Architecture Disconnected


Architecture Disconnected

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(An article exploring the intrusion into the practice of this profession in India by professionals, foreign and otherwise, not registered to practice in the country.)
By Ar. Dwaipayan Chakravarty, Architect and Urban Designer, Pune
Recently, a July 16 article published in a premier Indian newspaper brought to the fore an issue that has been discussed within the architectural fraternity for some years now – the issue of foreign architects practising freely in India; welcomed with red carpets and bouquets. Economic liberalisation and the motions of globalisation brought about a deep impact on the design industry in general. Architecture, being directly influenced by such societal expectations, changed dramatically. Cities were awash with large floor slab commercial (IT) buildings that tried to ape the West, with glass, steel, heavy air-conditioning and the visual vocabulary of buildings many oceans away. It was a kneejerk reaction to the demands of multinational companies, willing to invest millions into Indian campuses.
Our governments have allowed them to grace our soil while making it exceedingly difficult for their Indian parallels to flourish. In a grounded subject like Architectural design, where the very basis is founded on principles of local land dynamics, legislations, climate, materials, design philosophies, cultural impacts and its people, the gushing priority to have an ‘international touch’, a ‘global branding’, overwhelmed all else. More and more projects were being conceptualised by international architects of varying repute, with Indians working for them, to ensure their localised viability. A rebirth of design colonialisation.
The High Court has upheld the sanctity of our architectural profession, in a bid to protect our own professional and development interests. There is a need to definitely open the grounds for foreign architects in our globalised reality, in a regulated manner, but give equal if not better opportunities to our own, to flourish.
Ar. K. Jaisim, a senior, reputed and flourishing Architect from Bangalore, has been in the thick of all these discussions for many months now. His article brings his free thoughts to the issue. 


Jaisim has enjoyed the practice of architecture for over four decades now. His early years in the field were inspired by greats such as Buckminster Fuller, Koenigsberger and Geoffrey Bawa. And in the sixties, Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead gave his aspirations a whole new meaning. He started Jaisim Fountainhead in 1970. Since then he has created and recreated innumerable homes, institutions and commercial enterprises. He has written over 150 papers and articles, made about 1500 presentations, served on several boards and councils, and interacted with students of architecture all over India. His iconoclastic views and individualistic endeavours are the hallmarks of his creativity. Today, he still continues to pursue the adventures of the built environment, searching and researching beyond the boundaries of time and space.

An Action Plan:

For the last few years, an awakening is happening in the awareness of the professionals practising architecture to the nature of an intrusion threatening their very lively hood.
We were a very lazy and content lot. Few schools of architecture and the practice as such were closely held mostly in the hands of a few well-entrenched firms, who had metamorphosed from erstwhile colonial firms into so-called Indian partnerships or professional practices. The few Indian exceptions were firms that had a family lineage and couldn’t care less.
Come liberalization and rapid economic growth along with new schools of architecture established and being established all over the country, the scenario changed.
New schools, fresh thoughts, new challenges and an environment conducive to a new genre of exploration and experimentation opened up. People and Corporate started looking for new ideas of expression. They were impatient and immature and were just returning from their ventures overseas. They had pastured in alien lands and had cultivated foreign habits. They returned to the homeland that had suddenly opened up and these returnees were mostly management gurus.
Instant Coffee and Hamburgers were their diets, although they hungered for Poha and Dosa. Similarly, their environment was all western glass and air-conditioned malls, suited for temperate climate and culture. Although our ethos demanded a complex and relevant solution, we the architects of India did not have instant solutions and modes of business presentation that were hyped commercial salesmanship.
I am all for good if not great architecture. I admire great works of the past, the present and the visionary projects of the future from anywhere on Earth, but CUT and PASTE and deformed and shrunken foreign examples sold to wide-eyed Indian business and political bigwigs is a sad affair. Anything labelled ‘FOREN’ is sold. And especially if you had a three-piece-suited-from-abroad-business approach, it sold even better.
I can understand if we did not possess the expertise or know-how or even if there was a mutual pact between countries so that there can be a cross-border exchange of ideas and practices that can nurture greater growth. But one-sided affairs, and only when they are convenient to the other party must be abhorred.
Today, India stands amongst the emerging economies offering great potential for the built environment. And we also have the internal vigour, imagination and strength of innovation to take up these challenges. If we want any specific expertise then we can always call upon it, this by CHOICE, not by invasion.
There are mainly four professions protected by the CONSTITUTION. They are the Legal, the Accounts, the Medical and the Architects. The other three have learnt their lessons, and have strong rules and guidelines to preserve, protect and learn. Unfortunately, ours is the only profession in spite of constitutional protection, who do not know how to preserve our practice.
Yes, competition is good for healthy growth, but it must be healthy competition. The playing field must be fair to all. The rules of a sport cannot be changed in the middle of a game.
AGAIN, if one were to speak from the depths of architecture. It is obvious COMPETITIONS do not make objective sense. They are subject to the jury which presides and its ability to appraise or bias a selection. Design is not a competitive profession. The other big factor governing selection is the fee structure, again a very sad affair.
Accountants, Advocates and Doctors are chosen by their ability to deliver. Why not Architects also by the same measure?
This brings to perspective the profession and its intricacies. It is in the manner of speaking- still very young and complex. And they say it is one of the oldest professions! 

9 Responses

  1. Can we as architects come to a consensus that we will never allow to over build just to satisfy the ever money minded developer?
    Can we as architects help our government to re-design, refurbish all public spaces that is designed bearing in mind the elderly, disabled and the young?
    Can we as architects pledge that we will keep the intergrity of our profession by refusing to further develop and work for any client who has stolen concepts from another fellow colleague?
    Can we as architects bring about a legislation that will ensure all public building designs comply to internationl laws of fire regulations, disabled access and many more sensitivising people to all’s safelty?
    Can we ensure never to change the pedestrian levels to suit our clients needs and ensure it remains as a pedestrain pathway for those evening walks and to keep our fellow citizens safe from speeding traffic ?

    1. pertinent questions for retrospection for fraternity.. They also sounds like expression of inability to follow professional ethics and code of conduct OR fraternity’s weaknesses.
      Humble and honest acceptance on the name of fraternity by some greedy, immoral and weak professionals that ” WE THE ARCHITECTS ARE SUBSERVIENT TO BUILDERS, REALTORES, OR CLIENT..AND INCAPABLE TO DISCHARGE PROFESSIONAL RESPONSIBILITY TO SOCIETY. WE ARE WEAK SOULS TO WIN OUR BREAD.”

      BUT how these questions are relevant to the discussion on “ARCHITECTS, PROFESSION AND THE RIGHT TO PRACTICE” ? I wonder. I feel sorry for fraternity…

      Ar. Girish Mistry

  2. i am going to take a different direction from Prof Jaisim and the follow up comment from lekha.

    Let us for the moment look at some objective irregularities and ILLEGALITIES. let me for the benefit of everyone point out from the Architect’s Act what the issue is:

    37. Prohibition against use of title.- (1) After the expiry of one year from the date appointed under sub-section (2) of section 24, no person other than a registered architect, or a firm of architects shall use the title and style of architect.

    Now who can be registered or not is stated clearly within section 25. (I encourage everyone to go through the Act, esp sections 24/25/37)

    SO now the issues are a subset of a Primary Issue – Companies practicing architecture. Formation of a company opens several avenues. For Non-Architects attempting to practise, Foreign (Unregistered at Coa) and LLPs being formed. All of this be default becomes illegal Since a company cannot practice Architecture. Period.

    There are currently 900 such illegal entities within the country (national or international)

    NOW the question of what should happen and should not happen and fair competition (which Prof Jaisim rightly pointed is debatable from inception of the term)

    According to me the only thing that should happen is a GLOBAL Architect. Any architect should be allowed to practice in any country. But till that time my route as a CoA registered architect is blocked internationally, and my only source of earning a livelihood is my country then why i should i struggle to fight for my rights against ILLEGAL entities

    1. section 25[a] is very clear about who can register with CoA.

      The issue raised about architectural practitioners IN COUNTRY is a sorry date of CoA to use the teeth it has under Act. CoA feels content by writing a letter on event of violation Act. I can give substantial such evidence of CoA’s actions.

      Indifference by CoA to act and use the teeth effectively to safe guard profession and professionals’ interest is a root cause of what Abhishek has expressed probably with desperation or irritability or annoyance or assessment of prevailing situation as hopeless…

      Request to refer THE JUDGEMENT of SLP 1111/ 2000 by Hon. Gujarat High Court. How MANY of professionals are willing to act for their rights or crusade against quacks or even support morally as well as by way of contribution [monetary + legal view points and any other befitting way ] to those who are willing to do so for larger interest of the fraternity. Such persons are branded as people who do not have aspirations to grow or people harboring fond of martyrdom..

      FACT is as a result we as architectural fraternity are behaving as a bunch of fragile fraternity to Rise for Rights.

      Ar. Girish Mistry

      1. I have gone thro’ the case No. 1111/2000 published in the previous COA handbook and also read the article ‘VEXATION’ in Vaastuvud – winter 2012 issue of IIA Gujarat chapter.
        Sir morally and principally I salute your spirit as you rose for common cause, in favor of whole fraternity and suffered and won.
        Earlier Abhishek mentioned that the quack entities are 900 (may be much more than this noted 900); why we don’t rise against this quack practice? Aren’t we selfish as a professional? In the COA handbook 2011, there are only 3 important court judgments against this quacks out of 18 listed. If we avoid to be critical in case of corruption, we must accept that the administration in our country is vary much lousy and lethargic. COA is also govern and administer by our ‘Babudom’. We must become loud and pro active in more numbers and as also as an institution to get judicious result in the global context, as Ar. Jaisim demanded in his article.
        Ar. Parth Thakkar

  3. India -the drifting sub-continent is undergoing a transition of un-measurable proportions in all the dimensions. It is like living on the edge of a volcano or in the midst of an earth quake. We have to survive this. Unfortunately the Politico-business mafia that rules us these days are opportunists and carpetbaggers. another decade of change and challenge and higher urbanization of nearly 70 percent will make the difference.

  4. while it is interesting to note a certain understated rage, one does need acknowledge the fact that ” the change ” thus being experienced is largely due to a certain “precursor bureaucracy” of double standards totally nurtured and nourished by a select so called elite strata of society of yesteryears, who seem to have been struck with the power of the common man….
    what the west gave to the new age Indian is ” higher levels of disposable income ” coupled with entitlement of choice….the same choice that allows them to look beyond “elitist snobbery” and embrace free for all western capitalism …
    and the first aspect in which this change gets manifested is in ARCHITECTURE….(needless to mention the lingo,clothes and diet )
    Now ..are we gearing ourselves to rise to the occasion , by being adaptive and flexible to address this change better…by aligning our practice and structure of practice to build around the evolving economy….or do we choose to resist the change and mourn the death of a sub-servient clientele…..
    as we can see ” the change” is here to stay… but is our practice ?

  5. Are we the main reason for this state of Architects? Have we lost the collective consciousness ? Have we become self centered and care about only making money ? How many of us have invested time to something as important as Architecture for the sake of Architecture?

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