Dear Sir,

I have just discovered that a rare miracle has occurred, as the Council of Architecture (CoA) India has now a practising architect at the helm!!

It is almost an anomaly for to see things going right for architects since a while now, but as this queer twist of fate has occurred, that too at an hour of crisis, I can’t help myself sending you an SOS as a citizen who is suffering a lawless real estate and construction sector.

If I summarise the current state of affairs, architecture that was once conceived as a profession by Indian parliament through the enactment of Architects Act, 1972 has now become a business that can be done by any Amar, Akbar and Anthony. The net result is, the nation has lost its only moral guardian who was statutorily designed (and expected) to stand up for the greater good using this empowerment in a sector that has huge social importance.

Thanks to various litigations, the architect that the parliamentarians who had enacted Architects Act must have hoped for is now almost dead, and that is got me worried as a citizen of a nation that is on the verge of building like never before.

As I want my architect back at this hour of catharsis of India, to ensure that builders and developers are forced to build well-designed buildings that aren’t just constructed to make money but are also aligned to societal and human needs.

I want my architect back and empowered, to stop the lawlessness in construction that has turned our cities into chaotic nightmares that rob millions of people a quality of life they deserve as human beings.

And I think you can do it if you try. And if you want, we will be blamed by coming generations to have constructed a third world country instead of a first-world nation.

As there is a way forward that I want you to consider.

Sir, the first, foremost but toughest task for a president of CoA should be to bring architects together to stand up for themselves, but I am not too optimistic for that as architects, probably by the very nature of their training, are unable to herd together and be a united front that can stand up, so I would leave that in a wish list (as an optimist) and suggest some simple and executable ideas for your kind consideration.

I suggest that first thing you must do is to ensure that CoA starts engaging meaningfully and directly with the engineers to resolve a completely unnecessary war that CoA has initiated through the “Conditions of Engagement and Scale of charges” since ages.

If there is one single reason behind self-destruction CoA has brought upon the profession of architecture, it is a completely unsustainable claim that architects can render engineering services, especially structural engineering.

Various litigations (that have undermined the profession now to a level that all that architects are left with is a meaningless right to use the word “architect” and nothing more) have happened because CoA, probably blinded by self-imagined empowerment due to having Architects Act (while engineers are still without Engineers Act), has tried usurping the turf from engineers.

If you want to save the profession of architecture and also have the world looking at your claim to exclusivity seriously, you need to approach the engineers (and courts if need be) with a clean hand by purging out the claims about architects having the competence to provide engineering services from the “Conditions of Engagement and Scale of charges” from the CoA’s manual of professional practice.

Though it may be a bit too late now, as a person who is watching India making some dramatic changes, I still feel that it is possible to sit with engineers and find an amicable division of scope, and hence I have one more suggestion for you to consider.

As the first requirement for resolving the conflict is to define architectural services in a manner that architects don’t trade on the toes of engineers, I propose a division in scope for both that can also be practically tested even by a court of law if need be.

The simplest division can be proposed from a reasonable claim that “Architecture” is “Integration of Human Needs” with a building, while “Engineering“ is “Integration of Technologies” with a building.

It is possible to verify this claim by looking at the focus of curriculums of both branches, as architects are primarily trained to understand human and social needs, while engineers are primarily trained to understand technologies and their applications.

With this definition in mind, if CoA accepts the idea of “team” based approached as proposed (mostly by engineers) in National Building Code, it is still possible to get a “first amongst the equals” status for architects due to a fair claim that humans are more important in a building than technologies and hence, any decision where architects and engineers have a conflict, architect must have a right to prevail upon the engineer’s decision (ps: only in a building or parts therein that is used by humans).

If we take a simple example of such a conflict where a structural engineer may find that the most efficient structural design of a staircase is when the headroom under the stair is 1.5 meters, it must be overruled by the architect who would have to stand up for the human need of having a headroom exceeding 1.8 meters.

So, in a situation where engineering optimisation is not suitable for human use, humans must get priority through their representative in a “team” that is designing a building, i.e. the architect.

If you start a discourse with engineers on these lines and start building confidence on both ends, it is possible for both the brothers in arms to come together and fight a common battle on behalf of the citizens of India who need to have resurrection of empowered professionals from both the branches to curb the rising market forces driven by the greed of builders and contractors who are not interested in anything but the profit they can make.

Sir, if you can start this much-needed process of peace-making with engineers, a lot more issues (eg. Liability sticking to architects in case of the collapse of a building thanks to CoA-claimed ability to design structures) will get resolved and India can have both the professions working in cohesion for building a better future.

We need our architect and we need our engineer too, and this would be possible only when both of you stop fighting and come together for the sake of building a better, safer and more habitable India.

– A citizen who just has a simple wish to live in a safer home and a safer city