Rizvi Education Society with its motto 'humanise, equalize and spritualise' is engaged actively with these issues and activities under the able guidance of its President Dr. Akhtar Hasan Rizvi. The academic programmes and related activities of the Rizvi College of Architecture are an ongoing experiment towards these goals and objectives, where faculty and students are creatively engaged with the issues, which is able supported by an active national and international collaboration.
Architecture of the 20th century was influenced by industrial revolution and so was architectural education though belatedly. As we prepare to face the challenge of the new century and a new millennium, we need to reflect upon the issues in our context to identify the trajectory of development.
As we all are aware, the late 20th century has been an era of revolution in information technology reflecting a new wave of scientific and technological innovation. Yet, we have to recognize the uneven pattern of development. The condition in the developed countries, developing countries and underdeveloped countries are varied. The world has come to really question the early 20th century concept of industrial growth and economic development. No longer can we evade the issues of environmental, social and cultural context, when we deliberate on the question of development. Sustainable development is a more appropriate approach to these issues, but the same needs to be seen from the perspective of the citizens in a particular cultural and societal context.
In India, where the majority of people live in rural areas and with a vast population of tribals, the urban notion of development and growth has a limited relevance, even after 50 years of independence. Although the growth of urban population may overtake the rural, there shall always be a huge population in rural hinterland, which has to be given due recognition in our planning process, more importantly in the education process. Architectural education shall have to address these issues in coming century in Indian context.
Architecture, habitat and environment
Architecture as the art and science of built-environment has come a long way from its origins in nature. The contribution of architecture is fundamental in shaping of human civilization. In India, we have a living tradition dating back to more than 5000 years of shaping the habitat and living environment, which is a constant source of inspiration for evolving appropriate architecture. It has been enriched with influences from all over the world in so many different ways throughout various periods of history. In the same way Indian culture and architecture has influenced the countries of Asia and the Middle East, which should be seen as a positive cultural process of evolution.
Architecture is not merely the profession of building design, it is much more than that! It is indeed a comprehensive process of shaping the cultural landscape, through the art and science of built-environment. Architecture, habitat and environment are interwoven in an intimate web of human and social processes of conservation and development. While architecture is erroneously put exclusively in the technological basket for economic reasons, it is indeed a multi-disciplinary and integrated process spanning arts, crafts, sciences, technologies and philosophies. Architecture has been neglected as an appendage to engineering disciplines in our educational planning and professional practice since the colonial education pattern and governance was imposed on the Indian subcontinent.
The new educational policy
We need a whole new policy of education, that aims at human development, social transformation which is sensitive to environmental issues; enables rational choices of technological innovation and contributes to the enrichment of quality of life. The present elitist, confused and contradictory educational policies have played havoc with the people of India. No dose of technocratic jargon-mongering can alleviate the human and social situation. We must accept our failure in evolving a socially and culturally relevant educational policy in India. That partly explains the continuation of poverty and backwardness in India even after all these years of planning.
Lack of concern for human issues
The concept of humanity is central to all faiths and cultures. Yet in architecture, it is hardly considered as an issue of importance. While it is true that inearly years the students learn about anthropometrics and over the years they relate area calculations to the numbers of users that is grossly inadequate response to human issues. Architects are required to design living environment for real individuals, families and communities. How does the built environment relate to the human mind and psyche? How does architecture contribute to physical and mental well-being? How does architecture promote peace and harmony among the users? What is the real comfort provided to the users? Does it relate to different genders, age groups and human conditions?
To given an example, the Floor-Space Index (FSI)and the way it is calculated has done tremendous injustice to the people inhabiting our settlements. It is inhuman measure that ensures that every citizens gets at least 30% less space than what one really pays for; gets uncomfortable environment to live in and really removes any possibility of providing space for social interaction without unaffordable costs. We have been only teaching students how to maximize the use of FSI for economic exploitation of a given site!
Lack of concern for social issues
The sheer functionalism of industrial approach has resulted in one-dimensional architecture though it may be cubist or constructivist in styling. The built environment provides the setting for a given social situation. The study of humanities incorporating sociology has been included in several progressive syllabi, but there is hardly any linkage to the design studio. The lack of social concern can be seen in the selection of thesis topics in most of the institutions. There are very few students who dare to take up the social issues in their design and theses. This is a reflection of social environment we are living in where the quick economic growth and prosperity is the sole criteria of social status. The relationship of social groups, families, neighbourhoods, communities and humanity to the patters and quality of design is crucial in shaping a higher quality of life in our settlements.
Lack of environmental concerns
The growing attraction to styles as a result of plethora of fashion magazines, including in architecture, has created a difficult situation, where the media has overtaken the minds. The clients want huge glass clad attractive boxes or neoclassical or post-modernist kitsch to suit their taste for current market and the architect becomes a mere supplier of this imagery. The clients are not restricted to some builders, they also include corporate bodies and national and state institutions! The net result is that we are promoting environmentally unsound living environment. The current syllabi do not give adequate weightage to the need for environment-friendly architecture.
Lack of concern for rural issues
In architectural education lack of concern for rural issues is reflected in our focus on physical and technical issues, which are limited to urban issues and merely give lip sympathy to rural issues. In the syllabus of Mumbai University for example, a student is required to design in rural context in the 5th semester alone out of 10 semesters! If one dares to experiment to study tribal architecture in the second semester, one is accused for not being faithful to the University syllabus. As a result of this lopsided syllabus, it is almost impossible to educate an architect who is sensitive and competent to deal with the issues in rural and tribal context. No architect would like to practice in rural areas as a result! This may be a blessing in disguise!
Lack of concern for urban issues
Although it may appear to be irrelevant in the context of location of most architectural schools in urban areas, it may be prudent to inquire into the content of urban concerns in the current approaches. One of the causality of modernist movement in the wake of the Athens Charter, was the issue of urbanity. The functionalist town planning based on extreme zoning laws and insensitive land division through a system of plots, has resulted in an architecture, which is located in urban areas but is not ‘urbane’. It does not promote a sense of urbanity, that lively feeling of being together with one’s own folks in place one could identify with. It is rooted in the concept of abstract space and freedom where the vital context or urban context is given no importance. The question of social history of the place and the need for priority for socially relevant projects or environment-friendly approaches have been neglected in urban context.
The result is an almost unlivable urban environment. Architect and planners have a lot to be blamed for this situation.
Lack of philosophy
The schools have become mere production centres of human resource without much concern for thought. Planning has set targets and market has a capacity to generate demand and the schools become mere suppliers. The quality of thinking, the need for a philosophy or way of shaping the cultural landscape has been neglected. In the current syllabi for architecture more stress is given to visual aesthetic rather than to the logic and principles of creative thought. The situation is so pathetic that when a student talks of philosophy or concept, he or she is mocked at, by not so enlightened jury, in the University of Mumbai. The situation elsewhere is not so different, there is a network of indifferent academics that controls the powerful regulatory bodies and institutions. We require an enlightened academic restructuring to save this land, people and planet. The philosophy of humanism could be one of the key element of this restructuring.
The action plan
It would be futile to raise these issues in the context of this seminar, without giving a framework for action. It is, therefore, proposed that an action plan to be evolved during the deliberation of this seminar.
The following are the key suggestions in this regard:
- Each institution of architectural learning to take up an exercise to identify the goals and objectives of its academic programme, without waiting for anyone to deliver this from the top.
- Each institution to identify its approach to the issues, human, social, environmental, technical, philosophical, aesthetic etc. in Indian context.
- Each institution to evolve an academic programme incorporating this approach in its fullest form including design and planning studios, theoretical lectures and workshops.
- Each institution to prepare a supporting related studies programme including a research programme facilitating the main academic programme.
- Each institution to develop an extra curricular activities programme in relation with the context.
- To adopt a state level educational policy for addressing the challenge of the new millennium giving priority to human, social and environmental issues.
- To prepare a perspective programme of development of architectural, habitat and environmental studies in the state.
- To facilitate academic restructuring and improvement in existing institutions through financial aid, support and all round development.
- To promote development of new institutions and academic programmes with a positive approach. Fast track clearance of new proposals and supporting them with a minimal financial and maximum cooperation.
- To encourage research institutions, faculty development and professional development programmes, support publications and communication packages as teaching / learning aids.
- To prepare a new enlightened educational policy addressing the issues, including the right to education and a better quality of education for all.
- To prepare a national plan for architectural, habitat and environmental studies at undergraduate, graduate, postgraduate and doctoral levels in formal and non-formal streams.
- To open up architectural admissions to arts, science and commerce streams in formal and informal sectors.
- To restructure admission policy to cater to the social and economic reality of Indian situation. To change the present two part admission ( 50% merit and 50% payment categories) to a new three part admission (25% merit, 50% average and 25% payment categories) if the admissions cannot be made universal.
- To promote institutions with autonomous, center of excellence and deemed to be university status in the field of architecture in governmental and private sectors.
- To allocate more resources for education in general and architectural education in particular. To revise fee annually in relation to the cost index without undue delay in administrative controls.
- To encourage teaching and research in architecture, habitat and environmental issues through grants, schemes, scholarships and awards.
- To restructure architectural education to 4 year graduate programme supported by a 2 year postgraduate programme and 2 to 3 year doctoral studies.
- To support architectural programme with 1 to 4 year diploma programmes in related arts, technical, supervisory and management fields.
- To promote industry, education and people interaction and involvement in managing built-environment through publication, communication and activity support programmes.
- International institutions need to facilitate international interactions among the institutions at national, regional and local levels through grants, programmes and extension services.
- The institutional institutions require to publish relevant supporting literature at affordable prices promoting a more appropriate approach to architecture, habitat and environment.
- The institutional institutions can provide examples of successful or relevant examples of sustainable development in the field through communication media.
- The international institutions can prepare more relevant legal frameworks for a better management of built-environment.
- The international institutions can provide fiscal resources to support national, regional and local restructuring efforts in the field of built-environment at an affordable rate of interest.
The quest for a humane architecture, an appropriate architecture, environment-friendly architecture, a culturally relevant architecture and an innovative architecture can only be sustained by continued dedication of the educationists, researchers and professionals. It needs to be supported by an enlightened Government, administration and corporate sectors, if they are serious about the prospects of architectural education in the new century.
Rizvi Education Society with its motto “humanise, equalize and spritualise” is engaged actively with these issues and activities under the able guidance of its President Dr. Akhtar Hasan Rizvi. The academic programmes and related activities of the Rizvi College of Architecture are an ongoing experiment towards these goals and objectives, where faculty and students are creatively engaged with the issues, which is able supported by an active national and international collaboration.
India has an important role in restructuring architectural education and profession with its history, current achievements and future responsibility that will have a worldwide impact. The shaping of a humane habitat need not be mere a dream it can be achieved in reality in our lifetime with coordinated and collective efforts. That is the challenge for us all in the coming century!