Coordinators - Prasad Shetty, Rupali Gupte, Dipti Bhaindarkar and Vastavikta Bhagat

Formally trained architects in India participate in building habitation for less than 10 per cent of the population. Most architecture created through the involvement of architects produces segregation and discrimination towards certain classes, castes and genders. This study is concerned with the role of formal architectural education in addressing the habitation question and issues of spatial justice. Towards this, a review of the educational ecosystem for architecture has been undertaken. This ecosystem includes institutions, universities, regulatory bodies, journals, events, awards and offices. The study also briefly looks at cases of habitation making for the remaining 90 per cent who do not get served by trained architects.

Currently, architectural institutions are intensely regulated and resource starved, with no capacity to interrogate architectural methods or to produce new knowledge. They train architects in orthographic projections; basic construction, quantification, estimation and specification; planning of spaces based on functional logistics; and stylistic thinking in history. There is no theoretical basis for understanding space, its production, its experience and its role in shaping behaviour. Environmental and affordability issues are approached with a technological orientation, with cultural dimensions seldom being considered. Good humanities and social science courses are absent from the syllabi of most institutions. The pedagogy has no orientation in addressing the population at large. The process of building taught in institutions is linear, starting from a client, a clear site, a design brief, its conceptual interpretation by the architect, detailed drawings, approvals, working drawings for contractors, site supervision and handing over the site. On the other hand, habitation making processes in slums, villages, urban villages, urban peripheries, inner-city areas and second cities (the 90 per cent population) do not follow a linear process. They are made incrementally through expansions, improvements, upgrades, repairs and retrofitting, and are mobilised slowly over time as and when the need arises and resources permit. Architects are not trained in this process. However, the habitation dominant amongst the masses is usually of low quality in terms of spatial planning and perpetuates discrimination and segregation.

The educational ecosystem for architecture has historically evolved to produce an institutionalisation that is made to feed the formal building industry dominated by the elite and by real estate developers. Here, spatial culture creates exclusive and privatised spaces that perpetuate differences: using expensive material and mechanical devices to create comfort and resolve environmental issues; producing an identity for the owners; and maximising floor space. From our review, it is apparent that this ecosystem is structurally, institutionally and pedagogically insufficient to produce a relevant spatial culture, spatial justice or cultural sustainability. While it is structurally located within a political economy where education is a money-making enterprise, it is institutionally geared to reduce academia to educational organisations and pedagogically oriented to prepare students for a building industry of a certain kind.

While 90 per cent of the population does not get served by trained architects, there has also been a 500 per cent rise in the number of graduates in the past 10 years. This can be an opportunity for addressing the habitation and spatial justice questions, but will need a multi-pronged approach to reorient the ecosystem in which: institutions become academic spaces promoting research and experimentation where students grow with the interrogations of the institution; pedagogy becomes multidisciplinary, collaborative and reinforced with orientations in humanities and theory; regulatory bodies create enabling environments providing resource and support to institutions; validating organisations become watchdogs, archives and ethical barometers; and architectural offices equip students with skills required for practice. The study found that despite the odds, architectural institutions have been innovating and striving to create relevance. Their efforts will remain key for the overhaul of the ecosystem and they will have to steer the process of change.

Go to the Full Report Part 1 & Annexes Part 2