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! https://​ar­chi­tex­​doc/​jiia-vol-xiii-4-72-4/

For more on the works of InDes:

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  1. With sup­port from Prof. Rajat Ray, Dean Faculty of Architecture, Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University.
  2. 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