Architectural Education in India – Views by Keshav Gangadhar

Keshav Gangadhar

Keshav Gangadhar is a chief architect at Eco-Design and a Professor at McGans Ooty School of Architecture. He completed his graduation from School of Planning and Architecture, New Delhi. In the past, he has also been an educator at the Sneha College of Architecture and Global Institute of Architecture. He was associated with ‘Indian Architect and Builder’, a popular design magazine, as BangaloreCorrespondent from 1991-1996.
He has presented his views on various issues of the profession and education at a number of seminars and conferences, along with presenting a number of papers concerning architectural education.

Following are the views by Keshav Gangadhar, on Architecture Education

AL:  Architecture Profession has changed over the last decade. New technology, new materials and new skill sets have emerged and posed the new challenges for architecture education in India.

In your view, what steps should educators and architecture institutes shall take to prepare students to meet the expectations of the profession and the new challenges?

KG:This question validates the need for resolving the balance between developments in technology, materials and practices, which can only be brought in through visiting faculty, and theoretical instruction that is imparted through full-time faculty. The bridge between the real and virtual worlds of the profession and academia respectively, lies in a healthy balance between visiting and full-time faculties in terms of  their ratios. This further leads to the implications of “hands-on” learning by doing, and “drawings” to communicate. There needs to be some resolution of the practical knowledge of workshop-oriented or “site specific” instruction and learning from history, design methodology, materials, structures and theoretical knowledge at large.

AL: Teachers expect students to be creative and innovative, in what ways do you think even teachers can innovate and be creative within the framework of syllabus and guidelines provided by the Universities and the Council of Architecture?

KG: To bring about any change within a system or framework of educational syllabi, one has to work within the system and not outside of it. No matter the differences between syllabi, I believe that the managements (especially with the proliferation of private colleges) have an important role in ensuring that the necessary teaching aids and facilities are provided to enhance the educational system. Teachers in professional courses need to imbibe skills in communicating effectively and in that sense there’s no reason why teachers are educated in effective communication, much like the B.Ed & M.Ed programmes.

Whatever the system of education, methods and techniques, ultimately innovation and creativity depends on the teacher’s initiatives. To cite an example, when I attended a “Conference on Re-inventing Design Pedagogy & Contextual Aesthetics” in NIT Calicut earlier this year where I presented my first paper as an academician, one of the keynote speakers Ar. Nimish Patel suggested how the six climatic zones of India could be integrated into six semesters of design (half of the 1st year, 2nd, 3rd, half of 4th/5th year depending on when the internship year is) by locating the design problem in sites that are in these zones. This could be done irrespective of the variance in syllabus for different universities. I have been able to do precisely this in where I taught earlier in Calicut University, Kerala and where I do now at Anna University, Tamil-Nadu.

AL: You think modern architecture is losing its social conscience? If yes, how can institutes and educators make students aware of their social responsibility?

AR: The social conscience in modern architecture is probably being buried in the growing globalizing scenario, which is what “critical regionalism” addresses. Social responsibilities are characteristic to local identities and identifying the problems that are local as the popular adage goes “think global, act local”. In this respect, “problem definition” needs to be rooted in the local context and the clearer it is defined, the more likely it will have a social conscience and relevance. Charity should begin at home.

There’s no doubt that the present scenario where schools of architecture have mushroomed across the country, has it’s own discrepancies in the imbalanced distribution of the schools regionally. Not to mention the fact that the privatization of managements has not only commercialized education, but concurrently influenced decision making in the proper evaluation of students. Even if the number of interns outstrips the quantum of private practices, increase in the duaration of internship by the CoA from 6 months to 1 year is an indication of the gap between social realities and virtual academics. This brings me back to the first point of fundamently bridging the gaps with the right ratios of ‘visiting’ to ‘full-time’ faculty. A question of not putting the cart before the horse and practising what is preached.

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