Built Environment Design needs visionary regulatory system

Generally speaking, professionals are engaged in activities that benefit and protect public health, safety and welfare. For this reason, the professionals enjoy special recognition, respect and faith in society. The professional opinion holds ground in legal, administrative and other public interest matters. To protect society as well as the professions from quacks and chaltons, professions are regulated and monitored through professional bodies and governmental agencies formed under statutory acts of parliament/legislation. A professional serves people by performing his profession with delegation. A professor professes excellence to professionals. Integrity, ethical reliability, academics, research and excellence go hand in hand for performance of a profession to meet the expectations of the society. Professional regulatory and monitoring acts and agencies, therefore take holistic view of this entire network. The scope, objectives, definitions, specific goals of services provided by the profession, implementation structure with clear powers of each regulating and monitoring agency, avoiding duplication, loopholes or vagueness. The recent trends of globalisation would have common interests. At the same time these may also clash with local and regional interests and laws. Also, each country, zone or local place has its own ecology, history, culture, traditions and psyche, unique to itself as undercurrents below the surface commonalities. Globalisation in true sense operates as “Glocalisation” (Global + Local). Built Environment design professions have non-design team members, who often form majority group such as consultants, client, public interest organisations, real estate developers, builders, financiers, politicians, journalists and critics. There is an inherent expectation, therefore that professional expertise of design professionals is to some extent technically defined and articulated from its other accompanying fellowmen.

Professions are universally holistic (interdisciplinary)

Professional concern for health, safety and welfare, interestingly has similar understanding in western traditions as in the vedic understanding of the Upa Vedas. Parallels are found in traditional European architectural guilds from ancient Greek, Roman, Egyptian traditions, similar to Vedic and Chinese systems in built environment designs. The Upa Vedas deal with public health where human health, safety and welfare are considered as a holistic concept. It includes Clinical health, Environmental health and Aesthetic health. These are interactive man-ecosystem, psycho-sematic and metabolic relationships. Ayurveda (medical science) relates to clinical or metabolic health, Sthapaya veda relates to environmental health, Gandharva veda with Aesthetic health and Dhanurveda – science and technological processes of interphasing man with eco-cosmo systems through “Mantra” or conceptualisation, “Yantra” or instrumentation, and “Tantra” or Management systems and administration. So, Dhanurveda forms part of each of the other as a tool or a vehicle since it deals with techniques, technologies, etc. Each one within its well defined realm and practice, yet interdisciplinary in information and knowledge applications. Scope of Sthapaya Veda is defined by “Ashtanga Vastu” or the eightfold habitat scales. In contemporary interpretation, these would be : apparel and product design, interior design, building design (Architecture), Urban design, housing, landscape design, urban planning and Environmental (regional) planning. The contemporary practice to replace the word “Architecture” with “Environmental design” is similar to Ashtanga Vastu concept. Plant materials of Herbology from Ayurveda relate to landscape design for health, Geo-energy grids to relate to human bio-energy, siting and site planning (sthapana) coordinates with environmental elements and magnetic fields of earth, total environmental experiencing with five senses through the matrix of sequential movement within the functional spaces, (Audial, Touch, Visual, Smell & movement). Sensitivisation through co-ordinated planning of Panchatatva -five elements (space, air, light, water, earth), Panchaprakriya – five processes (communication, movement, work, discard and create) and Panchakosha – five mental states (material, emotional, intelligent, ambient energies and joy). Gandharva Veda may be compared with the concept of seven arts in the West. Music, dance, poetry, painting, sculpture, theatre and architecture – music being pure, each following art is inclusive of the previous. Thus, Architecture is inclusive of overall aesthetic experience of all other six arts. The eight moods (Rasa), the proportioning systems, colours, textures, etc. – the visual transforms from Audial equivalents from music. The language of design is communicated by the universal system of six communicative rules : Phonetics, Etymology, Rituals, Matrix, and space-time co-ordinates (Astronomy) Geometry (Shad Vedanga). This apply to all human activities. Enough to convey that the occidental systems have parallels and similarities with oriental or Vedic. Human health, safety and welfare are universal holistic systems. Whether medical or built environment design, perceptual sensitivity, conceptual articulation and ability to experience holistic all encompassing results of the professional service are common concerns.

Aesthetic Dimensions in Environmental Design

Aesthetics does not mean beauty or ornamentation such as applied cosmetics to building or to built environment. Aesthetic is a sense of completeness. It does not necessarily deal with right, proper or good. Environment is perceived by all the five senses and beyond. Aesthetic experience is an integrated whole. It relates to contexts of place, situation and purpose. It may be derived out of sensing as culturally inherent dimension, emerging out of evolution of eco-culture – a genetic subconscious memory of experiences, or, for a modern man, a cultivated conscious sensitivity through learning. Architectural environment always have inherent purpose, program and assigned symbolic meaning to mediate. There are three aspects of sensory aesthetics:

  • Sensory Aesthetics : Pleasurable sensations (Bored or aroused)
  • Formal Aesthetics : Appreciation of forms and rhythms (Intelligent aesthetics)
  • Symbolic Aesthetics : Positive or negative attitudes to symbolic meanings and associations. (Emotional Engagement)

Modern neuropsychological studies in 20th Century have shown that all the three aesthetic sensations/experiences need to be satisfied and have balanced input. Limbic systems deal with emotional responses and biological needs. For example, exotic, bright, colours, glitter, beats, rhythm, giganticism, massiveness (scale), repeated rhythmic patterns --- are all the arsenals of a responsible and knowledgeable designer. Environmental stimuli of all the three types generate aesthetic impulse by careful design. However, we are aware that the preferences of a scholar may or would vary from popular (pop) or the folk people or contexts. (The new brain-old brain syndrome). Whether Broadway at New York (by night), Disney world, a temple or a church, a toilet-bedroom or a work place. It is not only a visual imagery, it is architectural aesthetic experience of a sanctity, of mood, of a complete being – an experience of unity with the inner, the metabolic and the environmental (extended) self, designed consciously towards all the three zeroing into psycho-sematic wave length of the user and the built environment as per the context of specific function. There is enough know how researched in these aspects of aesthetics in maths, geometry, design, the geo-bio energy systems, and medical professions. All the arsenals, knowledge and sensing developed from the six arts, the eight rasas, the six communicating rules etc. transcend to architectural creation relevant to functional and environmental contexts case by case.

Professional Ethics in the Design Professions

Design is a value loaded profession. Ethics does not necessarily deal with right, proper or good, it is neither just a rule book. It is developing and maintaining a state of mind for ethical reasoning fundamental to the context of professional service, case-by-case, in the best public interest ahead of one’s own, and where situation demand, even that of our client, of a given project. This attitude also applies as much in favour of the profound ecological and physical realities of this fragile and finite world on whose health we so much depend. All this demand skill, methodology, intelligence and participation of others. Ethical professional service is a conscious and informed effort to perceive, to access and to reconcile, prioritise through decision process, many competing and often conflicting “good, right and proper” ideas or ways through the reasoned weightage of options, so that we can offer professional decisions/options. Environmental design decisions have immediate to long range effects which last for decades or centuries. A strong leadership quality to convince the public agencies, people’s organisations or a personal client about reasoned long range visionary foresight and phased corrective alternatives, in case of deviations in future, demands a different perception of professional ethics for designers. Ethics, the word is rooted in the Greek “Ethos” referring to character, disposition or moral conduct. Society expects from professionals of being trustworthy, respectful, responsible, fair, caring (not benevolent gifts! It is caring for pains and joy of others) and citizenship. These individual qualities need to be prioritised as per the contexts of projects case-by-case.

The inbuilt wasted interests within the non-professional team members of the built environment design team become the first and the greatest challenge to the designer in sustaining the ethical professional standards.

So far, we have been dwelling in the professional meanings and ideals. (We assume, all being fine and favourable etc!) A broad and quick glimpse of ground realities in India of 20th century that preceded us in built environment design professions and education would provide us a base to consider a take off for the future directions. For the purpose of developmental attitudes, 20th century India may be broadly seen in two halfs. The British Colonial Rule for the first half and the Democratic Republic of India in the second half.

The changing and expanding contexts of Architectural Practice in India

The official architecture of the British Colonial rule was preoccupied entirely with the imposing heroics and stylisation of the European revivalism to suppress the pride of the natives. The architects worked for the rulers. The initial two decades of the post independent India were not far different. Except that the new heroics was lead by Le Corbusier and Luis I. Kahn on the modernist heroics of monumental classical scales, in the “International” architectural idioms of the industrial era. Immediately after Independence, during the 50s and 60s, India was busy building its civic architecture of “The Socialistic Democratic Republic”. The Indian architects trained at Paris, Great Britain and USA returned to follow the great international masters. Besides this international rendousvous, Nehru also experimented with the Indian traditional motifs attached to contemporary architectural “rationale” (Supreme Court, Ashoka Hotel, Vidan Saudha, Vigyan Bhavan, etc.). However, this was the period of architectural symbolism with “classical notions”. But there after, we find that with progression of each decade, the profession gets closer to the people’s aspirations and environmental conservation.

The Democracy was growing. The next two decades, the sixties and the seventies, saw growth of apex institutions, University campuses, Urban Housing, cinema halls. The seventies to the eighties saw concerns for energy and environmental conservation, large metropolitan and city business district developments. The nineties saw the focus shifting to development of small and medium towns, rural development, universal primary education and health. Amendments 73 and 74 to the constitution (1991) provided right to the rural and urban people to participate, initiate, plan and implement local interest projects. This has opened new professional dimension to advocacy planning and community architecture. Environmental N.G.O. is an added form of practice. In the same, decade, there has been parallel developments such as liberalisation on the industrial and fiscal front, digital technology and concerns for sustainable developments, besides heritage conservation etc. These later developments are breaking national barriers, changing architectural practice modes. Today we have highly involved and intricate practice modes from the high tech and universal environmental global standards, “The glocal” issues national, regional, rural, eco-environmental, heritage concerns – several fronts. Each on a large scale, each demanding total involvement and specialisation. Each of the last five decades have seen major expansion and changes in built environment design, planning and technology practices.

We observe that in the Indian contexts, the scope of development increases every 5 to 10 years, due to our planned developmental policies. Each central, state, international funding agencies, private and public corporate bodies have program projects under various ministry departments. Each project have certain percentage of the budgets for buildings and built environment. (for example, the primary and secondary education sector has 24% of the total expenditures on building component of the project). In India, of all the projects, 80% of works come from governmental and public corporate bodies. The gross national expenditure runs into billions of crores. The I.I.A. can arrange with some agency to publish a regular news letter covering these project details. There are also regular project research fundings under various ministries besides research grants, related to these projects.

The growth of the schools of Architecture in deep and small towns and rural belts has created larger awareness. Today about 30 urban centres have each more the 100 architects. The rest of 40% of registered architects (16000) are established in about 300 small towns. Some of the I.I.A. sub-centres in all the states have only 10-15 architects collected from 3-4 surrounding mandi towns.

From Architectural heroics and stylisation of the colonial period, today architecture and physical planning are closely associated with the socio-economic development plans of India affecting out built and physical environments and ecosystems. From our colonial bias, we are getting closer to our social & environmental bias towards regional, rural, small towns and city living landscape. There are also conscious and informed efforts to indigenise our developments by people’s partnership and participation through legislation as well as administrative and professional efforts. Though, it is just a beginning. Environmental Design and planning has got to be better organised and recognised as inseparable aspect of socio-economic planning. Only then the fruits of developments can be transformed into joyful habitats.

Dr. M. M. Joshi, the ex-education minister has predicted that after the I.T. flush, the next is going to be demand for the design disciplines.

Institutions of Architectural Education in India since 1850

We have no records on the traditional formal “Gurukula” or formal institutions in the Indian traditional schools of sthapatya or Vastu Vidya during last 200 years, except that this knowledge has been passed on from generation to generation as family secret. Though, there has been records of well documental tretise on different schools and methodology on built environment design all over the country.

From 1850 to date, Institutions of Architectural Education have developed in four types of associational biases, all of them based on European/Western architectural thought processes.

The Schools of Art and Architecture during the British Period

During the British Colonial rule from Mid 19th C to Mid 20th C, the architectural agenda of the government was to generate architecture to express imposing colonial power. The European classical and Gothic revivalism, Indo-Sarasanic and similar western styles were imported and developed to the Indian contexts. Several British architects settled down in India to practice official architecture of the colonial civic and public buildings in British India, as well as, for few of the major princely states, subordinate to the colonial power. Indian artists, illustrators and draftsmen were trained in reproduction of European classical art and ornamental motifs, wood cuts and linographs. Madras School of Industrial Arts, Madras (1850) Government College of Arts, Calcutta (1854), Sir J. J. College of Arts, Bombay (1857). Sir J. J. College of Arts started diploma program on Architectural draftmanship in 1910. Later, the schools of Arts and Architecture were also established at Baroda, Hyderabad and Lucknow by the respective princely states. Baroda incorporated technology also, as the Maharaja perceived the three disciplines in integrated and holistic unity for human environmental and aesthetic health, security and welfare. The Indian Institute of Architects was established in 1920. It was affiliated to The Royal Institute of British Architects in the year 1925. 1920 saw firms of chartered architects of the native Indian architects in Bombay. In 1944, Department of Architecture was established at Delhi Polytechnic. This was an exception to the British trend of Art and Architecture. Young A. P. Kanvinde, Habib Rehman, M. M. Rana and others taught here in the early phase.

The Post Independence Developments

Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru perceived science and engineering sciences as vehicles to lead India towards international socio-economic equality. He saw physical planning and habitat design as ultimate morphosis of socio-economic developments. As a historian, he knew architecture as a continuing documentation of changing cultures and civilisations in the layers of time. However, he clearly knew difference between Engineering Sciences, Technology and Habitat Design.

The Autonomous holistic schools of Architecture

In 1952, School of Planning was established at New Delhi. Two years later in 1954, Department of Architecture was shifted from Delhi Polytechnic and The School of Planning and Architecture was established as an autonomous institution fully financed by the Central Ministry of Education. The School has developed into a comprehensive Built Environment Design and planning apex institution with U.G., P.G. and Ph.D programs. These are product design, architecture, urban design, landscape architecture, architectural conservation, physical planning, housing, urban planning, rural planning wing, Regional planning and environmental planning. Among 111 schools of Architecture, about 25% of them are broadly under this model. Only 4 of them have developed to a reasonable growth of design and planning disciplines.

The Design School and Technology combination institutions

About the same time, Sir Biren Mukherji, a leading industrialist from West Bengal, he was Chairman of Bengal Engineering College and also the Chairman of the National Commission on Technology & Engineering Education Poilicy in India. His wife Madam Ranu Mukherji, a much respected artist and aesthetician of repute. She visualised Nehru’s passion for Engineering Sciences, technology, Architecture and physical planning as interdisciplinary interactive realities. Where technology would benefit from architecture in humanised attitude towards natural resources in technological interventions. Also appreciate concern for state of art attitude in engineering products. Architecture, on the other hand, would interact with technologies in building and environmental performance efficiencies, and, mathematical and geometrical inputs in aesthetic perfectionism. Thus, the Departmental of Planning and Architecture was added to Bengal Engineering College at Howrah in 1949. In 1952, in the same year when SPA was established at New Delhi as an autonomous institution, the first among the I.I.T. was established at Kharagpur. It included Department of Architecture and Regional Planning. Thereby, two apex national institutions of excellence in Architecture and Planning were established in 1952 under two different models. The Architecture Technology associations are followed at almost 75% of the architectural institutions in India.

It may be noted that the intention of the National Commission was to include Planning and Architecture as parallel independent program. It can be observed from the fact that the degrees in planning or architecture are nomenclated as “B.Arch”, “M.Arch”, “M.C.P.”, etc different from “B.Tech” or “M.Tech” of the technology streams. The two programs are associated together and not inclusive as part of Technology. Both being distinct and independent disciplines. However, the bureaucracy while structuring the I.I.T. Kharagpur departments, called Architecture and Planning also as one of the departments. Thus, the stereotype engineering administration has been imposed over the environmental design and planning programs, wherever this model is adopted. One should realise from the SPA model that planning and architecture develop into 8 to 10 departments just as technology has 12 to 16 departments. In the year 2001, AICTE declared Planning and Architecture as independent Faculty, separate in all respect from Engineering faculties. The instructions to implement this decision are circulated to all the institutions and the universities every year since 2001, as part of the inspection report. This should mean separate BOS, principal or director, governing body and the word “Department” be replaced with School, College or Institute of Built Environment Design, Planning and technologies. So that, it can have potential to grow into a full design and planning disciplines. The issue of duplication of AICTE and COA also needs to be resolved in favour of Architecture and Planning education.

The Design School and liberal Education combination

In the recent past, architecture is also associated with liberal education and Home Science, as at Coimbatore, under the leadership of Late Dr. Rajammal Devdas, a doyen among the female education crusaders after Late Karve and periyar.

Today, the Built Environment Design disciplines operate in four different allied discipline association. This is a healthy development for the holistic discipline of Habitat design and technology. What is lost today is the passion, vision and liberal outlook of Nehru, Mdm. Mukherji or Dr. R. Devdas of interdisciplinary joint programs of courses development, research and project coordinations in the allied interdisciplinary curricular programs towards joyous and healthy habitat environment. In the 1960s, the author participated at the I.I.T. Kharagpur in interdepartmental courses development on building anatomy, architectural design methodology, morphology in architecture, etc. Today, after 35 years of the early initiations, each of these have grown into a positive international research fields.

The Architectural Education in India

The Built Environment Design professions are inclusive of all that is life, living, human aspirations and activities. It deals with man and nature interactive relationships. The sage author of “Aparajita Prchchha” says “architecture began with the beginning of this universe”. In India our schools are in different academic associations. Liberal education, arts, technology and autonomous environments. The Council of Architecture norms recognises this and provides for liberal individual personality development of each school. Geographically, India contains each of the global geo-climatic zone, it has variety of traditions, above all, we have seen that we have large and varied practice zones. Such a situation demands intense academic involvement.

The number of Schools of Architecture in India has grown from 4 in 1947, 12 in 1972, 50 in 1991 and 111 in 2004, with the total capacity to produce about 4500 graduate architects each year. Almost 60% of these are located in small towns and cities. 50% of the schools are added in the last decade. Barring a few, most of our institutions display rather casual attitude. The prevailing attitude, at their best, is that they believe that having mastered manipulating building forms, they are equipped to tackle almost any problem associated with the built environment or the citizens in general. It is certain to find in most schools, a general vagueness in almost any course or studio delivery. Whether curriculum planning, studio project programming, the contents in lecture programs of the course work, lack of definitions of Building elements or articulation of design issues, lack of co-ordination (generally absent) of tests and assignments of various subjects or even intelligent interactive discussions among the faculty and students on the allied issues. There is hardly any challenge to students that would generate passion, involvement and interest. The early and mid 20th C heroics and sporadic, heuristic impulsive design attitude still prevails. The environmental lab, the model making lab, the construction yard, etc still remain on the COA inspection check list. Where these are shown as existing, we have yet to see appropriate instruments, the weekly time table of specific experiments, lab journals, or, any architectural qualitative design simulation labs where students can “sense” different light qualities or sound & touch qualities, about which they often listen or read. Today, in the 21st century, we cannot assure our users on passive thermal behaviour or environmental control systems of the built spaces to suit different psychosomatic moods. (very rare exceptions apart). The computer labs are layered over the 1910 manual drafting studios. Many universities have rules that ban use of computer graphics in B.Arch. Thesis drawings. More than 70 years ago Le Corbusier said “house is a machine for man to live in”. We do not know how to control this machine! Our Q.I.P. programs are dull monologues of “Expert resource persons” teaching teachers what, and the way, they already teach!! The Architects’ Act has conceived the Council of Architecture as only a policing agency without any encouraging activity, what so ever. The Architects Act needs amendments to encourage our schools in measurable inputs. Our inspectors need training and education in ability to see the potential line of development for each school within their contexts and aspirations case by case. The National Accreditation Programs are yet to pick up with Architecture and Planning schools/departments.

The interesting aspect of Architectural curricula in India is that these have been in additive layers in last 150 years. Much conflict is built within the colonial and the later developments of open contextual design processes. The roots of our curricula lie in the British colonial period of Art and Architecture schools of 19th century. This core is layered over the time by the R.I.B.A. norms during the 1925-50 period, followed by the ethos of Ecole de beaux arts, Bauhaus, the gospels of the great masters of the 20th C Europe and USA ; all these brought to India by the groups of young foreign return Indian architects during the 50s – 60s. Later the concerns for Eco-friendly architecture, energy conservation, heritage conciousness, barefoot architects of appropriate technologies, sustainable transition etc also got added. The qualified B.Arch graduates are the products of layered additive curriculum of the last 150 years. Whatever academic associations they may belong to; the Art & Architecture, the techno architects, the liberal education base or the holistic autonomous base – put what lable you like, the education and training contents and methodology do not vary much. The impact of Macoley’s “Three “Rs” dominates even design programs where the three “Hs” ought to be emphasised. Whether History, construction or building sciences, it is the power of memory rather than method and application. Our university exam systems are still colonial where distrust for teacher prevails. In their eagerness on not to miss any new jargons for the age old realities, almost all the schools miss out on the Basic discipline of Design language, and joy of contextual ambiance. In absence of any developed line of thought, it is interesting to find that, to retain freedom of thought, other intelligencia may “Agree to Disagree”. Architects most of the time “Disagree to Agree”!!

Research in Architecture and allied fields started in about mid 60s. Architects are generally avert to research. However, majority of architects in India are young (25-35 age group form 50% and 35-45 age group 20% totalling 70% of the total registered architects). They have graduated after 1975 because 90% of the schools in India started only after that year. The period since when in Europe and USA, architecture entered the era of “Design Science”. Some practicing architects in India have done Ph.D after 20-30 years of practice. Some are deeply research oriented in their works. But most of the senior teachers are undergoing Ph.D programs more under the job compulsions rather than the joy of unfolding the knowledge or the misteries designers face everyday. Though the researching attitude is picking up, it still is less than the proverbial tip of the iceberg.

In view of sudden increase of architectural institutions, the Council should urgently consider setting up of Teachers training and Research development institute. The mode of our Q.I.P. programs need serious introspection. Under the present scenario of architectural academy, the essential aspect of Academics to lead the profession through regular continuing education programs, research etc are to be addressed by those few institutions which are comparatively better established. Also, the new schools, wherever individual talents are spotted, research projects should be encouraged.

The Council of Architecture should enter a new era beyond just policing and punishing schools and focus on positive development at all levels. Definitions of Architecture, Architectural Practice, Architectural Education, Curriculum Programming, learning teaching processes, research development in core and allied fields, Design language, extension programs. Almost every aspect needs to be reviewed. The proposal once made by the President of COA (in 1999) on setting up Indian Council for Architectural Research and Training needs to be implemented.

The three groups “practising architecture” in India

  1. The qualified B.Arch graduates of the schools recognised by the COA.
    It is quite logical to license only those who are trained qualified under the recognised schools of Architecture by the COA or the open education programs of the Indian Institute of Architects. But at the same time, since these schools have yet to establish the level and appropriateness of built environment services to the society, the Council should set up a central, yet liberal, institution that would constantly watch, introspect, guide, advise towards contextual aspects of Architectural services case by case to specific schools according to their potentials in this constantly growing and deepening discipline of Environmental Health, Security and Welfare.
  2. The Civil Engineers practising Building Design
    We have observed that the British architects were employed for all major colonial civic buildings. They also worked for the larger princely states to design certain selected civic buildings, palaces, etc. The army engineers of the East India Company (1840) and later the P.W.D. (1862) engineers during the colonial period undertook design, planning and construction of all cantonments, service buildings and utility public buildings. The British ruled from the presidency and district HQs. They employed architectural draftsmen and tracers trained at the British Art and Architecture schools to assist them.YThis system has been inherited by the post Independence era. But now it has grown from the state down to district, development blocks, panchayat offices and all urban municipalities. Engineers are practicing building designs all over from the apex state capital to the deep down villages. The increasingly rigid conventions of corporate controlled design with narrow rationalisation of standard type patterns from Kashmir to Kanya Kumari and Jamnagar to Kohima. The colonial technocracy has strongly ramified the techno bureaucratic system of Independent India. The tussle between the engineers and architects to control built environment design process in India has been an ongoing saga since last two centuries. The latest being the claim to the title of Architects and right of licence to practice architecture, a legal case filed by a group of engineers at Allahabad High Court in the recent past. All over the country, all the government and public corporate public works offices have on their approved list the engineers and even illiterate petty contractors as architects. They greatly out number the statutory registered architects. It is important to note here that the I.I.A.’s open education programs are available to all, including the Engineers to qualify to practice Architecture. Today, only 8% of the licenced architects in the country are employed at government and public corporate offices when the government generates 80% of the entire building projects in the country.
    This group of practitioners are the forerunners of appallingly fallen standards of the building construction specifications and the built environmental degradations, so much below the basic human dignity that all over the rural belts of India, the 1984-86 government reports show that almost 85 to 90% of buildings – whether the schools or houses that were built, people have not even occupied them. In the urban scenario, these terribly built spaces are occupied under compulsions of urban shortages.
  3. The traditional Vastukars, Sthapaties and Raj Mistries
    554 native princely states, subservient to the British, ruled 40% of the Indian land. Barring 10-12 major principalities such as Baroda, Hyderabad, Mysore, etc, the rest of them were the city states and small serfdoms. Except the colonial monumental civic buildings or for the major princely states where the British architects were commissioned, or, the other British establishments done by the PWD engineers, all over the country, small towns and the princely states, the Raj Mistries, Sthapaties, Vastukars of traditional Indian origin practiced architecture and settlement planning. They worked for local common people, chieftains, merchants, nobles. The great Havelies, houses, towns and villages, we study today with much reverence for their apt and appropriate local contexts in the name of “Indian Vernacular” or “Indian Historical” architecture is the creation of these sthapaties. This is the group that has truly proved the test of professionalism in terms of public health, security and welfare to the local contexts, ambiance, culture, imagery, adoptiveness to change, yet sustaining the aesthetic core. And they are living. Much of these works date between 150-50 years from now. It is true, they are trained under family traditions but these traditions are documented in the treatises since last 1000 years. If the Yoga, Ayurveda, Unani medical practices are researched, documented and the Medical Council of India has recognised these as equivalent to alopathy; if Lalitkala Academy and Bharat Bhavans could provide for research and revival of the Gandhava Veda – the Indian arts and aesthetic systems, it is rather a matter of shame that the Architects Act 1972 and Council of Architecture, I.I.A., even the architectural academics in India have failed to organise a comprehensive research and documentation system. So as to revive the traditional Indian discipline of habitat science and design. Thereby re-establish fully developed traditional school of design, addressing to contemporary contexts. Instead, they have been instrumental to destroy by ignorance, indifference and disgust. What action does the Council of Architecture take against all prevalent witchcraft going about in the name of Vastu Shastra in the environmental design? Witchcraft because they are not trained under any complete & accepted system of education. The research funds are available from government, if organised project proposals are submitted. This is a wide subject involving the Upa Vedas and the other allied fields. There are some organisations working at Madras, Pondicherry, Calicut, Bhopal, Indore, Bombay, etc. but much larger co-ordinating effort is needed at the centre. The Indian Council of Architectural Research and Training suggested earlier should take up this major issue.

The Observations

In the process of researching for this article, the author stumbled over a confirmed information that Ar. Piloo Mody, the father of the architects act 1972, did not register with the Council of Architecture, under the protest that, the final version of the Architects Act 1972, as legislated, in its spirit, format and contents was rendered ineffective and toothless. For the research purposes, the draft copy prepared by Ar. Piloo Mody may be of interest to understand his frustration. However, over the last 30 years, the futility of the act is experienced by all concerned. Both, the architects & the educational institutions, feel the council does not help them in what the green book promises. At some points, the act needs amendments, at the others, the Council administration is either dogmatic, callous or orphaned by lack of essential powers. The profession of Architects, planners and allied environmental design fields protect the environmental, aesthetic and psychosometic health of mankind along with sustenance of the natural resources. If the design professionals themselves, the educational institutions, the government implementation bodies and people at large, the living environments of our towns do not understand its importance, cities and eco-environment of our villages and natural resources would deplete to isnhabitable levels. And this process has already begun and is worrying all.

The Architects Act 1972 needs amendments to be effective. The R.I.B.A. and A.I.A. acts are amended almost every year in the last 10-15 years to make them relevant in this fast changing scope and responsibilities in the human environmental health issues.

  1. The Environmental Design, planning, technology and management fields as “understood” and called “Architecture” in the act, need to be defined. “Architectural” profession as well as education, both also need defined. Recently, Allahabad High Court did ask for these definitions.
  2. In view of the holistic contemporary, meaning, the word “Architects Act” needs replaced by “The Built Environment Design Act” or “Environmental Design and Physical Planning Act”. Word architecture has very limited and distorted meaning. In the last 100 years, Architecture is associated with stylisation, heroics, irrational, non research - non scientific, etc. Its true scope of services and meaning is lost in the 1875-1975 period due to excessive and undue stress on stylisation.
  3. Implementation of the act or the directives of the Council of Architecture has been a major problem. All such agencies dealing with buildings, built environment, physical planning, land, P.W.D.s etc. need to be broadly defined and specified. Who, would be defying the act and can be questioned and held responsible under the law for non-implementation on public interest. Human environmental health is of utmost priority and importance.
  4. The conditions of engagement and professional charges needs thorough review. The number of 300 architects registered in 1972 has increased to 36000 and architectural practice from the four metropolitan centres serving the rulers has expanded in its spectrum to small towns and villages serving and involving root level people.
  5. With increase of architects all over the country, the I.I.A. chapters have grown to every state. Instead of one COA member nominated by each state government, it may be reviewed in favour of 1 elected member of I.I.A. from each state. It may be further reviewed, if this representation can be made proportional to the strength of architects in a state, minimum being one. It needs also be reviewed whether representation of practicing architects, those in the private sector employment and those in the government/public sector employment be provided separate representations, since each group has their own issues.
  6. The Council may consider and follow up setting of The Indian Council of Architectural Research and Training. This be reviewed for its scope of activities and the proposal be implemented. Such a centre would encourage and organise research and documentation on various issues in Built Environment Design. Thereby, make the profession more relevant to the democratic processes of development and their fruits of physical developments to the people.
  7. Considering necessary academic freedom to educational institutions and prevailing wide range in levels of educational excellence, the council may consider to conduct their own professional examinations in different subjects similar to the A.I.A. of USA. This would open up channels to any one who clears these professional licensing exams and make the process democratic. The present system is rather biased and denies benefit from the wider human creative resourses.
  8. Once the Continuing Education and Q.I.P. Information systems are strengthened and stream lined, as one of the activities under item 6, renewal of licencing may be based on the credits earned from the updated programs on three yearly bases. (Again an A.I.A. model.) Updating of professional information on regular basis is essential. This will include all specific courses inputs.
  9. In order to encourage academic and research excellence, schools of architecture with 7 years of establishment should be encouraged to go for national accreditation. Besides the policing methods, positive developmental methods also be adopted case by case and context to context.
  10. Implementation of establishment of Faculty of Architecture at all universities needs urgent action. Wherever there are Departments of Architecture under Engineering Colleges/institutes, these should become independent autonomous schools/college/institute of Architecture. Planning and environmental design (etc.) such that these can develop into autonomy. They should have a separate and independent principal / Director, independent from the Technology and Engineering. Only then the design programs can develop on their own right as different disciplines.
  11. Architectural Education is financially much more expensive than Engineering Education. (The Teacher-student ratio in architecture is 1:8 as per the COA (1:10 as per AICTE). While, in engineering it is 1:15.. The learning-teaching processes, if well organised, are also expensive. This is another major cause where architecture education suffers when perceived as part of Technology and Engineering. If Pharmacy under AICTE can have different fee structure, so should Architecture. This should be taken up by the COA.
  12. The ministry of H.R.D. may review the duplication of COA and AICTE over regulating Architectural Education, considering the implications of the Architects Act.
  13. To be on the mainstream of public life, architects may lobby for Rajya Sabha membership, even aspire to follow Ar. Piloo Modi’s footsteps. Since last 30 years, role of architects, designers, planners has expanded beyond the “stylisers” and truly entered the hardcore field of healthy, secure physical environmental developments for human welfare. It is beyond any rationale that the hoard of cinema actors, playback singers can be invited to Rajya Sabha, a 34000 worth organised body of Architects or Planners are not even considered.

What is most relevant today is, in the built environment design disciplines, to organise Activism within our professional circles, Architectural Academics, and, on legislative and public fronts. All this with the human dignity and a true spirit of professionalism.

In our country, environment has been our way of life. The real design happens at indigenous levels, with minimum material resources but maximum usefulness and rich aesthetics. Earlier, our sthapaties built towns evolving from within the communities and ecoculture of the place. Today, the builder builds for who ever can afford. The changes come from outside from the market forces, not from within. Consumerism is destroying our aesthetics. Fashion or stylisation is not design. It is only a short lived fragment. We are becoming a faceless society. There is crisis of identity and rootlessness. There is urgent need to attend to the fast developing scenario. This be done in intelligent, organised and involved efforts. There by tune our professional disciplines, academics and regulating acts and agencies sensitive and relevant to the dynamics of the Indian aspirations of joyful, healthy and safe environments.


  • Hand book of Professional Documents – 2002. Council of Architecture Compandium
  • Design Professions and Built Environment. (Several definitions are adopted from various papers herein) Paul Knox and Peter Ozolins. (Editors) John Wiilley (2000)
  • Architecture & Independence. Jon Lang, Madhavi and Micky Desai. Oxford University Press, 1997.
  • Building Community : A New Future for Architectural Education and Practice. Earnest L. Beyer and Lee P. Mitgang (Editors) Carnegie Mellon Foundation for Advancement of Teaching (1996) USA.
  • The Architect & Mid Century Evolution and Achievements. A.I.A. Publication – 1954
  • Vedic Spirit in Architecture, H. D. Chhaya, A + D, Sept.-Oct., 1998
  • Research in Architecture : Its scope and scenario today, H. D. Chhaya, A Q.I.P. Workshop paper, R.V. College, Bangalore – Aug. 2001.
  • Web site References: www.planningcommission.com, www.RIBA.com, www.AIA.org