Letter from Head, MES School of Architecture, Kuttippuram, Kerala


Please pardon me for using the much used and abused phrase to describe the state of ‘perception’ of architecture in our country. The second part of the title above refers to the general perception of architecture as heritage in our country. The first part of the title appears to be the way contemporary society and the powers that be in our society perceive architecture. 

The Hindu daily of December 7, 2003 and several other national dailies carried a public notice issued by the All India Council of Technical Education. The notice says that theAICTE has terminated the MOU dated 5-7-2001 with the Council of Architecture with immediate effect. The notice also states that the august body shall accomplish all functions regarding establishment of new technical institutions/extension of approval/ increase in intake, causing of inspection to the technical institutes and accreditation. One has to only surmise that the reference is to institutions imparting architectural education in the country. 

We assume that the august body has the resources and expertise available of eminent architects and architectural academia of this country to take up the enormous task of controlling and guiding for the better, the quality of education imparted in more than 100 recognized architectural institutions across the country. If one goes merely by numbers to be handled AICTE may believe it to be an easy task considering the fact that the august body is responsible for the control of quality engineering education in thousands of engineering colleges spread across the country, and this number keeps increasing every year like the number of hits on a popular website.  

Compared to number of engineering colleges, the number of architectural institutions are very few and the intake of these institutions a meager average around 30 as against the 60 and in some cases 120 in engineering institutions. Till now the Council of Architecture constituted under the Architects Act 1972 was working like a watchdog to ensure that these 100 odd institutions impart quality architectural education in appropriate ambience with adequate facilities. Non compliance with the regulations meant reduction of intake and complete closure of the institution in some cases in accordance with sections 18,19,20,21 and 45 of the Architect Act (1972). The latest announcement by the Council in its magazine “Architecture -Time, Space & People” declares 21 institutions marked with reduced intake of which four are not allowed any admission at all. If we were to trust the wisdom of the expert committees that visited these institutions, then definitely minimum standards for imparting architectural education as prescribed by the Council are not being followed in these institutions.  

Council always sends architects from practice, academics and governmental agencies for inspection of institutions as expert committee members. The committee sits separately with students, faculty and the representatives of the management to judge the functioning of the institution in accordance with the Architects Act. The committee also gets opportunity to do a detailed survey of the facilities provided by the management for the conduct of the institution. The methodology and process worked out by the Council for this is perfect and foolproof. I know it because I have been on both sides of the fence for the last few years, as an expert committee member visiting other institutions and as a head of an institution receiving other expert committee members to inspect my institution.

The question that foxes me (and I am sure it is foxing several other academics like me) is: 

As to how AICTE will ensure the quality of architectural education being imparted in all the architectural institutions? At present Council of Architecture, the only authority established under an act of the parliament of the Government of India, is empowered and also qualified, to check the quality of architectural education. The minimum standards of architectural education and regulations to practice architecture as a profession are as prescribed, improved and amended from time to time by the Council of Architecture, since 1972. AICTE had signed a MOU with the Council only in 2001, which now they have terminated/withdrawn. The short life of the MOU and this sudden action by the AICTE is raising several other questions, such as:

  • Does the AICTE believe that architecture is just another stream of engineering?
  • Is the AICTE planning to convert all architecture courses into ‘Architectural Engineering’ course?
  • Is there a move, following the above two, to hand over even the task of redefining ‘what is architecture’ to the Institution of Engineers? (The Institution of Engineers India has recently sent a circular dated 24 Nov. 2003 in which they claim that Architectural Engineering is one among the all important fifteen engineering disciplines they pursue and promote. They are inviting indulgence and cooperation of faculty members in soliciting technical papers of interest to architects for their Architecture Journal.)
  • If such an act of redefining architecture takes place, will it mean that the authority for conducting registration and issuing the license to practice architecture will also be taken away from the Council of Architecture and given to the Institution of Engineers?

Perhaps my reaction is too far fetched and wisdom prevails elsewhere among the authorities overseeing the betterment of higher education in our country. But the fact remains that any action taken without a consensus of the academia and the professionals will be counter productive to maintaining and improving quality standards in architectural education. 

Prof. Harimohan Pillai. Architect
Head, MES School of Architecture, Kuttippuram, Kerala 

December 19, 2003