A School of Architecture is an atmosphere where intellectual transactions are made. It is progressive in its ideas and outlook and is not satisfied by teaching only common practices and trodden paths. Above all, it represents a school of thought in line with the culture and aspirations of the country. Such is the school which produces visionaries.
Commercialism has already crept in all our systems. You pay and get it - even education. The intention of this paper is to highlight another type of commercialism in architectural education, effort to produce things which are sold most easily in the market.1
A lawyer will not say that only laws which are relevant at the court need be taught to the law students, and not all the crap about historical and theoretical aspects of it, nor will a doctor say that all that is to be taught about is symptoms, diseases and remedial treatments. But at least a few of the architects maintain that's that; only things of “practical value” need to be taught in the school. They call it 'need-based education' (The privilege of defining need goes to them!). It looks as if, the idea is accepted in general by everybody concerned with education.
But this attitude is a dangerous one to develop in a system of higher education.
Aim of Higher Education: The aim of higher education is not “man-power, but man-hood”. In the case of professional education, you are justified in telling that it is not only manpower but also manhood. But “we have forgotten to look up on education as the widening of the horizons of cultural phenomenon.”2
The question may be raised if the sole aim of education is 'manhood', why should it be architectural education? The simple answer is that architectural education should aim at 'architectural manhood.
Theory versus Practice: No School can aspire to produce full-fledged professionals, let alone in Architecture. Commercial practice alone should not be the sole aim of architectural education no assistantship in a private practitioners office. The young architect must be able to adapt himself to a widely varying situation especially in a developing country like ours.3
The mirage of practical experience: 'Practical experience' is a mirage that leads on many architects who are made to concern with architectural education. The importance of the academic side of education is ignored and sometimes scorned as useless and 'bookish'.4 This attitude has found followers among teachers and students in the schools also. They feel that they need work in some architect's office and casually complete the ritual of the course to be an architect. The most powerful professionals in the vicinity are the ideals of quite a few of them, unmindful of their technical or ethical competence to be so, Such striving after the mirage drains off a lot of academic enthusiasm which is the spirit of higher education.
The interaction with the field of practice is something which has to be imparted with much care and control to have the desired effect on young architects.
The big brother called Architectural Design: Another manifestation of the undue importance given to architectural practice is the inflated importance given to the subject 'Architectural Design' in the curriculum of many institutions. And then, of course, not a bad share of such time is under-utilised. Other subjects which are equally important are undermined subsequently. The graduate who is trained under such a system cannot be expected to possess enough theoretical basis in the concerned subjects (It is a fact that such basis is not required to become a successful architectural businessman).
Educational Research: Educational research and subsequent reforms are not at all though to be important here (The changes in education which has happened in India over the past few decades are mostly the result of foreign influence). The Council of Architecture or Institute of Architects also do not seem to initiate any significant work in the direction. Their 'experts' depend again on their own 'practical experience' and not on objective facts in suggesting improvements to the educational system. On the whole, it is a vicious circle. The new members of the faculty who are joining various schools are not given any orientation in teaching and research. (They are always advised to gain 'practical experience'). Generally, there is no academic atmosphere in most of the schools of architecture.
Conclusions: Architectural education should aim at theoretical and academic excellence if its aim is to produce really worthwhile architects for the nation. Instead of trying to streamline its system according to the dictates of the immediate market, that is commercial practice.
- 1. “It is naïve or even disingenuous to expect an education system to develop intelligent human beings if all the forces of culture are directed … to producers and consumers.” Robert M. Hutchins, The Learning Society, p36
- 2. B.V.Doshi, Architectural Education in India, Science Today, May 1973, p 36.
- 3. “A developing country is a place of extremes. A place of communities in need of the most basic form of shelter and community amenities next to those with the most sophisticated form of accommodation in the modern environment.” John Owusu Addo & Max Bond, Arena, July -August 1966, p 7. This points to the fact that education must be based strongly on fundamentals of philosophy, theory and technology. Due to the rapid change in [/fn ]technology even the developed countries seem to think in similar lines.“The more technological the society, the less ad-hoc education can be. The reason is that the more technological the society is the more rapidly it will change and less valuable ad-hoc instructions will be. It now seems safe to say the most practical education is the most theoretical one.” Robert M. Hutchins, The Learning Society, p19.
- 4. The authors experience with an inspecting committee from the Council of Architecture clearly showed a bias in favour of ‘practical experience’. They were not very keen on the higher academic qualification of staff, nor did they think syllabus and curriculum very much important.