Sometime ago I had the honour of being visited by a British Architect and Educationist. Of the discussions we had one thing get imprinted on my mind:– He informed me that in Britain, Architectural Institutions attract the best brains in the country – the best scientists, the best mathematicians, best sociologists, economists etc… I was taken off my guard, because in our own country we get only the residue of the talents who go to I.A.S. of I.P.S., or Engineering subjects. So, I enquired if it was due to the vast job opportunities in his country. ‘No’ was his reply. In fact, he informed, the job opportunities for architects are less than other fields. The real reason why the best brains come to architecture in that country is that, this is one profession which offers you an opportunity to develop your personality in a very wide sphere of human activity, and if you have something in you, you can find expression in as wide a range as you choose. To be an architect you have to be able to understand the basic concepts of Science, Art, Mathematics, Philosophy, Sociology, Economic, History etc. Having become an architect, you can continue to develop in other directions as well. As a matter of fact, to be a worthwhile architect, you have to have a Philosophical mind, Artistic temperament, Scientific approach, and Socioeconomic concept of persons, places, and things. Certainly you cannot be experts in all the spheres. But it is quite common to find that worthwhile architects have active pursuits other than what is commonly known as ‘architecture’. Michelangelo, the great renaissance architect was a sculptor as well as a painter also. Corbusier has a large number of his paintings in the museum of Modern Art in New York, besides he was a philosopher of architectural thought, which revolutionized the concepts of Architecture and Town Planning. Frank Lloyed Wright the great American Architect is credited with thinking out a system of Earthquake proof construction. His Imperial Hotel Building in Japan was the only building which survived a severe earthquake. Reg Butler, the British Sculptor who won the International Competition of the Sculpture of the Unknown Soldier is originally an Architect. Painters, Philosophers, Musicians, Actors, and Writers find affinity of thought with architects.
Such are the opportunities that architecture as a profession provides. I cannot say any other profession provides such opportunities.
What is an Architect in India? The thought process of an educated common man of India with reference to an architect is somewhat like this:– If you can afford to pay the fees of an architect, you may go to him; if you want something extraordinary in you building like some style, you may go to him; if you want to get your elevation touched up to bring out the effect, you go to him, most educated people believe that they know what they want in their building – be it a house, an office, a factory or any other thing. Only very few realize that Architect is essential for designing any space – starting from a small cabin to a whole city; fewer still realize that an architect gives you your money’s worth. Most think, it is so such money down the drain to cuddle your fancy. Many argue that for the fees of an architect you could build an extra room or two – that would be lot more useful. After all rooms are rooms, placed this way or that does not seem to make ‘that’ much difference. Most educated persons cannot even pronounce the word ‘Architect’ correctly. Many confuse him with some sort of Engineer.
Less educated people do not know an architect at all, nothing to speak of the uneducated masses of the country.
And yet, whereas London alone has about four thousand practising architects, the entire India does not have half a many. There is no town in Britain which does not have practising architects. There are vast zones in India where the architect has never been heard of. London provides enough jobs for the 4000 practising architects to feed themselves and a large number of assistants they employ.
The whole of India cannot provide jobs for half that number. A number of Architectural graduates roam the streets in search of jobs. Same graduates emigrating to London land jobs in no time. The building activity in the country is very large, and the building shortage, particularly housing shortage is colossal. The heed of the country is that every inch of space is properly planned, every bit of the material resource is most economically used, and every technology is fully utilized, to provide the simplest possible space for living, working, recreation, education for the vast masses of this country. The truth however is that we are draining our resources to create ugliness, chaos and slums. Here and there we make show pieces in the name of progress.
Where there is plenty, (like in Britain) there is discretion, care, economy in the use of resources. Where there is scarcity (like in India) there is waste.
I think such a state of affairs is the natural product of our ignorance. The situation is not extra – ordinary. This is to be expected. But it shows that the opportunity for an architect in India is unlimited provided he has the gumption to avail of that. It needs hard work, devotion, and, of – course, knowledge. The ground, as to speak, is raw, wild, uncultivated. The man who breaks the sods first has to work the hardest, at the same time, his reward is the greatest.
This is the challenge to the Architect in India today. He has to build up a clientele for himself. He has to adopt his training to the needs of the country. He has to extricate himself from the make believe world in which he floats under the influence of the happenings abroad. He has to evolve an indigenous system of educating himself in accordance with the resources, and requirements of the country. Above all he has to be competent. He has to be able to handle his job with confidence. Even as he progresses in his career, he has to keep a sharp look out to keep himself up to date with knowledge acquired by experience and study. Whereas, I do not believe that an architect, (and for that matter any professional) in any country at any time can be free from much a responsibility, I point it out as a special need of our country just now, because the architect has to sell the idea of Architecture to the country – he has to prove his worth. Any wrong step is a big step backward. Only the right step produces a very slow progress in the beginning. Gradually the progress may gain momentum.
At this stage I wish to make my personal statement of faith as an architect. I am aware that may architects are apt to differ with me on this. But that does not alter my faith, nay, I consider that it adds interest to it.
1. I believe Architecture is a fumetion of space. Beauty has to be created by the act of organisation of space. Beauty cannot be created by waste of space.
2. The tools of Architecture are – Materials and Technology. Beauty has to be found by truthful use of the materials, truthful expression of technology. Falsehood cannot produce beauty.
3. Expensiveness does not necessarily produce beauty. In fact the chances are that expensiveness produces ugliness – though not necessarily so. Nor does cheapness produce ugliness.
4. Beauty is not a function of expensiveness or cheapness. Beauty is a function of harmony generated by the rational utilization of materials and techniques in organising space. Harmony is a state of consonance of the vibrations produced by the elements with which space is organized. Elements are the surfaces, solids, and voids, in space.
5. Architects function is not merely to create visual beauty. His job is also to create beautiful life through a beautiful, functional and efficient environment.
6. Economy in everything tends to produce beauty. Affluence tends to produce ugliness.
7. Less the number of elements with which space is organized, the greater the chances of creating beauty. Greater the number of elements, the greater the chances of ugliness.
8. In creation, destruction is implied. That is why, ‘Death’ is beautiful, – it gives way to ‘Life’.
9. The very act of construction anywhere is destruction of the space as it was there. The architect has to be aware of the tremendous responsibility he has towards space. God created all space beautiful. By building, man destroys that space. It is the responsibility of the Architect that space on which he builds is at least as beautiful as before, if not more beautiful.
10. Every building lives in space and time in relation with the other elements in space and time. Every change in space and time affects the building. In time the building becomes out of place. Then, the beauty lies in destroying the building to liberate space. When man reaches ripe old age, visit of Death is beautiful for him and others.
11. Ageing is not entirely a function of absolute time. Some things age quickly, others age slowly. Some are old even at birth, some become younger even as time passes.
12. The value of an environment (organised space) lies in the idea behind the environment. Some ideas lend flexibility to space others rigidity. Flexible space lives longer than rigid space.
13. Architect’s existence is proportional to his usefulness to the society.
14. Architect must keep himself abreast of the forces which are affecting the pattern of living. Then only can be visualize the pattern of space organisation which can cater to the life emerging.
15. Architect must be aware that the character of space influences the character of the people; as much as the people would the character of a space. Space is a living phenomenon. That is why it goes through creation and destruction.
16. Whatever the change in our modes of lives, human dimension still remains the inflexible criterion in organising space. Human measurement is the measure of all space, that is relevant for human beings, that is why, beyond a certain dimensions, any enclosed space becomes uncomfortable. It begins to go beyond human comprehension. Similarly there is a minimum dimension below which human beings feel cramped.
17. It is an irony, and failure of human comprehension of his environment, that with industrial progress, human space has been squeezed to crippling, and atmosphere to stifling. As a matter of fact, it is possible to create more beautiful space and more heal thy atmosphere with the help of Industry.
19.1 Architect has to tune himself to respond to the music of space. Good space, and the concept of good space, should produce sympathetic vibrations in him. Bad space should be revolting.
20. Harmony produces happiness – Discord, grief.
21. No human activity should tolerate ugliness, least of all, the working activity. Man spends most of his waking time working. Make work beautiful.
22. It is an irony that Industry which is meant to make human life beautiful is commonly associated with ugliness, squalor, dinginess. It need not be so, it ‘must’ not be so.
23. Progress is progress only if it liberates human spirit, human comprehension. Least we can say, it should be beautiful.
24. If beauty is made the criterion for all human sections, we can bring happiness, harmony, and real progress in the world. Beauty, as the criterion for all human actions, is a practical idea – not a whim. Here are practical applications of beauty as criterion:–
(1) Finish disease, because it is ugly. (2) Demolish slums because they are ugly. (3) Provide sanitation because it is beautiful. (4) Build with simplicity and honesty because it is beautiful (5) Eliminate overhead wires in the city because they are ugly. (6) Build beautiful work places because they are beautiful. (7) War is ugly, finish it.
25. All notions of Mahatma Gandhi lead towards beauty of life. Truth is beautiful.
26. Just as bodies in Cosmos move in accordance with certain laws of space, we also every particle, every activity, every force, every technology has its laws. In an act of building, the architect must be aware of the laws of the materials, technology, and space. Truthful application of these laws alone can produce beauty.
27. A form given by truthful application of structural principles is a beautiful form. The architect has to understand which is the right place for that form.
28. Indiseriminate juxtaposition of even beautiful forms can produce ugliness.
29. Great works of art have one great idea behind them. More ugliness is produced in the name of variety.
30. My criterion for life is Beauty. I see beauty is simplicity. My system of design is a system of elimination of what can be eliminated. Ultimately I have very few elements with which I design.
31.Excess in any form is ugly.
Having made my statement of faith, not only in terms of architecture but also as a way of life, let me state what role should an architect play in our country today. It will be foolish to any that each and every building should be designed by an architect:– There are not enough architects, notwithstanding the fact that many of them are without jobs. Today, due to Industrialization, there is rapid urbanization. If we can provide a reasonable environment for living, working, care of body and spirit, and Circulation in our cities, we will have solved the major problem. The thing to do is to find a good system of development of the cities. At present, anyone who moves to the city find a shack or pavement some here and squats there. Around an existing city is belt of shacks of the Industrial workers. In course of tie this belt is swallowed by the city, because its value rises. Another belt of shacks grows round it. Thus city grows under a system of tightening belts which choke the core. On the face of it, the city looks prosperous, because we see so much commercial activity, so much traffic, so many cars, so much noise. But the real liveability of the city deteriorates below any levels of decemey. People defecate wherever they can find a rubbish heap because there is no other alternative. People work under most inhuman conditions. People live in the streets – if it can be called living. All progress is sham, because it produces worse life.
Therefore, it is in the cities that the architects must move in with the following objectives in mind:–
- To find a system of development of the city which does not pressurize the existing core.
- To anticipate the demands on the space in the city, and to enter for them.
- To recast all existing building by-laws in the light of new findings.
- To work out plans which ensure a minimum standard of living for all people. To find a method of implementation of these plans.
- To work out a system whereby spare in the city is not wasted. This means working out maximum plans also, especially for housing.
What is not enough?
- To attach an architect to the Municipal offices.
- To attach an architect to the Improvement Trust.
- To have 2-3 architects practising in the city.
Such measures a futile because there the architects fit in a system which in obsolete, and, therefore, themselves become obsolete. The need is to completely overhaul the system of governing the space in the cities – to bring beauty and dignity to life.
First important thing is to work out a good system for the development of a city – for development is inevitable.
In that system, wherever there is a building project, bring in the architects.
An architect should be called upon to undertake the development of a certain area or zone, where norms of space utilization and circulation pattern have been laid down to conform to the overall pattern of development. It is of no great value to have an architect to do just single buildings. Now-a-days development in cities has to be viewed on a mass seals, and not as single buildings. Each development has implications for other developments. Therefore, whereas it is essential to fix a maximum exploitation of land, it is also essential to fix the minimum. Designing of areas or zones is an act of designing systems of development which open many possibilities. Some are listed as follows:–
- Feasibility of realization through Industry.
- Flexibility i.e. Today a family may afford is a two room house. Tomorrow the same family may want 4 rooms, It should be possible to provide more space without excessive dismantling.
- Speed. In an industrial age, the speed of realisation is of utmost importance. In fact, we need speed faster than the speed or urbanisation. That is why we are falling behind in all our building programmes.
- Making the fruits of industry available to the public a long with the progress of industry e.g. Electricity, Telephones, Sanitation Air Conditioning, Television. These should be available in such a manner that efficiency is ensured, and space is not cluttered with unsightly wires.
- Working out a system of traffic movement so that one is not in the way of the other. All types of traffic can move smoothly and efficiently.
Architecture should be a matter of implementation of ideas, and not merely a means of earning a livelihood building something fancy for a rich client whom you are able to rope in. Of-course there is bound to be clash of ideas. One architect thinks one way, the other, other way. Nay, the ideas of architects are likely to be challenged by many other agencies like sociologists, economists, politicians, defence personnel. But that is as it should be. Let there be an architectural idea. Then only there can be questioning of that idea. At present there is no idea. A worthwhile idea will stand any onslaught. A second rate idea had better be swept away by the first onslaught of criticism.
City of Chandigarh is the implementation of an Architectural idea. It has gone through many onslaughts from the day it was conceived till today. It has withstood all the criticism because the idea behind Chandigarh was great. Had it been feeble, Chandigarh could not have been built. It is only now that Chandigarh is the darling of everybody. When it was started, many scoffed at it. When its few buildings were built, most people disliked – may hated – them. But when people moved into them, then only they realized the force of ideas behind the design of those buildings. Seen hatred turned into love. Effect of Chandigarh architecture could be seen far and wide. People begain to copy without understanding. Chandigarh style became a fashion.
Let it not be thought that Chandigarh is the last word in planning and Architecture. Chandigarh has many faults. But they could be realized only by building Chandigarh. Chandigarh has certainly highlighted the faults in other cities of India. It has brought awareness that it is possible to plan and build to give dignity to life.
But let it not be understood that Chandigarh idea is an idea for all time. A city lives in space and time. What is validation is not valid tomorrow. In order to retain the validity of the idea, it should be adapted to meet the demands of new forth come to influence a city. Some forces haven to be resistance nurtured. A very strong body of experts has always to watch dogs of a city – to cater to its needs, to fight forces, and to channelize life in the right directions.
Let the idea of Chandigarh not die with Chandigarh. Let spread to other cities in a comprehensive manner. Let be tried in different places. Let there be a meeting of minds. But let there be a determined and concerted effort to give good ideas a chance, so that we may build a better India for our coming generations. In the very act of having a good idea, and implementing it, is a good life. Lack of good ideas and lack of will to act is a sure road to degeneration.
Where there is space for human activity, let architect give shape to that space, no that human spirit may find fulfilment in this life, and leave a better environment for the generations to come.
- 1. Numbering skips to point 19 in the original, there is no point 18