Sanjay Prakash quotes on the role and relevance of architects today in the society: Below,
As an ancient profession, architecture was never really close to the general public. Works were commissioned by the rich and powerful and designed and executed by a class of professionals, which came to be defined as ‘architects’. One could have a benign elite or a self-serving elite, and that made the difference on whether the architect would be asked to execute public drinking water fountains or private mosques, respectively.
It was only after industrialization in the west and independence in India that there were a few decades of considering architecture as a service to society at large, and with liberalization and capitalistic market dominance, architecture has reverted to form: serving the elite, as it always did.
There are other professions that require large investments of capital and so are also controlled by the elite. Film-making comes to mind. However, in film-making, the revenue comes from the people at large and so it is controlled by popular, even populist, considerations. For architecture, the buyer of its products (especially after liberalization) is already petit bourgeoisie or minor elite. Except for limited examples in the public realm, no longer is it the case that the “people at large” pay for the product of architecture.
Yes, there was a time when architecture was brought onto service of independent Indian society, but that moment has gone, and so have all pretensions of serving the people at large. That moment was characterized by India’s tryst with the commanding heights of the economy represented by the public sector. However, both Indian society and Indian architects lost that opportunity to make a difference and that era ended amidst a dust storm of corruption and maladministration, near bankruptcy even. Could things have been different? Probably due to that era, it is still true that architects remain one of the most social-minded of the professionals in our country, and might lead a resurgence towards a balanced public policy that would respect markets and the people at large equally.
Sanjay Prakash, B. Arch., A.I.I.A., is an architect with a commitment to energy-conscious architecture, eco-friendly design, people’s participation in planning, music, and production design. Over the years, he has integrated all his work with the practice of new urbanism and sustainability in his professional and personal life.
His area of practice and research over the last 34 years includes passive and low energy architecture and planning, hybrid air-conditioning, autonomous energy and water systems, bamboo, wood and earth construction, community-based design of common property, and computer-aided design. Under his guidance, hundreds of persons have developed capabilities in performing design, conceptual or management work in these areas.
He is Principal Consultant of his design firm, SHiFt: Studio for Habitat Futures (formerly known as Sanjay Prakash & Associates), and was a partner of daat and Studio Plus, firms that predate his current firm.
His name and work is mentioned in the twentieth edition of one of the main reference works in architectural history, A History of Architecture by Sir Bannister Fletcher.