The first note on this subject put forward in a general way the background leading to the concern about architectural education.
We are to discuss the issue in two days, with the hope that we can arrive at a statement of intent which can be presented to the professional community as well as lay public. In order to focus the discussions and to keep within the time frame available, some of us have been meeting and thinking together regarding the essential issues which describe our concerns. It is proposed that the subject be divided into three parts :-
- The learning universe - which would help us define ourselves as teachers / students and describe the educational consciousness
- Instruments - dealing with teaching methods and materials
- Certification - to understand standards, forms of governance, and the objectives of validation
1. The Learning Universe
There is an ancient belief that the phenomenal universe is duplicated within each human body. This may help us in locating the source of knowledge, and consequently mapping a route to reach this source. Going to the source may enable us to identify the subject or object of the educational enterprise and give us clues to its nature.
It has been said that the educational enterprise is grounded on faith – the teacher many not have the answer, but a teacher will never knowingly mislead a student. Thus the essential bond between student and teacher is sealed by this faith and raises to the values which create and sustain the educational enterprise.
In the recent past we have been subjected to an exponential increase in the quantity of information we deal with. Just as the printed word and the online image floods our senses, so as our capacity for tolerance and human judgement is put to test.
How can we evolve an architectural consciousness which allows us to learn from our experience of everyday world, transform this into knowledge and the ability to recognise wisdom?
Perhaps the essential characteristic which helps in this transformation is integrity – of mind and body as well as of material and spiritual aspects of our existence. At the end of the twentieth century we inhabit a world of materialist science and technology which seems to deny those abiding spiritual values which have been the foundation of all enduring civilisations.
Architecture has always been concerned with civilisational values. Can we outline an educational strategy which places these values at the centre?
The architectural consciousness needs to be defined to give us an understanding of the methods and materials appropriate to educational strategy for the next millennium. In the last two centuries the industrial revolution which originated in Europe gave raise to social and economic systems which could not be shared by a majority of the world's population. The ancient societies and the indigenous people of the planet have been driven into an ecological cul-de-sac which threatens their survival. Industrial values increasingly replace vernacular values. Town and cities have attracted more and more people, and now for the first time in human history a majority of the world's population is living in urban areas. Yet a country like India, which contains one-fifth of the world's population, is still predominantly rural, with two-thirds of its population living in villages and rural settlements. Habitat design needs to address these imbalances in a decisive manner.
- What are the skills with which an architect today needs to be equipped?
- What is the nature of the architectural school?
- How does the overpowering reality of the information revolution and consequent global connectivity affect the form of the architectural classroom?
Surely the perception of the architects' role in society needs to evolve much further to fulfil the aspirations of a new generation. In India the professionally trained architect is being increasingly distanced from the variety of crafts and indigenous techniques which form the staple repertory of the majority of the artisans in the building trade.
How can architectural training create a bridge between specialised theoretical knowledge and essential building practice?
How can this training address the problems of the marginalised sections of society – the rural and urban poor – who constitute a significant majority in our country?
The setting of standards for architectural education is the task abstraction which forms the essential feedback for monitoring tour educational strategy, we wish to formulate.
Statutory authorities which have the authority mandate to regulate professional conduct are generally charged with certifying standards for educational proficiency. These bodies are finding their mandate becoming less relevant as the pace of technological and social change has been increasing.
- What is the basis of power and authority for a regulatory body in today's globalised context?
- Can professional expertise be equated with priestly ordinance as was done sometime in the past, or do we try and make the profession accountable to the general public in a more transparent and day-to-day manner?
- Who validates excellence and professional relevance?
- Is there a model of governance for the architectural profession which would encourage excellence?
In a country like India there is also the question of very large numbers wanting professional training. As the numbers of architectural schools increase – in the last 15 years almost over 50 architecture schools have started in India – the problems of funding, infrastructure requirements and availability of teachers becomes a crucial determinant of the quality of education that can be provided. In an uncertain economic situation it may be appropriate to find a system whereby the test of professional excellence is determined by the local community who is directly affected by the architects work on the ground.
Perhaps there is enough awareness among ordinary people today about global standards, and the best judge of architectural relevance may no longer be teachers but students.
Can we design a strategy whereby the object of architectural education would become the transformation of each student into a teacher?