Various issues concerning the development of the quality of architecture, as also effective professional performance in this country have been a subject of discussion and debate pertaining to the architectural practice, Government policies, education, interpretation of traditions and its present-day relevance, and last but not the least important, is the awareness on the part of public for physical environment associated with building environment generally.
With the present day state of urbanisation, the Architect’s sphere of activities have been focussed mainly on urban community, because urban areas have been a major client promoter for buildings compared to private ones and their way of working methodology adopted has a bearing on the profession generally. This being the case, their approach to initiate urban programmes and practices followed in all public sector undertaking and Housing Boards, as also methods adopted for hiring professionals dominates the architecture services much more than the private endeavour and such a thing tends to influence public taste, expectation and performance essentially. With the recent thrust of expansion of several urban centres, a good deal of activity is taking place not merely in terms of expansion of towns but also of planning activities. Thus, also the involvement of builders to participate as well.
Recent development shows that there has been no particular effort of upgradation of building technology in terms of speed or efficiency. Old methods are being followed time and again without change for last forty years. ln spite of the existence of Research Institutes like Central Building Research Institution involving more than a thousand personnel in their field, the contribution and thrust on construction does not seem noticeable in the market.
Large number of Schools of Architecture have emerged during the past several years and while they have been charging handsome fees, the level of teaching and quality of education needs evaluation and direction. In order to meet new challenges in terms of architectural performance and design, associated with urbanisation, demands new responsibility and direction.
Urban development authorities associated with every major city of the country have a Planning Department which is often manned by Architect–Town Planners as also by non-architect planners such as Geographers, Economists as well as Civil Engineers. As observed, their endeavour often misses the essential perception governing the concept development and often, Planners are contented, with distribution of land based on population, transport network based on mathematical models only. With the result values associated with building needs are often left out in all planning endeavours. Delhi has lost the unique opportunity. Bombay likewise when it was possible to introduce system of open spaces in the form of fingers along the east-west direction enabling population of their right to have association of sea front. Such a unique opportunity was thus lost. Instead, the western sea front was walled up by speculative builders denying the population the association of sea. The story of several other cities in India is not different where rivers, lakes and large water fronts have been ignored. The present status of Lucknow, Kanpur, Ahmedabad, Hyderabad, Bangalore and other several major cities of this country will reveal a similar situation, it may not be out of place to mention that the position of Chief Town Planner, though sometime given to an Architect, is often made subordinate to the Engineering Member, working under a total control administrator politician. It is observed that plans are prepared and finalised without proper consideration of clarity of appronch or the rational and plots are often sold without detailed sectorial studies.
The above operation is far from satisfactory for pursuing urban planning and that the planning has to have concept backed by perception of knowledgeable professionals with understanding of urban design.
The manner in which Government has set up the functioning of Public Works Department (PWDs), Housing Boards and also Public Sector Undertakings goes to show that entire architectural management is directed by non-architect Civil Engineers as Administrators who are supposed to judge the calibre and capability of Architect professionals. These PWDs which were predominant before the World Wars in the western world, have already been abolished long time back under new reforms. It is only in India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka that PWDs system is continuing presently. It is necessary that reform ought to be introduced in Government for effective performance such as Architectural work should not be managed by non-architects. Architects should have the authority and freedom to function on lines with private professionals where even for certifying bills of payment, Architect’s certifications for correctness of design ought to be essential. Next, all professionals for structures and services working with Architects have to be under the control of the Chief Architect. The present position where Architect is made a glorified Draftsman, ought to change immediately. There is a need in PWDs to have a Research Group working on improved design and methodology, so that the PWD does not remain isolated. Also it is important that in order to make PWDs and Housing Boards competitive, they ought to work on a fee structure more or less at par with standards laid down by Council of Architecture. In the present situation the PWDs charge anywhere between fifteen to twenty percent fees on cost of projects and the work entrusted based on deposit system i.e. the entire amount of cost of project is paid in advance to the PWD by Departments. This adds to an additional fee of roughly thirty percent as interest on deposit spread over time to complete a project. Fair fees for architectural services including construction management normally works out within eight percent generally. It is time Government make these Departments to function on competitive basis with private enterprises. Departments costing Government more than two and half times compared to private professionals. For effective functioning it is important that the PWDs have two separate sections—one dealing with Architecture Urban Design and Planning headed by Architects, and all Consultants including Structural and Services should preferably be under him. He should have administrative authority to coordinate and check correctness of design on site. The other section dealing with implementation of project including construction management, be assigned to an Engineering Head of the organisation, ought to be headed by a Technocrat by rotation and should be either an Architect or Engineer. The other possibility as is happening in most of the western countries is to wind up the architecturaI section and provide a skeleton strength of staff to take care of repetitive work and maintenance of work only.
One of the reasons why many city development organisations are contemplating to invite builders to participate in urban development primarily because of the great pressure of housing in the urban zone. When there is a tendency to parcel out lands under certain stipulations the danger is that each one goes about in his own way towards fulfillment of floor area only without any regard to quality design, sociological needs of community and also the totality in terms of urban form. Dangers are obvious—incongruous development, lack of neighbourhood quality and also questionable fulfillment of social infrastructures. If such an approach is suggested by Planning Department they ought to attend to their initial homework. There is no harm in inviting developers, however, the coordination of total development including the urban design element has to be worked out before such projects get executed. Existing practices of development authorities of executing work from planning to completion of project on in-house basis has not given any dividend and with present practices the gap between need and demand is continuously growing. Under the situation there is no alternative but to try an idea. by giving work to private developers. It will be essential if authorities on their part should be limited to land development with services and manage schemes up to concept and three-dimensional urban design approach only.
The manner in which Housing development being followed by Housing Boards, Development Authorities as well as Public Sector Undertakings shows that their programme of developing housing is limited to three to four types of categories, with no system of planning methodology with the result each and every job becomes a new, and a special one which needs rationalisation. One way of upgradation of methodology is to introduce a modular system in terms of planning approach. The meaning of modular does not mean regimentation. And that within the module it should be possible and create variation, variety and also identity of community. With the introduction of modular methodology when the concept is clear the whole operation of planning including preparation of drawing, tender process or even certification of bill which were all subjected to several bottlenecks can disappear, and contractors can organise work much faster following conventional construction methods. Such a system also results in standard components for various items which can emerge in the market automatically. This ought to give rise to industry encouraging low capital investment. It is high time that engineering technology for building ought to be introduced in India both for economy and time saving, utilising industrial approach to building. What level of technology of application can be made possible can be decided by the market forces.
The Architect-Designer is trained to tackle complex problems connected with human habitations in terms of small cluster of families, neighbourhoods, large-scale urban development under various topographical and regional situations. The problem of planning and design is not limited merely to matter of fact meeting land and population needs in terms of overall economy and circulation but to recognise and establish the essential intrinsic values— both measurable, physical as well as immeasurable—psychological inherent in a given situation where all components put together as a synthesis of design, thereby creating character and ambience needed to stimulate users mood. Such a requirement will be faced by an Architect Planner under any condition, for all types of communities and their living pattern under the Indian context. Planning also is expected to embrace both humble as well as affluent class of society. Because of the peculiarities of urban complex problems covering large areas, understanding and appreciation of urban design becomes essential both at the educational as well as even after completion of professional course for personal development.
There has been considerable effort and exchange of thoughts on the interpretation of tradition in context with present day architecture during the last more than fifty years. There was a time when Government was ready to bring out a bill in Parliament of regulating Architecture through ‘national style’ which had to be shelved with timely realisation on the subject. However, one could observe two distinct efforts being attempted towards lndianness in architecture in the past. One was when efforts to introduce the envelope of archaeological embellishment before the wave for international style did not touch the Indian scene. Also an attempt as seen during the last one and half decades of imposing elements and symbolism of the bygone historical period. Conspicuous efforts are being made to revive elements and symbols related to temples, palaces, also havelis of past periods as dominating features by some Indian Architects, and although one is free to practice based on subjective interpretation it still needs rational and clarification for direction. It must be of the period and their will essentially to glorify themselves using people at their command and known technology with building craft of the time. It must be also recognised that they believed and practiced certain way of life under the guidance of priest at that time. Popular symbolic elements that were adopted at the time were part of essential rituals they followed. Swastika, Chakra, Mantra, Mandals and others were often used for religious rituals. Raja Jaisingh being a knowledgeable person followed them with deeper understanding in his approach to palace and city design. Therefore two conspicuous expressions of character are noticeable i.e. (a) dominant-security, and (b) building craft using symbolic elements. Preconceived applications of elements in our present secular industrial society however will tend to become an imposition of a kind, like someone using garments of their great grandfather in the name of tradition and culture. What makes architecture meaningful and long lasting is its fulfilment of purpose, backed by an approach based on integrity with clarity and vibrant qualities also technology with humanism associated with it. Secondly, the feudalistic force that influenced the past architecture has no relevance in the democratic set up of society in the present time and any effort of past cliche seems pretentious.
The Architect’s proficiency and capabilities depends on his education, exposures, as also his training and experience beyond a degree course. With so many Schools of Architecture emerging all over the country and all having high-sounding curriculae of studies, ultimately what matters most, is the knowledge of the Faculty and their experience ultimately. It is the responsibility of teachers to generate interest amongst students also to stimulate minds which ultimately make education enjoyable and not a burden for studies that they tend to hate. While all schools give degrees, proficiency and performance is related to the hard earned will of individuals and how they set their mind after degree course. It is most depressing to see the school working in a mechanical manner with the Director and Faculty members trying to fulfil their work as a matter of routine. Learning becomes dull and dry and student lose interest. On the other hand schools stand out and grow around a personality of the Director who commands respect of the profession. The Director secondly ought to be a friend of all known professionals in his town so as to make the school function as a wide platform where varieties of professionals can participate and be exposed to the community of students. It is important for the school to have design critique system where views, arguments are freely expressed. Such a thing brings interest and vitality to the school teaching. With problems before the society and complexity of building environment in a urban situation, exposing students in a short time needs equally ingenious ways to communicate.
While all subjects connected with design and construction are important, the important one which influences the students’ future development and work as a base for future personality, is the knowledge about the basic design as also graphic art course where he begins to appreciate concepts and develops capability and appreciation of understanding of spaces. This acts as a tool for vocabulary for design which he keeps cultivating. Students generating interest in this subject with better level of perception grow and flower in their career as good architects. The other two subjects of equal importance are the manner in which history is taught, depending on the background of a teacher. Also imaginative methodology adopted for teaching using case studies and presenting through slides in preference to description. Such a message is registered better with students generally.
Schools are the centres of learning not only for students but also for teachers as well. A dedicated teacher recognises such a situation and takes advantage through library as well as other knowledgeable colleague teachers. Schools have a double objective to achieve i.e. one that schools have to bring out products to fit into the professional practice. An equally important role is to fulfil and break the barriers and limitations of the profession. An imaginative director therefore organises teaching in accordance with the trends using student effort through school exercises based on design approach.
It is found that in spite of the fact that students come with varied backgrounds to learn in a school and though they are desirous, a good teacher can make teaching enjoyable whereas others following usual ritual can make them disinterested and dwarf their growth.
It is customary amongst most schools to organise students’ exhibitions which carries the image amongst professionals and public about the school standing. If the work is admired teachers get credit. It is essential that teachers exhibit their work as well once in two years to project their image and credibility. In order that teachers keep themselves up with the time and latest development in profession architectural practice be encouraged by school authorities. Teachers having capabilities and drive often succeed and this also add to students confidence in teachers.
It has been a standard practice in western countries to introduce courses on continuing education similar to the practice followed in Management Institutions called Executive Development Programme where students after few years of experience in the field are allowed to attend special course of short duration on specialised subjects for a period varying between one to four weeks. Such courses are becoming popular generally. In order that the education becomes enjoyable and help sustain continuing interest of students and faculty needs to explore avenues and help school builds its own prestige and contribution in the community of professionals and society. Large number of schools have emerged in the country and although they are functioning with laid down lines many are guided by commercial motives. Such schools cannot contribute or make a statement of any kind.
It is also unfortunate that standard syllabus prepared by All India Council of Technical Education are being made applicable to all regions of the country regimentally without giving freedom to schools. In the western world, schools generally fall under three different categories. Those which are technologically oriented, sociologically oriented and philosophically and artistically oriented according to the capability of faculty. The University of Cincinnati in the US, has a Department of Architecture where students go through a regular course for first two years only. The remaining part of teaching is phased in a way that they spend one term alternately in school and offices within the region and the placement of students is managed by the school administration. Advai.tages are, that after two years, students not only support themselves but at the same time they become degree holders. Their value in the market is much higher than other university students. The Boston Art Centre, USA, conducts evening classes for deserving students where the diploma is awarded at the end of four years.
Indian courses which are limited to four and a half years duration do not ensure adequate time for maturity to students development. In the United States a professional degree course need six years. In Europe it varies between seven, eight or even nine years. Realising the conditions in India, it ought to work best if students study for three years and spend two years in training programme and join school again for completion of degree course. There is a need in India to introduce a school on experimental basis where deserving and capable students with poor resources can be given an opportunity. Faculty of spirited and dedicated teachers who are willing to work on voluntary basis for the first few years can be invited to take up the challenge of organising evening classes preferably in an Institutional premises on the basis of ‘learn first and pay later’ with the commitment that they will pay back the loan gradually when they get employment. It is a common practice amongst western countries to advance loans generally for studies.
It is clear that Architecture and its role has a relation to the need of the society and the quality of Architecture is a product of aspiration and expectation of people. Since the Government represents the society, Government policy towards profession and education is important. Present policy and attitude is tending to result in unhealthy competitions also degradation in the quality performance standards. If it is accepted that the Government respects public opinion and press and their concerns are being listened to in order that people message reaches people and place, this is only possible if there is a demonstration through work projects and not merely report alone as they cannot convey message to the public.
Architecture is evolving and opening new avenues of expression continuously, like other endeavours of fine arts in terms of fulfilling the basic needs and interpreting together with technology building craft, climate and regional association backed by designer’s cultivation with his interpretations. An Architect Designer in spite of his analytical approach can either end up with stereotyped, dull and static solutions or alternately emerge with his scheme of vibrant and mobile spatial solutions, where forms and spaces keep turning and twisting thereby stirring human minds enabling spectators of experiencing freshness which is not different from experiences any other work of art form. The Architect’s personal cultivation and development ought to lead him to such a thing in the final analysis.
It is important to note that good architecture emerged during Moghul ruler Akbar’s, and also Shahjehan’s time, although they had no formal education, they had the wisdom and interest with foresight and involvement for attracting talent in every sphere of cultural as well as administrative endeavour. It is not possible for any Government head in the present time to have knowledge and interest because their tenure is too short. However their wisdom lies in having advisory body of knowledgeable experts to advice and guide time. The fact that they have allowed the way things are shaping in present quality urbanisation explains the situation. It is important that effort must be made by the Indian Institute of Architects in every region and cities in identifying professionals who should visit schools and colleges and talk to students through lectures in order to create interest and appreciation for contemporary as well as historical architecture. Such a thing will not only result in understanding but also lead to career selection amongst young students who will be future decision-makers.
Every country has passed through the stage similar to what India is passing in the present time. The difference is that western countries had a continuity because of self-rule and that they could organise themselves quickly. The problem in India gets complex because of a complexity of political system, as also priorities. One thing is clear and that Government gets anything done immediately if only there is awareness and political will and this is the key which should be tapped with strategy.