Seminar vol. 180 : The Architect in India

August 1980
Presented by: 
M N Ashish Ganju, A G K Menon, Yeshwant Das, Vasant Kamath, Jayendra Bhatt, Dr. K L Nadir, Satish Dabral, Romi Khosla

The architectural profession has approached the crossroads in its development in India, and the direction it now chooses will determine both its effectiveness in serving society, and the validity of its future existence.

In this respect the profession must take the initiative in considering the relevant factors concerning its future options, rather than have them forced upon it through necessity or expediency. These factors have either been ignored or have only been considered in a haphazard and piecemeal manner for too long and, thus, they have had no perceptible impact on the profession to date.




The Problem

Ganju, M N Ashish and Menon, A G K. "The Problem" In The Architect in India: a Symposium on the New Disciplines of a Profession, Seminar (India) Magazine; vol 180. New Delhi, India: Seminar Publications, 1974.

The problems of the profession can be considered under three broad, but overlapping categories.
1. The problem of the architect's self-perception and the definition of his role as a professional. 
2. The problems of developing a rational base for the profession (or the role of the profession in terms of overall social needs); and. 
3. The problem of the level of technology to be aimed at to meet the needs of development.


Historical Bias

Das, Yeshwant. "Historical Bias." In The Architect in India: a Symposium on the New Disciplines of a Profession, Seminar (India) Magazine; vol 180. Vol. 180. SEMINAR 180. New Delhi, India: Seminar Publications, 1974.

Keywords: Professional Practice, Conventional Design Threshold and Client Architect Relationship

The root of formal architecture lies in written history. Since the books of history deal with the privileged and the powerful, their exploits and symbols of their authority, the source of inspiration for both public and architects has been historical monuments – temples, churches and palaces – artifacts built by master builders for their deeds and perpetuate their memory. This history, as told by religious and political leaders and historians for generations through legends, scriptures, folklore and books, has conditioned the sociocultural thinking and has established the architectural frame within which the architects view their role and the public forms its sense of appreciation.


Team Approach Needed

Kamath, Vasant. "Team Approach Needed." In The Architect in India: a Symposium on the New Disciplines of a Profession, Seminar (India) Magazine; vol 180. SEMINAR. New Delhi, India: Seminar Publications, 1974.

Keywords: Professional Practice

That there is a widespread frustration among architects in India is evident from the fact that thousands are leaving the country every year for better opportunities abroad. The frustration is on many deferential levels. Many young architects are frustrated because they are exploited and underpaid. As employees in private offices, they see fat fees coming in for jobs which they have handled at a ridiculously low hourly rate.

Salaries are unrelated to profits, individual output and ability, in a system which tends to be grossly unjust. Low salaries are related to the type of work that is expected of young architects. Their architectural education trains them to be designers yet on entering offices they find that youngsters are given only the mechanical tasks of drafting and presenting others’ creations. Furthermore, there is often a conflict between the values inherent in their bosses’ designs and their own design values fall far below expectations tempts to express themselves meet with a discouraging response and the frustration grows. In other offices where maybe they are allowed to design, the frustration is of a different nature. They find that the commercial pressures of cut-throat competition and under-cutting tactics, produce a ‘building-a-day’ attitude. Quality is sacrificed for quantity and they are forced to churn out stereotyped, second rate designs, without being given enough time to think about problems in depth and arrive at appropriate solutions.


Relationship with Clients

Bhatt, Jayendra. "Relationship with Clients." In The Architect: a Symposium on the New Disciplines of a Profession, Seminar (India) Magazine; vol 180. SEMINAR. New Delhi, India: Seminar Publications,1974.

Keywords: Professional Practice and Client Architect Relationship

The profession of architects is very difficult to define but a broad definition could be expressed as follows. Architecture combines the skills of a technologist, an artist and a social psychologist. Although the qualities demanded are so varied, present training concentrates around aspects like aesthetics, functions and elementary building technology. All through training and later, during professional practice, the architect is fond of talking about the variety of clients, client-architect relationship, client’s choices, client’s satisfaction, etc. No architect tells the truth but the fact remains that architects are terrible ageists and rarely design in accordance with the demands of the job in totality. Any soul searching on our part reveals this gap between precept and practice.


Professional Ideology

Nadir, Dr K. L.. "Professional Ideology." In The Architect: a Symposium on the New Disciplines of a Profession, Seminar (India) Magazine;

Keywords: The Architect, Sociology of Architecture and Professional Practice

If the majority of architects in India lack any ideological vision, the more sensitive ones are increasingly becoming aware of their incapacity/inability to make their vision of things and the environment acceptable to society. Architects, including physical planners, by the very definition of the terms, are involved in a project–the shaping of a man-made environment at a relatively durable level. They assume needs, demands, styles of life and concomitant values, beliefs and attitudes, which call for symbolization.


The Alternatives

Dabral, Satish. "The Alternatives." In The Architect in India: a Symposium on the New Disciplines of a Profession, Seminar (India) Magazine; vol 180. SEMINAR. New Delhi, India: Seminar Publications, 1974.

Keywords: Professional Practice

I must confess that what I am going to generalize about - so heterogeneous a mix of individuals as architects - is not the result of any scientific sturdy. On the contrary, it is the sporadic observation over the past few years of socially concerned young students of architecture and recent graduates with whom I have had the opportunity to associate during my job as teacher architect. In order to gain some insight about young architects today, their aspirations and dissatisfaction with the way things are, it is necessary to review the contemporary position of the profession, even though cursorily.


Books: A Review Article

Khosla, Romi. "Books: a Review Article." In The Architect in India: a Symposium on the New Disciplines of a Profession, Seminar (India) Magazine; vol 180. SEMINAR. New Delhi, India: Seminar Publications, 1974.

Keywords: Modernist Architecture and Le Corbusier

  • Parameters and Images: Architecture In a Crowded World by Lionel Brett, Widenfild and Nicholson, London, 1970.
  • Modern Movements in Architecture by Charles Jencks, Allen Lank London, 1973.
  • Le Corbusier and the Tragic View of Architecture By Charles Jencks, Allen Lane London, 1973.

Definitely, modern architecture has gone wrong somewhere. That dream which the European architecture pioneers promised the world in the early thirties has faded away. The modern metropolis is unreal, depressing and divorced from nature which once gave us all our energies and inspirations. This is a point of view of course. Others maintain, equally well, that modern architecture has changed our lives for the better, and that the metropolis is a throbbing, live cultural centre where man’s inventiveness has reached new dimensions. What seems beyond dispute however is that the twentieth century has ushered in a new era of architecture and urban life which is both dynamic and static and that one’s assessment of the achievements of this era depends entirely on one’s political standpoint. The slums have increased and remain static pools of human degradation while commercial buildings have sprouted like mushrooms taking the mechanics of architecture to even greater heights.
Both view points are expressed in these three books. Lionel Brett, older to Charles Jencks by twenty six years, outlines the pessimistic view of modern architecture while Jencks, the hip American historian, takes us deep into its pleasures and contradictions. Brett is not a historian.