The Council of Architecture (COA) has been constituted by the Government of India under the provisions of the Architects Act, 1972, enacted by the Parliament of India, which came into force on 1st September, 1972. The Act provides for registration of Architects, standards of education, recognized qualifications and standards of practice to be complied with by the practicing architects.
In an interview to ArchitectureLive! Vijay Garg who is part of the newly elected Executive Committee of the CoA, India, shared that strengthening Architecture Education is his top priority. In the coming three years, the CoA will actively work to improve the standards of architecture education and practice in India.
AL! – Heartiest Congratulations on being elected as the Vice President of the Council of Architecture. The fraternity of Architects, including many young architects who are part of this portal, have many expectations from the new team of the CoA. Thus, we hope these set of questions will facilitate better understanding of the COA’s role in shaping the professional and academic future of Architects in India.
What is the biggest challenge you see, which needs to be addressed on the priority?
VG: Education first, as it is the backbone of the profession, and the current state of the affairs in the profession is mainly due to deficiency issues with the Architecture Education in India.
While we have a huge number of colleges, about 430+, and around 50-60 applications are still pending with the CoA, almost 50% colleges, severely lack the adequate infrastructure and faculty. The CoA must come tough on such Institutions for ensuring the future of young Architects and thereby the profession. The CoA and the Government have to work together to bring in the positive change for ensuring that People running private institutions with vested interests should not become the driving forces for Architectural Education in India.
Working in Public Interest
The CoA needs to focus on the important issues of public interest for developing a People Approach, to bring active participation of general public to work with Architects in finding solutions to growing urban problems, thereby uplifting the image of the CoA while helping the profession.
AL!: Where do you think education has largely suffered?
VG: There are about 28000 students studying architecture and we certainly lack not only the adequate number of teachers but also teachers of the required Quality. Deficiency of good teachers is the main reason why Education is largely suffering. Education also would need to focus on the Project delivery aspects in the future.
AL!: You shared that there is a deficiency of teachers. How does CoA plan to address this issue?
We will encourage Senior practitioners, with more than 15 years of experience to contribute to teaching. In my opinion, handling independently a large project is equivalent to undertaking a Ph.D. programme in itself. This will significantly improve the quality of education in the current Scenerio.
Research in the name of PhD, the way it is being practiced for following UGC norms by many Universities is questionable from professional aspects. The CoA will look into these and ensure that a more relevant policy is framed for ensuring that the Research topics are properly chosen for improving the quality of teachers pursuing PhD across the country.
CoA will also request Universities to recognize good work by professionals and provide them with equivalence to Ph.D for purpose for teaching. SPA has already amended rules for recognizing Equivalence to PhD for enlisting professionals from the Industry to benefit the Architectural education.
CoA will have a strong vigilance system of surprise Inspections to ensure that Institutions delivering Architectural Education do not flout any norms and courses are run as per the CoA regulations. If need be, we are ready to bring down this number to 20000 students by reducing intakes or shutting down colleges which lack infrastructure and faculty to ensure that the future of the profession is not at risk.
These changes should be visible in the next six months.
AL: Isn’t NIASA already running several programs to train teachers and uplift the quality of education?
No, in my opinion, NIASA’s main focus in the past has been on conducting NATA and students’ competitions. NIASA needs to play a bigger role in uplifting the quality of teachers and education across the country in the times to come. We are in the process of understanding the functioning of NIASA, for taking some decisions to propose the required changes at the earliest.
AL!: Will reducing the number of seats, or shutting down colleges, not affect the number of architects that our country needs?
VG: While I agree that we need lakhs of architects to bring in change, but our Goal has to be on the Quality and not just quantity. Our Architectural Education system, at the moment, does not seem to be ready to deliver these many number of architects. We must think clearly and act accordingly to augment the existing infrastructure with the required changes for producing competent and fully prepared students for entering the profession.
AL: Talking about NATA, has it made it easy for students to get into architecture?
NATA may have started with a good intention, but currently, this seems to be falling short of finding the right candidates for Architectural Education. Since the number of private Institutions is not being regulated, even the persons having very low scores in NATA are finding admission to Architecture Colleges. The new team of CoA will bring significant changes in the system to make it more meaningful for finding the students with the right aptitude to get selected through NATA.
AL!: Can you please elaborate more on the changes in NATA, that the CoA wishes to bring?
We might have to reduce the NATA centres to about 50 with only reputed Universities for conducting NATA in a fixed time frame on the JEE lines, where at a time 100 students give exams at few places, thereby reducing manipulations and malpractices by “vested interest groups”.
AL! – What is the reason so many students are opting for architecture education? Do you think the CoA has made it easy for students to get into architecture institutes?
VG: The lure of having a professional degree without having Science could be one of the main reasons. Since Architecture is not only about art, there is a lot of Technology and Science involved for building structures, Science will become a prerequisite for all students opting for architecture from 2018.
AL!: What will be the CoA’s vision about the profession in India?
VG: Architecture deals with every aspect of the human environment, be it history, arts, science, law, management, technology or environment.
I firmly believe that Architecture can lead the Cities of our country towards being better, more liveable and providing a more happy environment for a healthy living in the future.
My vision is to push for creation of New capitals in every state to get Design in a front seat in each city. History has proved that wherever Cities have given preference to good design, it has witnessed enormous progress. Architects must actively participate in the development of city or atleast immediate surroundings. All this can happen if we align ourselves to work closely with the government at all levels.
Delhi is one fine example, where an Architect Minister (Mr. Satyendar Jain) has demonstrated how using architects and architecture can bring in good development through innovation. We must make unified efforts to put design into every aspect of development to ensure a better quality of living.
AL! – How does CoA plan to create more awareness about the profession among people?
VG: Architectural awareness must be promoted at High school level. We have already approached several authorities to ensure that the syllabus in schools talk about the profession. At the same time, Institutes and students must start campaigns to connect with the cities and people outside their campuses.
AL! – What mechanism will the CoA adapt to address the grievances of professionals, students and the institutes?
VG: The CoA will be more approachable, people can write to us, come to office and meet and discuss the issues. CoA will also be lending organizational support to any initiatives by institutions, professionals, educators or students that would benefit the profession including education.
At the moment, the CoA does not have any forum online on Social Media, like Facebook or Twitter. Anyone who wants to contact us can write an email to us to discuss their issues. The CoA will certainly take feedback from discussions on the Social Media. We will also create an FAQ online, where people can get answers to frequently asked questions.
AL! – What message will you give to the young architects and the new students who have opted for architecture?
VG: Fresh architects should have an open mind to the changing needs of the society, and their priority should be the service to people. The centre of thought should be to create a happy environment for people, rather than only making money.
For the students, who have opted for architectural education, they should know that architecture is not an easy course. They should pursue it only if they are genuinely interested. And, if they need any counselling, the CoA will provide all kind of help to new students with understanding the intricacies of the profession.
My best wishes to all Institutes, Architects and the students, and an invitation to all for working together to create a happy nation.
Photo of Vijay Garg: Ar. Shamit Manchanda
Editing: Ar. Ashish Gupta