Through history, Architects have characteristically looked beyond the ordinary and grim visions of an insecure future to create milestones for the present as well as generations to follow. In the process, application of new materials and technologies have resulted in impressive architectural statements. Furthermore, over the past few decades, the digital muscles have encouraged architects to discard their own intuitive thought processes and switch to digital modes not only for preparing crisp images and flawless working drawings of their proposals but also for creating their designs. Long distance or remote location are no longer constraints for architectural consultations.
The conference intends to open the minds of practitioners and student of architecture, towards futuristic trends in their discipline as envisioned by nationally and internationally acclaimed professionals and academicians.
They may answer some vexing questions such as the following.
How the dimensions of the futuristic trends may vary from one part of the world to another, if they do?
Recognizing the increasing validity of Darwin’s “survival of the fittest” [most sustainable] in the context of futuristic architecture, would the clients especially governments in the developing world largely accept clean and green buildings only? What may be the implications of such a scenario?
Is there any way to ensure that increasingly powerful softwares do not permanently erode the intuitive abilities of architects and student-architects who are about to enter the profession?
More and more Architects seem to trade off their creativity against the compulsive universal conditions. These include climate change, resource constraints, insecurity concerns, affinity for traditions, mechanization of skills & processes, and above all, to be visible as master creators. Some found clues to meet that challenge in creative application of not necessarily emerging technologies, new materials and subsequently offered joyful experience to the users of built spaces, with immense success. The award of Pritzker Prize 2017 to RCR, the three Catalan architects, brought home the increasing validity of “shared creativity” in an era which expects to walk into a heavily urbanized world, much of which may be impoverished and yet indomitable in their determination to be partners of joy on an ailing planet, the Earth.
As societies evolved through centuries from one ecological pattern to the next, architects were confronted with new sets of determinants. Thus their statements essentially represented pragmatic - even jugadu (ad-hoc) - examples of equilibriums where the variety of factors ranging from affordability, kind of technology used to fondness of specific shapes were creatively managed. The causative conditions resulting in the character of the determinants must be appreciated to be able to tame them (or otherwise). Among the plethora of determinants, architects would need to skilfully scrutinize to recognize the relative importance and visualize the sum result of their various combinations that would sufficiently fulfil the requirements of functional efficiency, sustainability and aesthetic sensibility.
Since architectural contexts consist of both cultural and environmental landscapes, similarity among their characteristics and features among different locations may, at best be partial. Thus one finds worlds within the world, each practising and exhibiting their own idiosyncrasies and uniqueness. In this way, identities are created and sustained, if necessary, even by paying a price for it. Both culture and environment are expressions of highly complex and equally sensitive ecological processes that evolve at differential and varying speeds. Their dynamics are more often than not, only partially understood thus comparable to the proverbial ‘tip of the iceberg’. Architects need to be skilful not only in capturing the essence of a futuristic context but also in visualizing the consequences of their assumptions and assessments. Thus the contribution of an architect’s intuition continues to play a pivotal role in responding appropriately to a context, including its dynamism.
Starting with the fire and the wheel, discoveries and inventions contributed continually and often dramatically to cross seemingly unsurpassable thresholds of development. Architecture gainfully utilized results of both to create built forms that strengthened the fabric of daily lives of communities as well as those which have had a inimitable presence in the skyline and created an identity of a culture or a place or both.
As countries are racing to push forward the frontiers of science, awareness of new materials and technologies in addition to the existing ones continue to enrich the knowledge pool of world. Consequently, Architects have access to a huge and growing storehouse of materials and technologies to choose from. They have demonstrated their power of creativity by innovative use of materials and technologies without discriminating between the old and the new. In the process, they have enriched their own knowledge base and also offered useful lessons for the society at large.
India’s diversity and magnanimity encourages her to be perceived as a microcosm of the world. Though the Industrial Revolution was missed, IT driven revolution is here to stay and possibly to take us all to Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World (1932)! As the number of urban dwellers in India is projected to grow from 377 million in 2011 (Census 2011) to 875 million by 2050 (UNESCO 2011), architects in India have an unprecedentedly huge opportunity not only to create good architecture but also to mould the mind set of urban India conducive to a 21 st century urban culture. Granted, this would be a tall order especially for the younger professionals, but they must recognize the rarity of the opportunity and seize the same by taking lessons from those who strove to find a face of post colonial Indian architecture with exemplary courage and relentless efforts. (UNESCO, 2011, Urban Policies and the Right to the City in India.
In India, the mismatch between the knowledge and skills acquired at the Schools of Architecture (SOA) and those needed in the profession has been recognized and yet they co-existed. While the mismatch cannot and need not be eliminated, practitioners often contributed in terms of providing learning opportunities to the students and also sharing their wisdom in the SOA. Nevertheless, the direct link between the pedagogic rigour and resultant professional abilities of the graduates can hardly be over emphasised. The challenge may be further compounded within foreseeable future by increasingly easy access to gigantic information banks and friendlier ‘soft-solutions’. This may virtually eliminate the traditional evolutionary design process from architectural practice and consequently, eliminate teaching of the same in SOA, which indeed is the very core and hall mark of architectural pedagogy.
The training at SOA enables graduates to translate hazy awareness into tangible designs in architecture and allied fields. The trend to move out of architecture seems to be on the rise in India. Recognizing this as a positive dimension of the current pedagogy may encourage structural changes in the same, leading to flexibility in terms of exit from the programme and creating pathways to specialized training in desired fields. Another trend that seems to be gaining ground is global employability. Though this is indicative of the acceptability of the Indian programmes outside India, pedagogical adjustments towards that direction may amount to erosion of cultural identity of the Indian programmes. The inputs of the Council of Architecture and the Indian Institute of Architects should be important in this regard.
S N Segal
Shovan Saha - Dean, SAP,