Educational systems have to keep up with the rapid pace of socio-economic change. Constant re-interpretation and definition of goals becomes essential, especially in regions that have evolved based on a traditional knowledge.

In 1989, GREHA formulated the idea of Habitat Schools in order to address various problems that the community was being challenged with at the educational level.

It aimed to trained skilled manpower with the ability to deal with problems of the community for the development and maintenance of human settlements, instead of being discipline centred in Architecture, Civil Engineering, Town and Country planning and Urban Management.

"There is need for architectural education in India to come to terms with the culture and ethos of the Indian people, especially the poor. The new Habitat Schools are conceived as institutions which seek to re-align the present disciplinary boundaries and related professional practices, to orient professionals to function within the contemporary Indian ethos and to address the growing environmental problems. The Habitat Schools represent a major shift in the dominant paradigm of education and the frame of reference of the building profession.”

It proposed a two-tier strategy for change; re-orientation of the hierarchy of technical education, and changes in the educational curricula.

The curriculum sought to focus on areas of technical expertise which were being ignored and tackled peripherally in the discipline centred programmes. This would be done by integrating traditional building methods and solutions that are socially and technically appropriate, and related to the organically evolved urban as well as rural settlements, along with spontaneous settlements of the urban poor.

The academic programme would be structured around the issues emerging around the distinctive settlement patterns that are contiguous at this present time.

  1. Year 1: Organically evolved settlements
  2. Year 2: Planned settlements
  3. Year 3: Spontaneous settlements

This was followed by setting-up the TVB School of Habitat Studies at New Delhi. The members of GREHA took up the responsibility by forming the core faculty, assisted by a visiting faculty and supported by the parents and students who joined the course 6 months late in 1990.

The Learning Process

The syllabus aimed to integrate diverse bits of information from various disciplines. This was done by transforming the standard course content into an integrative system where the design studio became a comprehensible platform for discussion of ideas and thoughts.

The learning experience was envisaged as a participatory process for both the faculty and students with greater emphasis on practical and field experience. This was done by integrating studio and workshop exercises throughout the course of study. The evaluation system also collaborated by placing greater emphasis on practical work rather than tutorial work.

This process is understood through some of the course projects illustrated:

  • [illustration] Anthropometrics/Enclosures
  • [illustration] Drawing and Communication
  • [illustration] Urban Village study: Sikanderpur
  • [illustration] Materials and Construction
  • [illustration] Daryaganj Redevelopment
  • [illustration] Related Studies programmes

At present the school in in a state of flux. It requires renewed direction to carry on with the ambitious and creditable effort put in by the faculty and students.

The course programme for fourth and fifth years–dissertation and thesis programmes–requires attention in terms of better management. This is evident from the large backlog of students in these courses. Efforts are on to establish the alumni association. This should go a long way in continuing the interaction amongst students and the faculty.

It has been a decade since the conception of the idea of the Habitat School, the TVB School of Habitat Studies has recently admitted its ninth batch of student and has graduated in about 120 professionals, who are working in varied spheres of the profession. We hope the good work shall continue, in order to prepare the faculty and students to meet the present and future challenges.