The necessity of a cultural paradigm responsive to the majority

Architecture has been characterised as the ‘grandmother of the arts’. The buildings we inhabit and the monuments we create are perhaps the most permanent examples of our culture.

In India, we have a legacy of some of the finest examples of architecture and human settlement design spread over centuries. To complement the great public monuments, there is the rich and varied expression of the dwellings and public places of the ordinary folk, organically evolved out of the extraordinary environmental diversity of the sub-continent. This diversity is apparent physically - from the high mountains, to huge river basins, to the great Thar desert, to extensive coastal plains, to the highlands of the Deccan, to the lush rain forests of the North-East, including the off-shore island groups of the Andaman and Nicobar as well as Lakshadweep. The geographic diversity is coterminous with a cultural plurality which has produces a wealth of indigenous building types. This is an important part of our cultural heritage and a great resource for understanding the symbols of our collectivity, which are a critical source of inspiration to generate our built environment.

Today, with almost a hundred of architectural schools in the country, training a new generation of professionals to direct the future of our built environment, it is surprising to note the pedagogic content and course material in these schools. The architectural programme is derived in a large measure from experience of the industrial enterprise of the 19th and early 20th century. What has been neglected is the essential relationship between materials and energy, which raises the life-sustaining configurations realized through technologies appropriate to the amelioration of the human condition. This is resulting in an unfortunate poverty of ideas and inspiration occurs, reflected in the ugliness of contemporary architecture and the chaos of our cities. The price of a better life in the next century is therefore in danger of being denied.

It is proposed to hold a symposium on 'New directions of architectural education — the necessity of a cultural paradigm responsive to the majority'. The symposium would bring together architects, teachers and researchers in arts and culture from different parts of the country, as well as one or two researchers in architectural education from abroad to discuss and formulate new approaches based on a cultural paradigm. The symposium is proposed to be held in New Delhi from 3rd to 5th April, 1999. Sponsorship is being sought initially from ICCR, the British Council and HUDCO.