IF I WERE TO TEACH...
By Sen Kapadia
In the introductory piece of IA&B’s column on Architectural Education, veteran design educator, Architect Sen Kapadia writes about multidisciplinary learning and the fact that learning is sought, not given.
From ‘School is Hell’ by the legendary Matt Groening (© Matt Groening; 1987)
Indian Architect & Builder - July 2013
here was a time when education was enough to tame the loitering mind; enough to allow culture to percolate into a civilisation. Then again there was that time when focused education honed us for professional performance in an urbanised society. These assumed proportionate availability of ideal teachers, libraries and an excellent syllabus evolved by inspired scholars, with acute attention for individual needs and the growth within. Seminars, debates, discussions, search and expressive resolutions formed a theoretical base. Students produced inventive presentations that merited high in socio-cultural impact. Such possibilities arrive only after dedicated inquiry into congeniality of various disciplines. This expands horizons of knowledge and ensures discoveries of new realities. Suddenly, with increase in competitive environment, studies were reduced to a battle field for accumulation of marks at each examination. With such a dense synopsis, the Kamla Raheja Experiment started in 1992 with a goal to arrest the drift in architectural education. In pursuit of illusive profile for a new syllabus, a positive and inclusive system seemed appropriate. Without negating existing archaic courses required for redundant exam oriented teaching. K.R.E. converted them into discourses by deconstructed university prescribed syllabus. Interactive discourses by non-tenured scholars put dynamic charge into these topics to lift them from banality into deep inquiries. These events produced a new and congenial academic environment for learning. This notion was nourished by open minded approach to learning by its enthusiastic and largely adjunct faculty who practiced and then preached the value based professionalism.
There is also an express need to encourage self-learning: a process that encourages discoveries by personal inquiry.
It would be pertinent to stress that the primary task for any school would be to locate the Director. The Head of faculty would be a person with proven credentials not merely assembled university degrees. A widely travelled, deeply interested in historic icons and their reasons to be so. Simultaneously scanning for leaps in world knowledge that will yield tomorrow’s iconic people, events and products. One who
is acutely aware of new visual language of the millennium, Cinema and its role in deciphering new codes of urbanised and differently-wired universe. This role model educationist will even be a writer, sensitive architect and an intellectual who has a pulse of youth. Here, you might say ENOUGH and cry out “This is a description of a fictional character.” Not really. While most of us are not even asking “What is a school”? Reinventing a school of architecture is not even on our agenda. Perhaps, it is easier just to wait for some new developments across the seas, then grab ideas in garb of collaboration and once again deny the individual authentic personal approach. We remain at the bottom. Denying such timid routine, K.R.E. attempted an approach on conceptual premise. Any object attributes its existence on three translations. Before its physical existence, it is on illustrated level and above all, it is on an imaginary platform. If the inquiry for a conceptual form is embellished with new multilayered language, it is sure to yield fresh new image. That is what the creative architect strives for. That is what K.R.E. focused on, the conceptual architecture. In search of new outlines of a deep educational program. Central to which is a multidisciplinary learning. Design studios will begin with conceptual contents and attempt to find a fresh set of guiding forces that generates a new discourse on possibilities. Next direction to find out lines of amorphous form will be a clutch of subsets absorbing climatic, geographical and contextual signs. Allowing various combatant subsets interplay to develop a new vocabulary for Form/ Space exploration. Discarding existing grammar, each student presents a personal library of emergent objects - seeing the whole process as a subject of inquiry that prepares young minds to personally absorb rules of problem solving as a creative process. In course of a five year study, students will grow up to look at any situation positively and as an opportunity to create with confidence. Indian Architect & Builder - July 2013
Sen Kapadia is an architect, educationist and planner based in Mumbai. He has worked with Louis I Kahn and the space management office in New York. He is instrumental in conceptualising and institutionalising the KRVIA (Kamla Raheja Vidyanidhi Institute for Architecture) in Mumbai. Sen Kapadia has written extensively on design, architecture and visual culture and has lectured in premiere institutions in India and abroad. He lives and works in Mumbai.
Every presentation being made to external jury reaffirms the process of learning. The argument, elaborations and insights are open for everybody to share and learn outside the class room. In fact this is the climax that Design Studios can reach and in return a grand opportunity to personally hone the skill of â€œconcept deliveryâ€œ as well as an open invitation to learn by observation for all other students. Then there is the school for open learning, after re-questioning class rooms as spaces for teaching. They are merely instruments for teaching for exams. Without them, space for learning is a new landscape. Perhaps, History of Architecture could be a non-exam subject and narratives could be condensed in a set of audio- video classes with the only compulsion to attend each session. A few iconic examples would then be seriously studied in their original environment by site visits and then debated, deconstructed and represented with arguments for their being so and socio cultural environment that induced their special characteristics. There could also be a display as learning tool and teaching tool. Drawings on walls and models on floors; learning by observing. Construction can be learnt by observing existing examples and presenting them in graphic records of your perceptions. Indian Architect & Builder - July 2013
Technology as an instrument for change in education: a school can focus on producing learning modules that can be usable universally. A specific charismatic person can give his observations on a chosen topic and present it with the cross references of todayâ€™s visual art and philosophical benchmark in a concise digital format (DVD or like). To induce the reinventing agenda, there are several books available now globally, but always the inner voice has to provoke to put the claim. Additionally, there is this notion that the design studio in its present avatar, must be disassembled. Everybody cannot become a design architect. Some people are good in assisting an office; some others can be good in site work or in dealing with approval authorities. It is obvious that all schools need not have similar curriculum. A less intense course could offer an abridged Bachelor of Building Sciences for such a program. Then there could be schools of architecture that have built-in programs for training Fellows in a variety of subjects. It would be a sunny day when a well-educated and creative architect will one day teach construction on site, or on another day an architect will go on site and monitor spirit of architecture and adjust measurements. With the uneasy awareness of 250 schools
Technology as an instrument for change in education: a school can focus on producing learning modules that can be usable universally.
of architecture already in existence and 100 more already being approved, a devastating scenario is being developed by unknowing authorities to unleash upon us. Where do we get that illusive Director from?! And essential faculty? And in these numbers? One wonders the efficacy of such a grand program. Perhaps the only way to avoid this calamity is to educate with aid of â€œVideo Learningâ€?. Most classrooms would now have to be audio video rooms where students will learn through projection of a lecture by accomplished authority on a specific subject. Such lectures will, of course, be interactive, debated, deconstructed and reassembled. This video conference would be its other manifestation, where scattered participants will come under 'one roof' electronically and debate issues with the urgency of face to face confrontation. Technique of video learning has long been utilised corporate houses to inform and educate vast army of employees. With advancing technologies and satellite transmission, knowledge transfer could be way outside classrooms. Soon our libraries would be air-conditioned databases accessing best of learning modules globally. An open source library not restricted to a stack of books. And we will all be rich with knowledge for that. There is also an express need to encourage self-learning: a process
that encourages discoveries by personal inquiry. When this is ingrained, the mind will be on a flight to wonderment. Education will be a preferred experience. Perhaps there will be a new dawn.
Sen Kapadia, June 2013
This column invites eminent academicians, ethical teachers, teaching architects, institution builders and design educationists to comment on architectural education (and design education as an extension) in the context of India. Concerned architects / academicians / educationists / teachers and students are invited to write to us / call us / email us for further discussion. Your deliberations / observations / critique / counter-arguments and agreements will be deeply valued. We must create a meaningful community of like-minded people to negotiate our future as professionals and responsible citizens of a globalising India. We must hold ourselves responsible for the quality of architectural and design thought in the coming decades. Please send your feedback / comments to email@example.com. IA&B believes that this issue is of prime (and unprecedented) importance at the moment for the future of architecture in India.
Indian Architect & Builder - July 2013