Developments in information technology have reduced the need for spatial proximity in the geography of architectural employment: computer-based drafting allows for better standardisation and more efficient production of project information, whilst electronic communication links make the immediate transfer of this information possible across long distances. The ability to compress time and space may be paving the way to the relocation of architectural production facilities from higher-wage to lower-wage regions: numerous examples already exist of firms that have adopted this strategy to reduce their overheads.
Thus far, discussion of the viability and desirability of this emerging trend has been hampered by its close focus on the type of work carried out, and a consequently narrow view of its costs and benefits. Remote drafting is seen as a cheap form of professional north-south exploitation in architecture’s intellectual circles that should be ignored if not deplored. By stressing the connection between the task and the culture in which it is developed, this paper seeks to produce a broader, alternative perspective, which identifies the several limitations of current off-shore collaborations but also points out possible future strengths, development strategies, and necessary environmental conditions.
The Indian context provides an opportunity to highlight analogies and differences between the recent growth of the export-oriented IT industry and the construction of a colonial professional practice at the turn of the twentieth century. If properly acknowledged by the domestic profession and considered by policy-makers, the development of a framework for distant architectural collaborations could be used not only to support the local design sector and bring the contested components of its post-colonial tradition in sharper focus and possibly closer together, but also to respond to the many challenges posed by the country’s economic policies, growth, and infrastructural conditions.