Is architecture a dying profession in India? Definitely not. With half of the population living in urban areas, there is an increasing demand for architects, urban planners, and landscape architects in India. Though, architects in India have slipped into the mode of producing luxury products and vanity commodities. They are always proud of themselves, and their egos make them ignorant about the fast-changing world and its demands. Hence, there should be a change in the architects’ attitude to survive and pave the way for ‘better’ architecture in India. The article discusses the problems with the architects and the architecture profession in India.
Table of Contents
Staying away from politics
Architecture is not a bunch of buildings, and the design is not objects or attractive patterns. Architecture is more public- It defines our sense of living, as well as our place in the community and civilization. And the design is based on thinking, it is political. But architects have withdrawn themselves largely from the social and political space and started procrastinating over details and techniques. When India is experiencing pressing issues of infrastructure and poor planning, architects and designers are focused on managing the everyday affairs of choosing the materials and textures, discussing form, and drafting joineries.
Architects should look beyond their buildings and recognize the impact they create on the cities. They should realize that working only in their buildings does not work anymore. For example, take a look at the design of shopping centers. Architects design shopping centers that make visitors buy more by removing windows and disconnecting them from time, regardless of the will of the visitor. Here the architect is the agent of the client and not the people. He is looking at the building and its client, not the city and its people.
Future architecture cannot resistance to digital transformation_Photo by world Architectsater only to the luxury of specialized audiences. They have to look at the larger picture of the need for architecture to engage with the cities and all their people. The future buildings should not reflect the architect’s style but should be the reflection of the people and community in which it is built.
Resistance to digital transformation in Architectural Profession in India
Changing lifestyles have transformed the meaning of architecture in every part of the world. But many architects in India remain hesitant about the transformation of architecture to current trends. They are reluctant to learn modern techniques and technologies. They follow the old systems and believe that their loyal clients will continue giving them a regular supply of projects. Students having trained in these firms who are running their business with the traditional clients also fall into the same loop when they practice. And so, there is no opportunity for an R&D to transform architecture into the current trends.
Architecture, as a profession, is often compared with doctors. But doctors have evolved over the past decades and are using modern technologies and architecture (especially in India) remains the same as several decades ago, i.e. drafting plans and sections using AutoCAD. Not that we should not learn or follow Charles Correa or Doshi; it is that we have to adapt their philosophies and ideologies to innovative techniques and methodologies through research and development.
Lack of interdisciplinary collaboration
The emergence of architecture came from the rise of specialization in society. And it still lies in the history of privilege. Architects always consider themselves Master builders. Their collaborations are bound to Engineers, urbanists, landscape architects, and planners; but the future of architecture demands much more. Apart from the internal considerations, architecture also deals with other disciplines of study, which need interdisciplinary collaborations.
Research in social and cognitive sciences on humans has investigated how buildings or environmental factors can alter social behavior. This shows the need for interdisciplinary collaboration in architecture. By bringing together as many disciplines and professions as possible, i.e. biology, human science, social science to architecture, we will be able to pose interdisciplinary questions and bridge the gap between architecture and other fields. Only when architects collaborate with professionals from other disciplines will they know the potential of architecture? And then they might act as ‘Architects’.
The shift in design sensibilities
In India, architects have more or less given up the responsibility of projecting an “idea of India” through the built and physical environment. The sensibilities of the architects shifted towards fulfilling their ambitions and desires by building the tallest buildings, or the luxurious apartments and largest public spaces. They build to get a LEED or GRIHA, but not with places or people in mind. The concepts of sustainability and ‘going green’ have become fashion and some architects and real estate builders use them as marketing gimmicks rather than as a mandate for responsible design.
Architects are pandering to money in unprecedented ways–creating what Rahul Mehrotra calls the Architecture of Impatient Capital. It leads to the architecture that is often whimsical, most often vendor-driven, for ease of speed of construction. However, there is a considerable transformation from fashionable materials such as aluminum or glass (in an inappropriate context), but still, there is a lot to be transformed.
Limited role of Architectural media in India
The decline of good architecture in India is most significant because of the lack of knowledge transferred from the past through Architectural media and education, which made today’s architects driven by beliefs rather than experimental truths. Though there is a lot of information available, none was converted into knowledge that can be easily accessible to architects.
To theorize a subject is to appreciate its value and existence more than its mere need to be. But the discussions on architecture have happily slipped into the rhetoric of regionalism or climate, hate-glass or love-brick and stone, introducing architects as lifestyle producers of fancy living. Though architecture media is expanding with more people coming in, it should not limit itself to the appreciation of architects and their projects. It should instead become an analytical weapon and a storehouse of knowledge (instead of data), making the people and architects realize the impact of architecture in our lives.
What do Architects need to do?
Architects are projecting themselves as creative beings, and are as subjective as an artist painting the wall. Architectural design is not always as subjective as art. It is the result of several decisions made by various disciplines relative to their users. “Good design is always objective because it just works”. It is research that prevents architects from building for themselves and encourages building for the people.
Architects today are great problem solvers, giving impeccable reasons and solutions for their designs. But this tendency of solving problems will lead to the growth of technicians, not architects. Architecture should shift from problem-solving to posing questions, opening out to interdisciplinary collaborations. The future of architecture cannot be just energy-efficient and sustainable, but also about human sciences, culture, and social well-being.
Hence, architecture in India, with all its possibilities, opportunities, and evolved sensibilities, would not be a dying profession with the architects that adapt to the changing technologies and lifestyles and shape our society by staying true to the values and culture of the people.