If the majority of architects in India lack any ideological vision, the more sensitive ones are increasingly becoming aware of their incapacity/inability to make their vision of things and the environment acceptable to society. Architects, including physical planners, by the very definition of the terms, are involved in a project–the shaping of a man-made environment at a relatively durable level. They assume needs, demands, styles of life and concomitant values, beliefs and attitudes, which call for symbolization.

The symbolization has an ideological character, notwithstanding the denials of the architects. The contention that architects and physical planners merely project trends on the basis of a given situation is itself an ideological position, for it presumes that life styles will not change, or ought not to change fundamentally–a conservative stance.

His feeling of inability is markedly pronounced because the architect’s profession is centrally involved in the definition of the goals, values and objectives of a society. Like art, philosophy and religion, but unlike medicine, it cannot escape from the realm of the subjective –the definition of values and the creation of meaning. Like art, it is more involved in the subjectivity of man because of the very nature of the product: form-in-content and content-in-form, making it dependent of the culture and society, the basic framework of communication.

The relevant questions in this context are: how far have architects in India, as a professional group defined their views on the subject? To what extent are these views shared by or linked with other groups in the society, especially the elite groups? And how far is the possession or lack of the views related to their inability to make an impact on the man-made environment?

For the West, one could safely presume that there is a consensus of values which is holding the society and polity together and, therefore, the problem of professional ideology could be reduced to one of identifying and seeing the link with the ideology of other groups in society. However, society in India is not consensual; its integration is still predominantly political. The Indian tradition essentially lacks an inner core of unity such as that generated in the West by the Greco-Roman and Judea-Christian civilizations. Our past is fractured with broken pieces lying unaligned. It is on this fractured tradition that the British rule was imposed, generating the conflict between tradition, albeit a fractured one, and modernity, a {gift} from the West.

It is this cultural past which the Indian architect has to reckon with in defining his goals, objectives and values. The problem is one of choice and selection. In parenthesis, one might mention that the ancient temple architects of India had not to make this choice. The architect symbolized in concrete space-dimension, the given belief-system, primarily scriptural. At best, he gave form to the potentialities implicit in that belief-system. Life was one whole, and meaning to that life was given by religion. Thus, architects had no need for a specific or particular viewpoint in shaping the man-made environment–the shared, common belief-system provided that. Although architectural treatises were written then, they were inalienably tied to the religious literature. It is doubtful whether architecture had the professional autonomy during this period which the priesthood did.

As we move from the ancient to the medieval period, we notice that Indian architecture was enmeshed in the larger issues of the conflict, adjustment, and part-reconciliation between two different and distinct belief-systems: the Hindu, with social inflexibility and doctrinal liberalism, and the Muslim with its social liberalism and doctrinal rigidity. Before these rival traditions could, if ever, reach a point of synthesis, India’s cultural fabric was severely rent by westernization, which partly heralded modernization.

The first expressions in Indian architecture of this onslaught of westernization were sheer monstrosities, ‘designed’ for the ‘enlightenment’ of the ‘natives’. They were exhibits of western rule on an alien soil. Reconciliation with the past of this country was sedulously and systematically avoided. But this phase, however, contributed to an incipient professionalisation of architects: architecture became a discipline. Architects were freed from the dominance of a received dogma. But , on the other hand, they fell for ‘modernity’ which, in actual proactive, meant imitation of western models of the man-made environment, most of the time without relevance to the cultural past of this country and its social and economic conditions. As in other walks of life in India, the gap between ‘tradition’ and ‘modernity’ was not bridged. Neither revivalism nor baling imitation of the West would constitute a solution, not even when imitations are made in the name of the ‘International Style’.

Architects in India do not seem to be involved in the anguish, the pain, and suffering of the transition, nor are they particularly interested in symbolizing the hopes and fears of the people of this country. They are not even willing to reckon with the social and economic factors involved in designing structures specifically suited to Indian conditions. These are harsh and extreme allegations, but they inevitably go with the doctrine of ‘International Style’.

Seen in this light, it is not difficult to understand why architects have not evolved a philosophy of architecture which would be modern as well as relevant to this country. Thus, the claimed professionalism of architects in India is of a very dubious variety.

This judgement is perhaps not arbitrary; it is confirmed by the common man’s perception of the architect’s role. With what expectation does he approach an architect? To ask him merely to put up a utilitarian structure, to enclose space for a living/ working purpose? That jog is better done by a civil engineer, a tent-maker, a mobile designer: they have made a large number of shelters without the benefit of or advice from architects. These shelters will no collapse just because an architect has no been consulted.

Let me put the question differently, with the intention of answering it. What could motivate an Indian to seek advice from an architect? I believe it would be the requirement for a durable shelter which takes care of his needs, which are not only biological–at a certain level they are universal–but also culture-specific needs, subsuming values, attitudes and beliefs. Thus, a ‘shelter’ implies a larger dimension of meaning to his life. But, in the Indian situation an architect’s repertory of expertise consists of ‘International Style’ or more simply, ‘Western Style.’ That style stemmed from the human condition in the? West and is at several removes from the culture-specific or socio-economic specifics of our situation.

Caught up in this synthetic professional ethos, an Indian architect at best offers the client the ‘status symbol’ of ‘International Style’, and not a ‘meaningful’ shelter. However, the better class of ‘clients’ would simply prefer to have the foreign label on the products of this International Style through some Paris-New York based firm or a foreign architect. Such a product has obviously a higher status.

In short, the architectural profession in India has no specific ‘expertise’ which is of relevance to the Indian condition. What aggravates the situation is that the client too sees the architect as a decorator of sorts. The result is a near absence of professional ideology–an absence of a specific viewpoint on life in India and its problems in the context of architectural practice. To acquire professionalisation, which will confer on him the authority to shape the environment, the architect needs public approval and consent. It is a two-way process: the artist carries a vision fostered through formal training, and the public confirms it by drawing upon his services.

This sharing between the Indian architect and the public has been hampered by the way architects as a group are linked to other groups and the society as a whole The emergence of shared values, objectives and goals has, therefore been largely missing. Professions themselves have a character similar to that of a medieval guild (from which professions sprung). involving the setting up of internal standards for its operation, autonomously regulated, largely by professional associations. The training of the Indian architect is no doubt of a professional level, and the associational structure exists in form. Yet, somehow, these do not seem to have contributed much to the definition of the architect’s professional role.

For linking their values, objectives and goals to the culture and ideology of other groups (primarily client-groups) and the society, professions and occupations have theoretically two alternatives: professional autonomy and diffusion. Let us first spell out the conditions in which professional autonomy is bred and nurtured.

The public acceptance of the right of a person to give expert advice and the acceptance, by society, of the claim that the advice is given for the benefit of the client and not merely for commercial reasons, help to establish the professional status. The practicing member of the profession is granted the right to be judge, without feeling undue pressure from the prejudices and predilections of the client. The submission of a client to the authority of a professional is based on the assumption that (1) the client does not and can-not have the necessary skill to handle his problem; (2) that the stakes and risks are dourly high if the advice of the professional is ignored. Professional claim is then a claim of authority. The authority is to be unchallenged from outside the profession. Moreover, it presumes absence of alternative instrumentalities.

The level of professionalisation could be measured in terms of the level of challenge from outside, or the number of alternative instrumentalities available. The medical profession is closest to this definition of professionalisation, though in India it is still involved in waging battles against alternative instrumentalities, ranging from self-medication to quackery.

Professionalisation in architecture has an added degree of complexity because it constantly involves the clarification, definition, concretization and symbolization of life styles. Along with this complexity of definition, the architect’s claim of expertise is subject to challenge by the common sense of the client; nay, even of the prejudices of the public. Then what is ironical is that by foregoing the advice of an architect, the public, or more specifically the client, would not be risking the loss of anything ‘significant’ The client, even when cornered, would manage to get his prejudices incorporated into the architect’s advice.

This conflict between the client’s view of the professional role of the architect and the architect’s own view, is minimized when the clients and the architects shar3e values and beliefs with respect to the man-made environment. In the West, the situation is precisely that in India, because of the discontinuities and fractures in the tradition, and the conflict between ‘tradition’ and ‘modernity’ neither the clients nor the architects, and for that matter, not even the society, has any defined view on the man-made environment.

The absence of a definition of the goals, values and objectives of architecture, either from the architectural profession or from the client-public, promotes a fit, an amalgam between the Indian architect’s ‘International Style’ and the client’s status-hunt for the ‘foreign’. Both refuse to face themselves or go through the painful exercise of searching for meaning in life.

Now to diffusion of ideology. Instead of treating it at a professional level, if architecture is merely practiced as an occupation, the chances of its diffusion are high. Among society’s several commercial interests, the architect’s occupation also takes its meaningful place. If the architect finally comes to accept the fact that a house4 is a product like tooth paste, then he has little difficulty in recognizing the fact that it is subject to consumer tastes. The architect is then a mere designer who makes products tailored to consumer tastes without any fanfare about the values, objectives and goals of society and their symbolization.

A paradoxical position may prevail here: the public may not always be satisfied with the ideology of ‘consumer-tats’ The result: a clash between consumer taste and ‘consumer-interest’. The inevitable resolution of such a clash in a developing country is nationalization or greater public control under the plea of safeguarding the public interest. The logical outcome would be the architect’s inability to shape the environment.

From the forgoing it is clear that neither professional autonomy nor diffusion would exclusively ensure profession allocation in a field like architecture. A certain mix of the two sight be the ultimate condition for ensuring profession allocation. The commercial aspect of architectural practice, therefore, cannot be wholly ignored in any definition of the specific goals, values and beliefs of the profession. However, the business interest has to be defined in such a way that it does not conflict witty the primary professional role of the architect in shaping the man-made environment, consistent with the needs of the people as perceived by the architect. In order to do so, the architect has to diffuse his professional ideology to other groups in society. especially the elite groups, who are primarily involved in clarifying and defining the goals, values and objectives of Indian society.

In defining these ends of Indian society, the architect like other professionals in this country has to take note of political ideologies currently prevailing in the opinion market. These ideologies have implications for all aspects of life including those which the architect would thing to be his specific area of operation. Any simple acceptance by the profession of any particular political ideology, or a mix of both, as the basis for the definition of its professional ideology would amount to surrendering its professional role of shaping the environment in terms of its own perception of the needs of the society.

Architects cannot merely be illustrators in concrete of given political ideologies. Luckily for the architect, because of our democratic political framework, in spite of ideological noise political authority does not seed normally to control creative expression in architecture Theoretically, the architect is free to create without bothering about political ideologies, provided he can defuse his viewpoint to those who make decisions about the man-made environment.

The most vital decisions abut the man-made environment is taken by bureaucrats and managers; and at the operational level, because of historical reasons, by civil engineers who head the public woks departments of the government.

The bureaucrats have a specific professional ideology which is rooted in the belief that all events, things, and values can be definitely and unambiguously categorized under a particular head. They are intolerant towards ambiguity and novelty. Furthermore, bureaucrats in India do not have a highly defined view on the basic values, goals and objectives of the society. The intellectuals whose business it is to define these goals, values and objectives, have not done their job.

The only advantage the bureaucrats, managers and civil engineers have over the architect is their capacity to control obedience to their own brand of uneducated beliefs. Architects have nothing much to offer to counter their beliefs. ‘Foreign’ is a status symbol in this country for all those who matter. The linkage between the architect’s International Style and the decision maker’s craze for the ‘foreign’ provide, presently, the basis for architectural practice. Thus, ‘International Style’ becomes a much worse monstrosity when Indian frills, the stapes and Sanchez gates, are added to basically western-style edifices, to satisfy the nationalist urge either of the architects or of the decision-makers, or both.

The solution of transferring decision-making powers to architects is a vacuous one. It might confer power and prestige on the profession tub this profession is hardly in a position to make any better use of that power than the bureaucrat and the manager. Unless the architectural profession has a specific viewpoint relevant to the country, which it wants to diffuse to other groups, the increased capacity to persuade provided by the fact of having power and status, cannot be very meaningful.

It is only with the emergence of a definite professional ideology which is not limited to a tiny number of sensitive architects that the process of diffusion to the elite groups can be fulfilled. Professional associations of architects can then be in a position to persuade other groups in society to accept their view-point and lay the basis of the conferment of decision-making power on the architect.