I am a delegate from the Sir J. J. School of Art—School of Architecture, Bombay, a premier government Art Institution of Western India. The School of Architecture is but a Section of this School, and is the only school of its kind in the whole of India which provides instruction and training in a systematic and graded school course to produce Architects to practise the profession, throughout the length and breadth of this wide and extensive land.
It is my desire, within the short time at my disposal, to introduce you to Architecture and indirectly to Architectural Education, with a hope that, reflecting upon the thoughts expressed, the Council of the Federation may devise ways and means for introducing the subject of Architecture in their Scheme for national education for the India of tomorrow.
I am fully aware of the fact that there are hardly any opportunities provided for general information and instruction of the public on this subject, with the result that it feels that Architecture is the subject for the esoteric few and that the public is the least concerned!
I submit, of all Arts, Architecture is the one which concerns, or must concern most mankind, since it is in relation with one of the immediate necessities of life habitation. Architecture relates to the building activity, the art of raising structures, great and small, for the growing activities of the civilized society. Architecture has had its birth out of the prime necessities of life—that of protection and shelter—and has developed into a fine art with the evolution and advance of man. Of all Arts, Architecture is one which has in the highest degree exercised the genius of man by the reasoning which is necessary for the conception of projects of an infinite variety, for their realisation and for the research of an aesthetic sensation in most of these projects. It is also the only Art which, so to speak, was created in all its parts by man. Whilst Painting and Sculpture only contemplate Nature taken as a model, it is transformed by Architecture and new forms are created and to succeed in this even new products are created. Again the painters and sculptors have but few or no co-operators; the architect, on the contrary, has a legion of them. Architecture is, therefore, a collective concern which nevertheless must interest the people if it is possible to explain to them the reasons for the interest they must bestow on it.
I am aware of the fact that majority of the people mistakenly and in ignorance believe by Architecture, mere decoration and ornamentation spread over the front facades of the buildings to make them look beautiful. But let me tell you, that as beauty in human form and figure is organic, so also is beauty in Architecture. Beauty in a building—an architectural building—arises as a composite result of a properly thought-out plan, i.e., arrangement, orientation and relation of rooms of satisfying the requirements or what is termed as “programme”; proper use of materials and straightforward method of construction. Ornament and decoration have their place in creating interest and mental and aesthetic satisfaction. But it is neither extraneous nor superfluous—something that is added on to the building to make it looks beautiful. Beauty in architecture [ … text missing … ].
There is art (or at least there ought to be art) in the selection of a site, in the distribution of a building, in its situation, in the selection of materials, in the silhouette of the whole building, in the composition of the whole façade, in the decoration of the inside and outside aspects, in the whole impression of the building upon its dweller or upon the spectator, in colour, in relief, in proportion, in material security; in a word, in everything which reveals the though of the Artist-Architect and the influence of his soul and personality on the work. You will, therefore, realise that Architecture is concerned with plan, convenience, stability and beauty and that there are other considerations—of the proposed expenditure, site and surroundings—which are no less important. Nevertheless, it is not necessary to spend large sums to have architectural buildings. A small residence, or as a matter of fact, any humble structure, can be architecturally beautiful. Please do not be under the impression that in large historical, monumental and public buildings alone you can have architecture; true, such schemes and projects give better opportunities and scope to display skill in the art of designing—to embody in an aesthetic form, to fuse into an aesthetic whole—programme, materials and construction. That is all.
I do not think it is necessary for me to stress the point—that art is not a Luxury but a Necessity. It may be admitted, that we cannot live on Art; but it should be equally borne in mind that we cannot do without Art of some sort in life. Art is ingrained into our very nature and composition as human beings. As you know, Art is an outcome of the superfluous energy in us. When we have to reach a definite destination, we walk; but when we are overjoyed, we dance; when we have to inform and to convince, we talk and argue in prose; when over-powered by emotions, we sing in poetry. And again, all our needs are not necessarily physical and material pertaining to flesh: there are spiritual and aesthetic needs, which are equally urgent. Barren, plain walls and surfaces are uninteresting and monotonous; they are required to be relieved by colour, by division, by offsets to cast shades and shadows, by decorating them with sculpture and carvings, if necessary. It is the bright tropical sun that is conducive to the development of the artistic sense in man. That is why, art and civilization earl flourished in countries like Egypt, India, China. Persia and Italy. The culture and civilization of all these countries have been embodied in the architecture of these respective countries. The point that I want to make is, that it is wrong to drive art to museums and art-galleries and that art being an integral part of our life and activities, it is from Architecture that we are better able to interpret the moral, artistic and religious character of humanity, and from a study of its buildings we can glean knowledge of the profoundest characteristics of a nation.
I think I have said just enough to give you an idea of what Architecture is and does. I will now turn to the Architect. Today, society is far advanced and the needs [ … text missing … ] add temporary ‘pandals’ for large exhibitions and for gatherings and conferences, for a large concourse of people, such as for this Conference. I do not know that your impressions are about the pandal, and the huts for housing and carrying on the various activities of this Conference but to be frank, I must say, without meaning any offence to anybody, that I feel this affair is symptomatic of the gross ignorance of the work and worth of an Architect, of lack of imagination and appreciation, of real conveniences and services, of artistic sense and beauty. I humbly suggest to the organiser of such conferences that in future if such an opportunity offers itself of having an open site for the purposes of the conference the opportunity may please be given to a competent and qualified Architect to prepare the layout and design various structures. And then you will have a practical demonstration and a lesson in visual instruction bringing home to you the realisation of what I am trying to impress on your mind by this paper of mine. You will excuse my remark and digression but it is feelingly made with good intention and in good faith. All these structures describe our activities in society, our present-day civilization. And you will all admit. I hope, to design satisfactorily buildings referred to by me, specialised knowledge and study are necessary, if they have to satisfy the needs—not merely requirements, but spiritual and aesthetic needs—that they may please, satisfy and delight the mind and add beauty and glory to the town or place to which they belong.
And friends, the Architect is the man who is specially trained to know what is called ‘designing’. The Architect, you should remember, is required to be an expert in three branches of knowledge. He should understand planning—planning in all its aspects; he should have an intimate acquaintance with, materials and construction—the nature and behaviour of materials under the various conditions of practice and with their principles and methods of employment; and he should be able to embody in an aesthetic form—to fuse into an aesthetic whole—programme, materials and construction. In a word, he should know what we call, “how to design.”
I am not exaggerating, when I say that many believe that an engineer is the man who does this work; there are others who think that it is the contractor who builds and by that mean ‘designs’ all buildings there are others still, who are of the opinion that it is a draftsman who designs—but he is really only a technician adept in the presentative technique, in delineating ideas on paper which can be read, understood and followed by those who are required to build from those drawings; but few people, if ever, know that is the Architect who designs, or more correctly, who should and ought to be entrusted to design buildings; it is his job and none else’s to design buildings, great and small, necessary for use in society.
I should have liked to describe and explain the sphere and relation of each of these people to other, especially with the Architect but I must desist the temptation for want of time. You ought, however, bear in mind the fact that an Architect, besides being the designer, is the chief directing and controlling person in a building project, the responsible man in the whole of the building affair. This means a lot and his responsibility is indeed very great. The training that he has to undergo for learning, designing and all that is necessary to practise the profession is, indeed, tedious, of infinite duration and expensive. In modern times he is required to know several things more than what I enumerated sometime before. But above all, he is required to have a cool head, genial temperament, right sense of justice and equal sense of humour, as he as to deal with various types of men with varying interests and yet to see that these various forces are combined together and unite ultimately to have the building built, for the successful completion of the project. He must, therefore be, besides being a designer, a man of good education and character, Otherwise, if these forces pull in various ways for lack of tact and ability on his part, the project will go to rack and ruin and the poor client will be doomed.
I think, I have said enough to acquaint you with the work and worth of an Architect and also to explain what architecture is.
You will have observed, that the question of whether the resultant Architecture is good or bad entirely depends on the quality of thought or idea which the building expresses, on the degree of success attained in the concrete execution of that idea. It is this element of design that is an important factor in the consideration of Architecture, for, its presence places Architecture amongst the Arts, while at the same time, the necessity for its material expression links Architecture with technical science. You will have noticed that broad general and aesthetic disposition and temperament are perquisites for one who wants to train and qualify himself as an Architect.
I have told you that Architect’s training is arduous, expensive and infinite duration, for in the artistic sense, he is a student all his life. It is indeed difficult for laymen to realise how many able individuals have to be rolled into one to produce a single great Architect! It is a sad reflection that the public has not been educated in school and university to understand that the great Architect stands atleast in the same rank as the great poet, painter, doctor or teacher. I hope I have said enough to prove that Architecture is the culmination of the efforts of the primitive man and his great achievement and that general progress and architectural progress go to simultaneously. You will now admit, I hope, that there is no art or profession which has to do so much with the general public.
I would like to add that Architecture in its widest aspects, does not treat only of buildings individually but concerns itself with the whole of townplanning, the general layout of cities and the art of making the city beautiful, convenient and consequently prosperous. You will have realised that Architecture is a homely art answering practical needs. It reflects the thought of the times. Little do people know that Architecture has got its stamp, its character and that the nation lives in its Architecture. It is admitted that one of the most potentially determining factors of human existence is the environment in which the human animal passes his time. Slum conditions will make slum dwellers, and criminal associations will create criminals. It is only the exceptions where man is superior to his environments. If this be true, it is easily demonstrable that townplanning and civic architectural activity can have in them the most potent germs for human betterment, and just as evil haphazard conditions of past generations have resulted in a terrible legacy of ill-health and crime, so the making of sanitary towns, spacious thoroughfares, hygienic, comely and seemly, if not aesthetically perfect homes, beautiful surroundings parks and open spaces of real recreative value, shall result in a better standard and tend, if only gradually, to the ennoblement of the race. It is generally accepted that mankind is extremely susceptible to the influence of environment; and good or bad environment at an early stage, may exert an almost permanent influence on the temperament and character.
Good or bad environment is not of course supplied by human contacts, by personal elements. Everything made by man is capable of being considered as an element of human environment and consequently as having its share in the total cumulative effect which environment produces. It is, therefore, of utmost importance, in any scheme for the betterment of human conditions, that every factor affecting our surroundings must be very carefully considered. The more common the factor, the greater its importance, the more potent its effect, for good or for evil. It is undeniable that of all major artificial objects, which are concerned with existence, buildings are the most common and hence the most important. The character of buildings, their quality, their service to our needs are, therefore, a matter of concern, not only to the people immediately interested in them but to the whole community at large. It is precisely at this point that the art of Architecture enters upon the scene as an active agent of public welfare. Man builds the city, so that the city may build his sons and that the city teaches the man.
Why is architecture, the petrified history of the past, not generally included in educational schemes? Architecture as the work of human hands is the result of brainpower or thought and is, therefore, more worthy of inclusion in a general education than a score of subject which have secured recognition and protection. Study of Architecture is necessary to a complete understanding of history and gives an added interest to trave. The works of man as presented in Architecture form a lithic history and indicate the social condition of the people of bygone days, thus linking it inseparably with history. While drawing and painting are included in the School curricula, what is wrong with Architecture that it is not included, or a sufficient knowledge of it imparted, to enable the young student to appreciate the art of our city and streets?
I repeat what I said in 1938 in Bombay at the All-India Educational Conference: Has the subject ever been thought of or considered by educational authorities? I believe it is high time that this subject of Architecture—What is Architecture, how it is the crux of civilization, its scope and sphere, its civic importance from the standpoint of good citizenship—is lectured upon first to the teachers under training, they will be able to apply that knowledge in history lesson, geography, civics and other subjects as well.
I feel it will be very beneficial to infuse the element of Architecture into the general matter to be taught in secondary schools without making it the object of a separate course of lessons. For this purpose it will be necessary to divert to a greater extent the teaching of the history of wars and of politics of the nation towards that of their various stages of politics of the nation towards that of their various stages of civilization by characterising them by their stages in Architecture without, however, separating this characteristic element from the most salient features of manners, customs and social institutions of each of them. It is possible, to my mind, also to alter the direction in the teaching of geography in the same sense. The teacher can open the mind of his young students by speaking to them of the general beauties of the buildings which can be seen or visited by all. He should not limit himself to a burst of admiration in the presence of superior Works of Art, but he should attract attention to some modest building; if in a country or mofussil town before a barn, for example (of course if there is one) by trying to analyse the work to an extent that of course his young students can understand. He will say, for instance, first what is its use, the reasons of its particular shape, the reason of its timberwork, of its roofing, of the materials used in the construction, etc., so as to leave on the mind something more than a vague, and in consequence, fugitive impression. On another occasion he should take his pupils to visit a school building, provided it is really a good architectural building—or a temple, say, preparing them in this manner for more extensive education in the future.
It is not for me to multiply such examples. I am sure this would open up new vistas and avenues of thought, and study of architecture in a general way is bound to give additional importance to otherwise historical dates and geographical ground-work of elementary and secondary school training.
I do not think, that it will take long for you to be convinced that this hiatus in education requires to be removed as early as possible. Finally, I would conclude that as the Art which shelters us from the elements and with which we come in daily contact—as the Art which gives a home and enshrines and illuminates the most sacred for associations, and lastly, as the Mother of all the Arts—Architecture is certainly worthy to be included in the curricula of a general education. I have done.