of isolation when there is no visible neighbourhood. The management of children also presents special difficulties. Thus, while high-rise buildings offer a solution of the urban housing problem, they, at the same time create other kinds of problems. It is for our architects to consider all aspects, including the environmental and the human, before deciding on plans of urban development.
It is sometimes suggested that instead of adding multistorey buildings to an already overcrowded metropolis, it may be worthwhile to plan new cities where horizontal space available at reasonable cost, away from existing urban centres. Chandigarh is an example of a new city built to a master plan. Gandhinagar, the capital of Gujarat is another example. The new cities will enable people to live in an open atmosphere where children can romp about in freedom and safety, and the aged can take leisurely walks.
Before concluding I should like to refer to the importance of research in architecture. It has been rightly said that the choice of the subjects of research should have a bearing on, and reflect, the needs and values of the society. It has been recognised that the requirements of the user of a dwelling house or other building should be the central concern of study and research. The user may be the common man or one who is well-placed economically. Again the user may be a child or youth or aged; he may be a cripple or retarded; each category has its special needs in respect of living space, and these may usefully be investigated. There are also other areas of research in architecture such as the climate and the environment. It is through study and research that the science and art of architecture can advance and expand, and serve the varied and increasing needs of man.
I thank you all once again for your kind welcome and for this opportunity of meeting you all. I congratulate the Indian Institute of Architects on its energetic efforts to promote the interests of the profession and enable it to play an effective and useful role in national life. I wish its worthy endeavours all success.