A reply to Shirish Beri's Open Letter dated 25th July 2019, "Can Architecture of Goodness be Taught?"  by Architect Sudipto Ghosh.

Great hearing from you. Surprisingly and happily on the subject, I did not expect you to.

It appears there is a new season of people asking questions not only on the architecture profession but also on education. But I will not load you now with all that as I want you to see and read what I am saying on the subject-- very much in sync with your feelings and thinking.

I obviously agree with what you are saying. And my way of agreeing is to share with you the enclosed keynote address I delivered a few years ago at the launch of the centenary celebration of the architect Laurie Baker. Besides introducing Laurie Baker as more than a people-focused and local context-sensitive architect in whose work sustainability was not just a consideration but an innate feature, the speech analyses the architects, architecture profession, architecture practice, and architecture education in India. Please find time to glance through it. And to give you a glimpse of what I am saying, let me give you three quotes here.  

1. “In a manner of speaking, Mr. Baker is to the local architecture what Mahatma Gandhi was to India’s freedom struggle.  Both lead to liberation, both believed in simplicity, both drew their strategies from the culture and tradition of the place, both had a vision of the society they served, and both had implicit faith in the common people and their wisdom.  Mr. Baker is a true leader in the field which has hardly produced a leader of a merit. His contribution and inspiration are not in the form of technology or style alone. It is in the form of change of mindset, in the philosophy of work, and in the attitude to architectural design, practice and problem-solving. He made architecture belong to the place-- to the soil, to culture, to tradition and, most importantly, to the local people. And that is no small contribution in a country where architecture in the hands of foreign trained and influenced architects is losing its roots, and where alienation—alienation from the people, from the roots, from tradition, from culture, from climate and from soil – is the order of the day.  And, in a way, it is a paradox as Mr. Baker was a foreigner.”

2. “Let me clarify that I have no quarrel with architecture. And I believe that  Architecture as a subject, as an art form, as a science, as a Shashtra, is too big and ancient to be treated with anything but respect and pride. But the architecture profession, as perceived and practiced now, certainly needs a rethink, a paradigm shift. The multiple crises that include energy, water, space, resources, ecology, governance, values, etc.; the new technologies, changing social equations and emerging realities in the globalizing cities make it imperative that the architects re-educate and re-equip themselves.  Both de-learning and re-learning are called for.” 

Moreover, a degree of de-professionalization of the conventional professional, in terms of the attitudinal shift, client choices, and priorities, is a necessary part of the change. 

3. “Architecture is a noble profession. In the hands of its conscientious practitioners, it is a medium to serve the people and also the environment. “Service” is the word. It combines both art and science. Culture and technology are its pillars. It is a vehicle to translate ideas and dreams into reality.  It embraces both: reality and vision, creativity and practicality. It has been there since the dawn of civilization and will always be there. However, the way it is perceived and practiced, it needs to move from the monuments to people,  from magazine pages to practical lives,  from the elite to the common people, from top to bottom and from the pedestal to the ground. That would take nothing away from its hallow, its mystique, and its nobility. It will only be richer.” 

The idea is not only to analyze and present. It is to do something about things one feels strongly. We are working on possibilities.

Thanks and regards
Kirtee Shah