Dear friends,

After a lot of thinking, I have taken the liberty to write the attached important letter to the principals, faculty and students of all architecture colleges in India. I had to do so out of my inner conscientious compulsion to share my genuine concern for the state of our architectural education with you all.

I hope you understand what I mean.

May I make a small request to you ?

Could you please spare some time to read it, ponder over it and send me your feedback ?  As we are in architecture and architectural education together, 

I am sure you will appreciate the seriousness of the issues raised by me and the need to facilitate a holistic reworking on the architectural syllabus, as it is taught today. 

It would also be good if you could forward it to any of your friends who are concerned about the quality of our architectural education.

I feel that even if only a few institutes respond by working on some of the issues raised by me, it would be a good beginning for improving our architectural education and thereby our society. 

Best wishes as always.

Shirish Beri and associates

See also the version edited by Nikos Salingaros and Kristen Richards here.

My dear students and faculty,

I write this special letter to you all … out of my inner conscientious compulsion.

It comes forth out of the restlessness that arises in me from my genuine concern for the present state of our architectural education, profession as well as that of our society. I also write it because I still consider myself to be a student, though I entered the portals of CEPT (Centre for Environmental Planning and Technology), Ahmedabad, as a student of architecture 52 years ago.

Unfortunately, the values and priorities of our society have changed so much in these recent decades; we seem to be living in a “society that is suffering from the fatty degeneration of its conscience, where our single minded pursuit of money is impoverishing our mind, shrivelling our imagination and desiccating our heart” - (Nani Palakhiwala).

Today, in all fields including architecture and architectural education too, so many relevant area specific contexts and genuine human values tend to get lost and usurped in the one powerful universal context of commercial returns.

Thus, don’t you think that we need an architecture of goodness for a better life in a better society? What can constitute this value based architecture of goodness? Can our architecture be an agent of social change to bring about some goodness in this scenario? Can some goodness be brought about, if our architecture helps us to reconnect with nature, with our fellow human beings, with our own selves and thereby with this underlying goodness of life?

Can this architecture of goodness be taught? 

In this scenario, shall we all pause to examine the following questions with the utmost sincerity and urgency. These questions are not really about the small details of the syllabus subjects being taught today, but about the overall form and Nature of our architectural education ….

… How can today’s architecture colleges light up that inner flame in the students which will encourage each student to ask questions and passionately address their genuine life concerns through their designs? As Corbusier said, “Life is right, and the architect is wrong.”

… Could we realise that our main design concept which shapes our design, needs to arise spontaneously from our understandings, values and attitudes in life? As part of the architectural curriculum, the students need to be made aware of the multiple ways in which their designs connect to the multiple parameters of life. 

… Can our architectural education help us in realising the importance of these immeasurable and intangible attitudes in our work?  Though our plans and sections are physical measurables, many a times, they also touch the heart, rekindle memories and travel the wonderful landscapes of dreams.

…Thus, can we shift our emphasis from today’s measurable saleability to that immeasurable sanctity? Only then, will we know that the true measure of development of a city is not the height of its skyscrapers but the width of its pedestrian ways.

… Can introspection be encouraged by creating certain pauses and silence in the overall curriculum? The eminent Indian classical vocalist Kishori Amonkar had lost her voice for ten long years during her career. Even then, she says that the internal music, antarnaad, continued and she learnt a lot from that during this difficult phase in her life. Critical thinking and critical introspection needs to be encouraged in our education and profession.

… As we all know how difficult it is to teach architecture, can an institute create an atmosphere that encourages creative unlearning and relearning in architecture to happen?  Informal procedures, settings outside the typical classrooms and flexible 24/7 college timings could help. 

Explorations through making of many 3D physical models, sketching, travelling and writing need to become the mandatory sanskaras (tradition) in architectural learning. A learning methodology instigating the students and faculty to question the prevailing norms, trends and fashions needs to be introduced. 

How can the teachers and students develop that long lost respect for each other?   

… For this to happen, don’t you think that a major shift is necessary in our attitude towards life?  … from the present anthropocentric approach to life , where everything is supposed to be for the consumption of man (for me and mine) to a more integral, universe centric approach.  The introduction of Humanities’ subjects (like sociology, psychology, anthropology)  along with deep ecology (urban ecology, energy flows etc) as a subjects  may help the students in grasping the true interdependent and interconnected nature of our world.

… Don’t you think that this understanding of being an integral part of this wonderful web of life is also the pre requisite for any true sustainable action to happen? Only then can we design from this empathy and real caring concern for all.  Such an approach will naturally create designs that are truly eco-friendly, simple and sustainable. 

Maybe, our future architects even transcend this sustainable architecture and create ‘productive sustainable architecture’ – an architecture that produces water, energy, food and air.

… Knowledge of new materials, technologies should find their place in the archaic syllabus of building materials. But at the same time, can our students realise that the modern materials, amenities, devices and gadgets cannot replace real peace and happiness, just as a child's toys cannot be substitutes for human affection? This greed for the fast buck tends to churn out repetitive, mediocre, manipulative, monotonous, design solutions, which tend to devalue our profession in the society. 

It is important not to confuse a good life with the number of goods they possess. As Da Vinci put it “ simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” 

… How can we all appreciate that rather than creating iconic, futuristic, exhibitionist, sculptural forms that attract the eye, it is more important to create more humane, socially relevant, natural and sustainable spaces that nurture the human spirit? While designing for the future, should we not look for perennial human values as our form generators, rather than getting caught up in transient, flashy, fickle fashion statements?

… With the increased intake of students, can you examine whether the necessary personal rapport between teachers and students is getting diluted?  And with the increasing number of architecture colleges mushrooming up, would we have adequate, dedicated and inspiring faculty for all these students?

Hasn’t the quality of our architectural education deteriorated?  Many of the institutes do not even have the basic working infrastructure necessary for an architecture college.

… Can the students correlate their learnings in the college with the actual professional processes and vice versa in a better way than it is being done today? Could more site visits and a better internship proposal be introduced in the curriculum?

We are also in the midst of revolutionary advancements in the fields of Artificial intelligence and Biotechnology, that have already started questioning the relevance of our education and profession, as it is practiced today.

… Don’t you think that the age old knowledge based learning methodologies need to change drastically very soon, as our machines are becoming better at it?  We need to teach something unique (that which is wisdom and value based) which the machines can’t catch up with. Even Yuval Harari says, “If you wish to teach something very, very practical for the 21st century, philosophy is a good bet”. 

… How can we get the students to deal with this paradox on how to become modern and return to the sources at the same time?

… Can an architectural design embody a similar content as that of a poem, music, painting, sculpture, dance or drama? Can our students be able to appreciate all these arts as a part of their curriculum and then integrate their essence in their designs?

Can our architecture colleges strike a creative, interactive rapport with the others institutes of arts, design, dance, drama, music and film?

… Actually, wouldn’t it be great if some information about architecture and the spatial realm is introduced at the high school level itself? Can our modern digital networking be used to sensitise the people at large to this world of architecture?

…  Now, with so many issues that need to be addressed, are we ready to completely overhaul our architectural education system in order to create better architects and better human beings for a better environment in a better society?  

I sincerely hope we can do that, if not at the entire national level but at least initially in some institutions of architectural learning, to help create sensitive and humane architects with the capacity, integrity and zeal to create that architecture of goodness.

These are just a few issues that came to my mind. I am sure you can add on some more as you are directly a part of this architectural education scene. I shall be glad to get your response as to how you feel about the above issues and how you could include some of them in your daily architectural education.

Best wishes from your fellow traveler on this journey in life and architecture,

Ar. Shirish Beri



I've just finished the first reading of your inspiring letter and felt the need to write just simply saying thank you there are many issues on which we will focus on education and in life but at the ground of all the crucial themes that you raised, there is, in my opinion, the clarity of a 'humanistic approach', that in architecture is disappearing and returning cyclically at the moment that requires a regeneration of our ways to shape, or better to maintain, the world around us. I will take some more time for a more meditate answer that your text deserves. Only a question may I send your text to my colleagues in Venice. at IUAV? I am starting to write to open a collaboration with our School and your words represent at the best our modest (you know I have this Christian approach to the virtues even if it can sound weird in an academic context) ambition. I would like to propose to Neelima to publish your letter on the school website asking the student to give their reaction in any form they will consider effective.

Dr. Massimo Vianello, Architect
Wednesday, July 24, 2019, 4:32 PM


I want to thank you so much indeed, for your sincere letter. It touched deeply my heart and concern as a human being.

I am not an architect as you know, but being a Medical doctor puts me in the exact place you carefully address in your letter, for all the professions and formal educations suffer the same maladies. Probably the medical School and studies, and the fresh doctors being the worse. Thinking deeply about the issues you raised one sees the truth in them and the urgent necessity of caring for them; and the kind of spiritual revolution in need. And it is due to us go for it with no compromising at all. Our inner serious commitment is being called for. Seriousness is not a closed face, but a joyful soul and spirit committed to Truth, Beauty, and goodness.

Perhaps what we all students, professors, and professionals have to learn and practice in the direction of our seeing. I mean to change the direction of our staring from our bellybutton to the others at our side or in front of us, or at an unknown place far from our sight, but accessible to our heart ( the well being of all our fellow human beings; the common welfare of all people in our marvelous and generous Earth). I am quite sure we could make a paradise of Earth; surely there is a way of building up such a garden of happiness; surely we have the means of feeding everyone and everybody with food and decent jobs and wages; surely we have the means of housing and dressing everyone and everybody. What prevents us of doing so is again our self-centered vision, to our beautiful bellybutton, concerned only with our fears and desires, and the satisfaction of our own dreams and needs, or that of our small family and acquaintances; without concerning to the others, to the whole of mankind.

Moacir Amaral, MD, Brazil
Thursday, July 25, 2019, 7:44 PM


If we don’t respect this in everyday life “ the idea of humanity or goodness “ we may not practice it rightly. Your letter is so deep and much needed.

Abin Chaudhuri
Thursday, July 25, 2019, 9:38 AM


I am moved by the letter you sent, and the issues highlighted certainly resonates with me. How the architectural profession continues to make architecture will certainly define how we weave the fabric of humanity. To be a happy architect, I believe one cannot separate one's conscience from one's work for too long, or else we will be destroyed by it.

James Law JP, CEO Cybertecture
Thursday, July 25, 2019, 11:38 AM


While I am retired and therefore unable to play a role in Australian architectural education I do hope sincerely that Indian architecture schools will heed your call to arms. For that is what is required. We. need a peaceful revolution in the way our society conducts itself. Perhaps rebellion rather than revolution is necessary since our politicians are not listening to their own children and large swathes of their own electorates. And I agree that philosophy as a subject of study is fundamental. The same holds for ecology and environmental philosophy. We need to focus on the role architecture can play in enhancing our well being, and by that, I don’t mean economic well being. I think New Zealand’s prime minister, Jacinta Adhern, is providing a wonderful role model for world leaders with her focus on compassion and well being.

Emeritus Professor Roger Fay, University of Tasmania
Thursday, July 25, 2019, 2:29 PM


I have a few queries and observations.

  1. How to get syllabus policymakers to start looking at change.
  2. Institutional reforms in terms of faculty inputs, beyond the mandatory. What motivation.
  3. Overcoming parental demands of their wards marketability vis-a-vis the demands of the practicing professionals.
  4. Ideology vs knowledge.

Can we look at a 3 or 6-month program after B.Arch to address these issues for students with passion?

D.S. Ramakrishna Rao
Thursday, July 25, 2019, 2:36 PM


You have verbalized many of our feelings that we experience every day. I take the liberty to add some of my thoughts.

  • Can we as a whole architectural community create “architectural translators” the concept I coined at CEPT that are missing from the architectural community? For example, if we say that we want to create architecture that is serene and tranquil that integrates natural elements and thus encourages an environment for self-reflection then what type of design vocabulary and elements should we adopt, synthesize to form a cohesive whole to achieve that?
  • Can we ask students and faculty to articulate what values they stand for? Then ask how do we achieve those in real life and reflect them inbuilt forms. Can many irrelevant juxtaposed elements that celebrate disorder and chaos achieve that?
  • Can we ask students to identify the difference between visual harmony that is prevalent in nature and in ancient architecture vs. the chaos and mediocracy that are reflected inbuilt forms of today as a result of self-centred egos and total disregard of what is that we should be achieving as a whole architectural community? Examples of Greek island or old cities all over the world vs. postmodern ugly forms that make a statement that “Here I am” ( Zaha Hadid, Frank Gehry, and Rohm, etc.).

We talk lots of words about values, culture, heritage, nature as you have articulated so well but then we go and celebrate those who have total disregard for that. To show good examples could the responsibility of practicing architects who are educators too. Please show with an example to young minds. We have been creating concrete “schizoid” jungles made up of “three-dimensional ego statements through our geometric crimes” with ICI paints. I remember your CEPT thesis, “Architecture in Schizoid Environment”

Jinraj Joshipura
Friday, July 26, 2019, 5:07 AM


With regard to the questions you raise, I will need more time to think but some immediate thoughts on the questions you ask did enter my brain.

  1. Until the late 1990’s or so most businesses and professions stated and behaved as though they had some obligation to contribute to society. Not all practitioners lived up to that obligation but most did. Then some theory of business gained traction and became popular in most business schools that said the one and only obligation a business had was to "maximize return to shareholders”. Besides being short-sited, if society is not functioning well it is not likely that the goods or services a business produces will be affordable or deemed desirable. The theory of maximizing return taken to an extreme could justify robbery. So I think we need to decide again that all worthwhile businesses and professions need a functioning society to succeed long term and have an obligation to promote and help nurture it. The problem with my theory is that it is backward-looking, not forward-looking. So it’s a work in progress.
  2. As for education, the school I attended had a co-op program. We went to school for 3 months, then worked as apprentices in our profession or a related discipline for 3 months. We came out of school with useable skills but we also had a better understanding of what skills we were going to need to succeed later while we were still in school. The school was in session for 12 months but it still took us an extra year to get a degree. I think something like this only with an interdisciplinary twist is what we will need to develop more successful education programs as we move into the future.

Neal Barille
Friday, July 26, 2019, 8:45 PM


A beautiful letter to a readership I hope still exists. You are using an ethical opposition between “immeasurable values” and “measurable things”. It made me thinking about this very word “measure” itself.

We have got used to seeing this word as describing the reductive force to what is quantitatively countable. You are quoting the words for the price we are paying for every step further on that road: "impoverishing our mind, shriveling our imagination and desiccating our heart”. Heading for the desert. And you make an appeal to counteract. You have me on your side, which was already obvious, I think, although we only met once and corresponded a few times. Meanwhile, I suggest we take a second look at this phenomenon of measuring itself. Just like the word architect, which originally meant the “creator of value” before being reduced to the “principal builder”, the word “measure has been reduced from balance and moderation to the formality of it: to apply a uniform standard. From grasping something by probing it, we now check the meter. Maybe, just maybe, the inevitable collision course your words are implying, may help to rediscover the depth of our perception and reinstall the true meaning of measure, and hence of architecture, way beyond producing buildings, or even worse: the output of square meters. As the ideology of growth is about to perish, the consequences for what you and I hold dear will be huge.

There is hope. If not directly through inspiration by the lines you write, then by the truths that seeps through them.

Ole Bouman,
Monday, July 29, 2019, 3:56 PM


I graduated from Sir of the year 1961. I have gone thro' your address to the students and faculty. I found it to be very appropriate and scholarly. The whole fault lies with the faculty and also to the Management. The curriculum prepared by the various Universities is outdated and moreover, the COA is also not very keen to check the syllabi during their visits. As you correctly pointed out regarding the intakes in various Institutes. I had found it very difficult to even teach a batch of 40 students. More than that is out of the question I feel that every faculty member should read your address and at least try to that the future generation of Architects possesses an expertise in the profession. as well as in the subject of Arch.Design as per what you have stated in your address. Lastly, more emphasis is on CAD that hand sketching which you have advocated. I convey my thanks for your timely advice to the students and the faculty.

Prof V.N. Tawde, Retd.Head of Dept.Arch.from Jawaharlal Nehru Engg. College, Aurangabad
Tuesday, July 30, 2019, 10:59 AM


I feel that this process is an ongoing one, connected to many aspects of society. The whole socio-economic system encourages disproportionate consumption. As much as the curriculum and academic institutional programs, change has to happen in the hearts of individuals. Through personal example, through direct contact with each other and with students, with continuous and intense involvement with teachers, and of course using every opportunity to convey our feelings and views to laypersons, we can work to bring about a reorientation. This is what you are already doing and what I am trying in my own way. Meeting to discuss this would of course be useful, but our ongoing efforts also should go on with intensity.

Yesterday I attended a wonderful lecture by Arindam Chakravarti at Ahmedabad University. It was on "Whose Is Wealth" and used the first stanza of Ishavasya Upanishad to elucidate this. Here is the abstract:

What it says is

ईशावास्यमिदं सर्वं यत्किञ्च जगत्यां जगत् ।
तेन त्यक्तेन भुञ्जीथा मा गृधः कस्यस्विद्धनम् ॥

īśāvāsyamidaṃ sarvaṃ yatkiñca jagatyāṃ jagat |
tena tyaktena bhuñjīthā mā gṛdhaḥ kasyasviddhanam ||

The idea of ownership and the rise of greed are connected. And much of what you say is related to fragmentary selfhoods disconnected from the whole and therefore covetous, and using up the world rather than enjoying it. Anyway, this thread of thought-feeling is developing and we can participate.

Neelkanth Chhaya
Thursday, August 8, 2019, 5:59 PM