Presentation by Suruchi Modi and Vibhuti Sachdev: 18/05 — Masters’ Course in Architectural Education: Aζ and Sushant School of Art and Architecture, Ansal University

5 year BArch Degree Programme

Architectural education shapes not only what a professional architect does but also how the profession of architecture conducts itself. It is important for it to be in sync with current times. The need of the hour is to rework the role of the architect from that of a solitary creator to being a collaborator or a facilitator in improving the built environment. The architectural process then, has to lay more emphasis on the relevance and usefulness of design rather than on its uniqueness and originality. This approach to architectural design and practice means that the studio will have to provide a platform where students learn to co-create design options. Architectural education must move away from a pedagogic premise ofidentifying design ‘problems’ and teaching to create design solutions, towards teaching to negotiatedesign options and working in a multidisciplinary team. If the merit of design lies in its social relevance rather than its signature style, then it will have to be taught and assessed accordingly in the studio.

Relevance

The social relevance of a program hinges on whether it is true to its cultural context. After decades of experimenting with European and American designs and styles and by mostly failing to deliver relevant solutions it is perhaps time to look more closely at what our context really is and then ask what it needs. The Indian context and its many regional sub-contexts are very different from its European and American counterparts. The layers of our social and political histories, our cultural and architectural traditions, and the sheer variety of our communities and their needs mean that the architectural curriculum needs to address all these determinants of our built environment in the design studio. The program will also have to take into account the ‘feminisation’ of the profession. This is in a philosophical term to indicate how architecture is taught and practised in a less aggressive and more nurturing manner, and also points to the growing number of women joining the profession. Seventy percent of our students and more than fifty percent of our faculty in SSAA are women. This ought to have some bearing on how the program is taught and learnt. While not suggesting that it must cater to the majority, the program is sensitive to women’s needs as students and as architects. The architectural profession has to help women practice as successful architects by providing them a compassionate environment to flourish in, and this begins in the Schools.

Subjects

The design studio forms the core of the curriculum in the first three years. Each semester adopts a project that is developed in the studio aided by pedagogical inputs from two packs. The two packs of subjects that feed into the design studio can be broadly categorised as ‘Thinking’ and ‘Doing’ subjects. ‘Thinking’ pack includes: History, Critical Thinking, Research Method, and Multidisciplinary Approaches to Negotiating Design. ‘Doing’ pack includes: Building Construction, Structures and Services. The design project progresses in complexity over the three years from addressing individual needs (room, house, office) to a collective requirement (institution, housing and the urban and historical context). The project adopted can be ‘actual’ or ‘hypothetical’ but will include the widened ambit of the scope of the profession. Architectural inputs into critical, curatorial and conceptual practices of design negotiations that intersect with fields of art and visual culture, and with conservation and heritage practices.

In addition to these subjects, a supplement of ‘skills modules’ will form a pool of electives that the student can choose from over the years depending upon individual interests and aspirations. These can include, depending on demand from the design studio: Digital Fabrication, Parametric Design, latest computer software, traditional material techniques, preservation and restoration techniques, statistical data managing, and so on.

Assessment

If the method of design is negotiation, then it cannot be assessed in terms of a solution to a problem, but evaluated as an embodiment of an ideology, a stance, an approach and an attitude. So the prevalent mathematical way of judging a design problem in terms of how it is solved poses two problems: one, identifying the ‘problem’ and two, considering design as a problem-solving exercise. In the redefined role of the architect as a collaborator, design is what can be negotiated, given the relevance and context. So good and bad design must negotiate its status in terms of what is viable, relevant, and sustainable.

Master of Architecture Programme

Current View

Footnotes

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