New thinking in architectural education by Nirmal Kulkarni: 18/05 — Masters’ Course in Architectural Education: Aζ and Sushant School of Art and Architecture, Ansal University

Understanding the essentials of architecture and its impact zone would be the first agenda point which needs in-depth analysis. It is frequently vocalized, especially in recent times that the value’ of architecture and therefore the architect’ needs to be looked at with critical self-analysis. One can wear the masochistic shirt and be content with self-mortification. However that’s not going to change the landscape for us. Why do we need a change in the landscape? The only answer is that we are all the time attempting to interject within the prescribed format, which becomes a reactive response rather than a proactive one. The disadvantage of this method is that one loses overview and remains bound by existing parameters. But what if the system is flawed in the first place for today’s times? Should we not try to address this issue at all and rethink anew? Who is expected to respond to the cultural changes taking place on a daily basis, and how, with which tools?

So what is that singular event which will bring about this much needed metamorphosis? Nothing short of a revolutionary idea of course outlined in brief, as below.

The idea is simple, but will require gargantuan will on the part of all.

Point — A

1. The lacuna

Today all of academia operates within individual boundaries. There is hardly any lateral interaction between colleges since all are tasked with the manufacture of an architect from the perspective of the regulatory authority. Also because of the unprecedented rise in the numbers of colleges over the last five years, the management of the regime of controls becomes less effective and colleges degenerate into institutions of mediocrity. There are of course those who stand above all and are frantically trying to effect best practices. 80 to 90 percent of the institutions however are unable to hook onto the vision of these stalwarts, possibly also because of the competitive edge.

2. The remedy

  • Whatever may be the reason, the fact is that if one hopes to resurrect the spirit of the architect, well-endowed academies will have to broaden their limits in an attempt to plow a level playing field by nurturing a culture of sharing and empathy. There is no doubt that the initiative will have to come from academia because that’s where the birth of an architect takes place. (And let’s not get into the ridiculous blame-game between the academic and the practitioner).

  • The academy shall also have to claim responsibility for defining architecture through internal dialogue and external collaborations and therefore be the regulatory body instead of the Council.

  • The academy shall also form a close-knit network of institutions and assume self-regulation, at the same time encourage independent thought-processes to emerge in a spirit of freedom.

  • The academy will be tasked with advising the government with regards to matters of architecture, and if indeed this becomes a reality one day, no one will have the guts to tear down a Hall of Nations.

  • The academy will also have to build bridges with the people at large, (and supposedly for whom we take the effort to serve?) to garner support and advance the culture of architecture.

  • Most importantly, the academy shall also regulate the practice of institutional and public projects.

  • The academy will in large parts be the production Center of knowledge in the field of architecture and shall help in sharing the benefits of this with all.

3. The conclusion

The idea may seem utopian at first glance, but one needs to take the time to understand the underlying logic. It may also seem that too much power is being bestowed on the academy, but that is a matter of structuring the dispensation system to assure appropriate vesting. It may also be that new institutions will emerge to undertake this mammoth task. Who knows, the entire texture of the industry will surely better itself or so one imagines. It will also require extremely hard labor from all quarters, but no pain, no gain so no choice. The transformation may also take several years, but may be well worth a try.

Whatever may be the ultimate form of this creature, one thing is true, it is finally time to lay down our individual agendas and join hands to create a robust platform/platforms which will not cow down under pressure from the powers that be.

Point - B: The argument for the Masters course:

  1. To think about a masters course, we first need to inspect if the foundations of undergraduate course are firmly laid. Architecture is large parts of culture with a solid understanding of the organization of space which people occupy. This is non-negotiable. Obviously, to execute such objects, one needs a peppering of science, technology, geometry, and environmental awareness. Taking this as a given, it all depends on which kind of dissemination formats one intends to lay out and it could well be an array of differing structures. So, instead of one size fits all and the CoA giving a dictate of curricula, individual academies should be encouraged to formulate their own programs at the undergraduate level. These programs will need to be evaluated through discursive dialogues between academies until a consensus is reached. It will work effectively if the Academy is kept as a supreme body. This point is critical to the restructuring of the entire systemic organization of the dispensation of architectural education.

  2. First of all the undergraduate course needs to be structured in a 3 + 2 format where students wishing to exit after 3 years can do so with a certificate/diploma in hand. The balance 2 years can be specializations of sorts and individual academies are free to offer their own mix of courses.

  3. Masters can then take on a super-specialization avatar.

Point - C: Counter-point to the Master’s program

Investigating Design is an organisation which attempts to go back to school for beginning the first thinkings of design. The three missions of InDes are to:

  • Design with People: Promoting design awareness by empowering people with creative abilities and investigating the role of designers in the society by organizing various programs and interactive events,

  • Design for Education: Investigating the basics of pedagogy for various design disciplines; bringing together people interested in exploring the world of design and encouraging indigenous design knowledge, and

  • Design and Research: Forming an alliance of designers, students, educators, industry professionals and citizenry to create a corpus of design knowledge; and searching commonalities between differing disciplines of design. We have over the past four years conducted 22 design workshops in various schools. INDES needs support from academia to continue the initiative in specific terms of providing interested students of architecture as volunteers and student mentors.

I recently discovered that this initiative resonated with the request by Prof Kshirsagar in 1946!

For more on the works of InDes:

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  1. Kshirasagar, G B. A Plea for the Introduction of Architecture in the Scheme of Education in Changing India.” Journal of The Indian Institute of Architects, XII, no. 4, Apr. 1947, pp. 72–74