Architect MN Ashish Ganju on imagining a museum of architecture that can house India’s built diversity

The proposal for a National Museum of Architecture in India has been on the anvil for a while now. Greha, a four-decade-old group that centres its expertise on habitat design, environmental development and architecture, prepared a report in 2015 in collaboration with the Indian Institute of Architects (IIA), the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) and the Council of Architecture (COA). In that context, an event in Delhi [on 28th March, 2019], titled “Imagining the National Museum of Architecture”, will put forth readings and conversations around architecture. We speak to architect and environment planner MN Ashish Ganju, President, Greha, on the idea of the museum, its scope and relevance. Excerpts:

One of the policy objectives of the museum is to bridge the gap between society and the profession. Why do you feel the need?

There are two aspects to this. Firstly, there are two professional associations that are interlocutors for the profession — IIA and COA. But neither of them have made any attempt to reach out to civil society, so the public is unaware how architects are useful to society. Secondly, the architecture profession in India is an accident of history. During colonial times, it was managed by engineers. British engineers built public buildings, so the profession of architecture grew out of the need for engineers to make drawings. The JJ School in Bombay was started to train civil draftsmen, and that legacy the profession hasn’t been able to shake off.

Even today, most architectural courses that are mandated by COA have the same approach. Architects know how to put people inside buildings, it’s not just about structure and construction. We make the construction that can receive people properly. Society too doesn’t understand why architects are useful, and this is where the museum will fill the gap. A museum is the home of the Muses, the daughters of Zeus, who inspired the arts and sciences. Our idea is that the museum, too, will be a place of inspiration, where people can go and learn about themselves; architecture is about daily life ultimately.