One of the most interesting panel discussions at the 7th The Talk of Town nationwide talk series by Surfaces Reporter touched upon the inclusions and scope of technical topics in the architectural education. It was about discussing the adequacy of the training in material and construction processes, and general quality of architectural education today.
The panel discussion was moderated by one of the young prominent voices in architecture, Ar Manishi Agarwal of Design Cosmos, Gurugram. The eminent panellists who have shown their brilliance time and again, and who have become a force to reckon with in the industry, were a part of the conversation:
Ar Britta Knobel Gupta – Co-Founder, Studio Symbiosis, Noida
Prof Manoj Mathur, School of Planning & Architecture, New Delhi
Ar Vijay Garg –Vice President, Council of Architecture
Ar Amit Khanna – Founder, AKDA, New Delhi
Ar Akshat Bhatt – Founder, Architecture Discipline New Delhi
Manishi set it in motion and asked Britta about her thoughts on the sufficiency of the span of a five year architecture course. To Britta, though learning is a never ending process, the five year duration was enough for injecting the architectural do’s and don’ts. Prof Mathur from his extensive teaching experience opinionated that there is a possibility to reduce the time-span and an architect could also be produced in four years too with similar capabilities. He added that the internship could also be easily added in this four-year course.
Manishi was curious to know, what should one expect of a fresh and raw architect regarding his knowledge? The knowledgeable coach was the best to answer this, and Prof Mathur said, that any profession, be it medical, law, or be it architecture, only imparts the basics and sets the runway right. However, the architecture graduates are supposed to have a fair understanding of the architectural glossary. He quoted “Iearning architecture can only happen by doing architecture, and it is not something which you do in college”.
Manishi did not seem to gulp that wholly and reiterately asked Prof Mathur, if he was sure that one could not do architecture in college. Prof Mathur stuck to his point and re-emphasised that architecture needs a real-time engaging environment, which is not there in the college. The client is the principal force in architecture, which colleges do not have. In colleges, you only get to simulate a design in the presence of studio directors. Ar Garg also contributed to Manishi’s query about ‘tenure’, and agreed that five years is kind of too much for gulping the concepts needed to be a fine architect. He backed Prof Mathur, and stated that the intensity of hands-on-training should be increased. The guidance and the theories being learnt in the course need to be adequately supplemented by practice too, for which five years is more than enough.
Ar Amit Khanna benevolently began and opinionated that an architect is principally a conceptualizer and should be more concerned about the impact of his ideations rather than delve deeper into the
mechanics of the materials until one is planning a Taj Mahal, where he needs to stretch the material to its limits. There are experts who should be involved for the finer guidance, and an architect should principally channelize his efforts to intellectualise buildings which perform fluidly.
Manishi probed Akshat, about the traits, which he looks for while hiring an architect. Akshat thought, that of course the honesty, which has been practiced during the course, paves the right foundation, however, the zeal to contribute uniquely goes a long way. Apart from an acceptable level of architectural acquaintance, Akshat looked for traits, which signify the desire to create and contribute. Manishi now wanted to dig deeper and asked Amit what was that one thing which if he had studied during his course would have added to his prowess? Amit was quick to share that more than adding any other technical skill, it is the encouragement and inspiration, which needs to be injected. The course imparts science – the do’s and don’ts. However, to use this science to design structures which perform seamlessly, one needs to be artistic in approach too, which is a by-product of consistent encouragement + fair introspection, and a deeper inner will to create exclusivity. The sensibly balanced usage of this artistic-science, or may be, scientific-art makes the design worth for investors. Amit was fortunate to have a professor and guru like Prof Mathur who fed him with enough mental nutrition, which helped him to develop a mindset of crafting with purpose.
Manishi looked at Britta with the same question of that crucial element which she thinks could have paced her start? Britta, who studied in Germany, feels that an inclination, thrust, and a better exposure towards software skills would have propelled her career. A deep understanding of software would have certainly helped her in her initial days to produce refined
usability and aesthetics in her designs. Manishi was curious to knowabout Prof Mathur’s perspective on how does the architectural education system plan to edify its students about the new materials popping up in this rapidly advancing technological scenario – may be, associating and conducting workshops with the vendors. Prof Mathur felt, it is people like him, who can actually manifest this change with the school realising this as today’s communal need. There has to be more awareness, participation, and engagement to make this happen. The philosophy and mindset to keep its standards abreast with the changing times is a strategic decision, which perhaps needs to flow from the top. Manishi added that the standards of quality of faculty in the architectural schools could also be termed as an issue and looked up to Ar Garg for his views. To him, today’s architectural education is mechanical, robotic and is being controlled by the people in the government who have their set patterns and paradigms. The system should open up for including and indulging with people who have hands-on experience rather than mere PhD degrees. Ar Garg cited Prof Mathur’s example that though he does not have a Masters and/or a PhD degree, yet 95% of the students advocate him to be the best. Similar is the case of Charles Chorea and Raj Rewal, who despite of any degrees are legends, whom we must connect to the newer generations for the benefit of all. Unfortunately, in today’s scenario, these gurus are not eligible to be a professor or even as a guest lecturer. The damage is all ours and for the profession of architecture, if we do not create channels to diffuse their wisdom.
To get the best of the panellists, Manishi asked everyone about one golden advice which they would like to share with the students and institutes. According to Amit, a change in the exposure was the need of the hour. He referred to the German interns who fluidly drew the crisp external wall sections. Only because of their exposure to elaborate German architecture present in multitude.
That’s not the case in India. At the most, the students get to see one, or, may be two live buildings apart from the virtual tour of Archdaily. There’s an apparent vacuum, which lead the students to have plagiarised experiences. The only solution is a substantial increase in the exposure. Though he was doubtful of the source of financial elements to support this.
Ar Vijay Garg seemed in tune with Amit and added that the institutions of today must focus to identify good practices and get their students trained there. Once it is in place, the students get connected to practicality and there’s a much better and evolved scenario.
Britta thought that taking ownership is the fastest way out. The students should understand that it is their desire to create exclusivity which would make all the difference rather than mere scores. A curious soul would make a finer architect than just being skillful. Do It Yourself [DIY] and Do It Now [DIN] was her mantra for the students.
Prof Mathur while agreeing to Britta also emphasized on the need to sharpen the skills of the teacher and faculties too, by doing one design in every semester, when they go to design studios. The discussions now moved to the audience, and were engaging enough and touched upon various other burning issues affecting the trade.
The Talk Of Town nationwide series of events by Surfaces Reporter will keep its quest alive to continually bridge the gaps, ask tough, relevant, and untouched questions, force the community to think deeper and beyond, and contribute its bit to evolve the distinctive profession of art, architecture, and design.