I understand that somewhere in your inbox there is a rare communication from Council of Architecture seeking your comments and suggestions.
As this communication from the guardian angel of your profession is dealing with Architects Act, it is written in legal language that will make an artist like you look for strong black coffee after reading approximately two sentences, I am completely sure that you have not bothered to read it.
But, because this is as big as it gets for the future of the profession of architecture in India, I am tempted to step in and explain a bit.
As I read the tabulated comparison between existing Architects Act and the amendment (even though I am trained to read such entertaining prose) I must admit that I too have struggled comprehending it, mainly because my own understanding of law is that, unlike architecture, law is expected to make sense.
But, before I leap into the unknowable that is The Architects (Amendment) Bill, 2018, a bill further to amend the Architects Act, 1972 (No. 20 of 1972), let me give you some context.
You are a small community of highly creative and intelligent humans living under the illusion created by CoA that you are professionals enjoying exclusivity to practice “architecture” through an act. Unfortunately, this illusion gets routinely thwarted by various courts of the land.
Every time a court calls the bluff of exclusivity that CoA has been trying to pull off, two things inevitably follow, ie CoA starts looking for another avenue to fight and I end up writing another stinker of a piece about it.
While CoA seems to be enjoying the thrashing or hoping for some miracle, I am now getting a bit tired to explain why your chances of earning exclusivity to practice “architecture” are slimmer than a snowflake’s chances in Dante’s inferno till CoA doesn’t stop pretending that architects know engineering, I am endeavouring yet again as this time the forum is bigger and a lot is at stake for you all.
What CoA is attempting this time is requesting the government for amendment of the very act that defines your qualification. Let us recognize the enormity of this as you are going to the apex democratic body, the parliament of the nation for help (and just to put it in a context, engineers have not even managed to get Engineers Act enacted even after struggling for decades).
Though the amendments proposed as many, and reformative too, I would limit my critique to its core aspiration, ie giving you exclusive right to practice “architecture”.
What is really new about this draft act is that it attempts to define “architectural services” as a handle to earn you an exclusive right to render them.
If I quote the amendment verbatim, under section 2 sub-section (aa) it states:
“Architectural Services includes providing any architectural design, plans, preparation of all drawings and documents, tracing or the like, for use in sanction and for construction, extension, addition or alteration of any building and built environment or part thereof including documentation or being in responsible control of professional services which require the development of sites, the architectural design, in whole or in part, of buildings or built environment, groups of buildings and also includes scrutinizing the documents, regulating the construction and development of buildings and related matters;”
As you people are accustomed to reading meaning in “Spatial contextualities quintessential to existence are born of materiality to create new archetypes.” you may be able to “read” the above amendment, but I am sorry to say that an average lawyer will fail miserably in understating how that statement can define what “architectural services” are, and more importantly, how are they different than what an engineer does.
In simple words, if you define architectural services without distinguishing how is architecture different than engineering, all you will have even after amendment will be more thrashing awaiting you in courts of law.
So, as this is almost a last ditch and much-needed effort to salvage the profession of architecture, I request you to respond to CoA with two suggestions if you want the act to serve you as an empowerment for professional exclusivity.
First step critical to saving architecture is to make CoA clean its own hands by removing specialized engineering services, especially structural and electrical engineering from the “Conditions of Engagement and scale of charges”.
Please admit that these are services linked to specialized engineering branches that you are not qualified to take up. Once you will stop pretending that you know engineering, courts will start feeling sympathetic to your claim of being different.
The second and most important step that you need to take is to define architecture in a way that reflects the uniqueness that separates you from engineers.
If I look at your academic training and that of an engineer, the glaring difference I see is in how human being features in both.
Architects are trained to integrate human needs in a building while engineers are trained to integrate technologies into a building.
Though it looks a bit intangible, it is possible to define this in a simple legal way. If I dare rephrase the section 2 sub-section (aa), it can be:
“Architectural services shall be taking of ALL the design decisions related to utilization of a built entity by a human being, and conveying them through any medium of communication for translation of them into a built form.”
This definition, by its very nature, will set aside specialized constructions like boiler houses or nuclear reactors or their parts where human use is not taking place, and hence they can be exclusively taken up by engineers.
And more importantly, this definition will remove the biggest conflict about who shall be the final authority in a building design process. As a human user is bound to be more important than technology, his/her needs must enjoy priority, and hence architect can claim the role of first-amongst-the-equals in the design team.
This definition can always be tested by common sense for deciding who shall take a given decision and hence can serve as a practical tool for even the courts to use. For example, an engineer may calculate that a two feet wide duct is technically most optimized in a given case, if the architect finds the duct to be obstructing human movement, his decision must supersede that of the engineer’s in a building used by humans.
The success of Architects Act’s amendment depends on how it manages to achieve a much-needed truce between architects and engineers, who should have been brothers in arms, but instead have become bitter enemies mostly due to CoA’s attempts to usurp design turf from engineers.
Let us grasp that rapidly growing India needs both the professionals to bury the hatchet and work for the greater good.
So, I humbly request you to revert back to CoA with meaningful suggestions that can manage this before it is too late for both professions.
– A citizen hoping to see a professionals-regulated building construction in India