Letter from Head, Rizvi College of Architecture, Mumbai
The immediate impact is the notices by the AICTE and COA stating that they alone have the juridiction of controlling and regulating the discipline of architecture. Therefore, the colleges requiring revalidation or new colleges seeking recognition should apply to them i.e. AICTE / COA.
So the colleges are at a loss to find a way. Each Council requires Rs.40,000 - Rs.50,000 for inspection visits and more expenses preparing and managing the whole process. So it will mean more than double the cost, duplication and sheer wastage of resources, time and energy.
The Memorandum of Understanding provided for joint inspection and mutual acceptance of recognition and revalidation by AICTE and COA.
The second issue is this timeless debate. Is Architecture only a field of technology? No architect will ever agree to this idea of reducing architecture to mere technology. At the same time, all engineers feel that architects do not know enough of even technology ( or engineering to be precise) and they always look down upon the unclarity and confusion among architects!
Should Architecture be considered a branch of engineering, as one of the officials put it recently? I remember walking in Bangalore parade ground along with the Head of the Karnataka Land Army, who said that Architecture is a branch of engineering. When I said that it was incorrect understanding, since the word engineering was coined in 1750A.D. and architecture existed much before that, he was shocked and could not believe the fact!
Why is that engineers and technocrats wish to control the field of architecture?
There are reports suggesting that in the State of Uttar Pradesh, due to the efforts of the Council of Architecture, numbers of engineers who were practicing as architects have been prevented from doing so. They seem to have been agrieved and have mobilised their support in New Delhi. Throughout India, this practice of engineers practicing as architects is considered as the top most problem by the Council of Architecture.
The local bye laws are generally outdated acts which provide for surveyor’s licences which were obtained by architects as well as engineers. Only since the formation of the Council of Architecture that the new bye laws distinguish between architects and engineers / surveyours. Their roles are defined and scope is delineated.
This leads to engineers getting to design the structures of the buildings, for which they get about 0.75% to 1% of the cost of the structure while architects get about 2.5%(housing)to 5% (institutional/comprehensive services) of the construction cost. So there is a great attraction among some engineers to get higher fees, 3 to 5 times higher than what they are getting!
Since the enactment of the Architects Act 1972, the field of architectural profession and education is controlled and regulated by COA just like the Medical Council does for medical profession and education and the Bar Council does for the legal profession and education. As a result of COA’s effort there was country wide drive to uphold the professional norms, improvement in standards of architectural education and prevention of misuse of architects title by others.
While we architects are generally not satisfied with any of our achievements, for we like to be critical, it is a fact that since 1972 COA has been able to achieve considerable success and has resulted in improvement of the professional situation.
This success led engineers to demand seting up of a Council for Engineering but they were not so successful. They came with the idea of starting a parallel discipline of architectural engineering with 4 years duration. Now throughout the country there are graduates of this course who would like to practice as architects. So architects fear that the AICTE may make moves to enable this to happen, if they are given the sole authority to manage architectural education.
There is another angle to the crisis. Some critics suggest that this has something to do with some personalities and their egos.
While others suggest this is the result of some strong measures taken by the Council of Architecture against defaulting architectural institutions by reducing their intake and stopping new admissions.
While there are many issues involved the present crisis is trigerred by termination of the MOU between AICTE and COA. The matter is now sub-judice and the Courts alone can decide in the matter. The Chennai High Court’s intrim order has gone in favour of the COA and it is expected that AICTE shall try its best to find some legal remedy. So it does not seem that the matter will be resolved soon. In the meanwhile the colleges, students, architects and society would suffer immeasureably.
The situation is much more complex than what it seems at first glance. What I am concerned about is the quality of built environment that affects the quality of life.
Architecture can not be reduced to mere technology or cultureless construction. At the same time architecture can not exist in isolation, it always relates to a context and that calls for creative and constructive collaboration.
It is this creative aspects of architecture that attracts others to posses it and claim authority over it when they fail in such plots that there are efforts to destroy and destruct architecture, and replace it with some structures, that is the tragedy and irony of architecture.
It is time for architects to wake up, fight for their rights and identity; and protect their dignity and honour. At the sametime, it is time for architects to reflect how they could be more useful, relevant and appropriate to fulfil the needs and aspiration of the society in the field of built-environment and how they could become part of multi-disciplinary teams and collaborate with other professionals to address the critical issues before the humanity. This crisis may be seen as blessings in disguise.
with warm regards,
— Akhtar Chauhan,
December 19, 2003