The Teacher’s Role in Architectural Education
This is the most important article I have ever written. This article is not just for architecture students but also for Professors in Architecture Colleges and Universities and Architects.
The falling standards of mass education is a contagion that has engulfed Architectural Education in the state. The poor quality of work and professionalism needs no mention. Sometimes this deterioration in quality is accredited to the quality of students but I find this excuse inacceptable because, out of the many responsibilities and duties, one of the essential element in imparting Architectural education is the process of simplification. The teacher has to simplify matters enough for a common man to understand. In a profession which depends upon visual effects it becomes all the more important to simplify verbal and written matter into graphic displays easy enough for the laity.
Architecture is not for Architects; it is for people, and whatever the Architects may think; whatever theories they may have, it is through the senses that people appreciate and it is through the development of these senses that the Architect designs. It is through the senses we feel Architecture.
One does not satisfy ones feeling by expressing one’s own feelings. What is required of Architect is the intellectual process based upon “sympathy”. He must contrive to give people what they will enjoy, not what he would wish them to enjoy. This sympathetic approach is particularly relevant to India where the masses distinguished by their diverse cultural traditional require the Architects ti provide design solution based on indegeneity. This sympathetic habit has to be inculcated among the students by a teacher who himself/herself understands the meaning of sympathy. Students need to be reminded and constantly guided about this kind of an approach to Architecture which would serve the unique requirements of unique people.
From this view point – mass housing is like an anti-biotic for all ailments. Individuality and diversity is lost under the debris of a secular culture and Architecture. The importance of visual and audial effects upon the space must be emphasized.
There are specific methods and techniques involved in training the senses. The sense of perception in 3D must be emphasized in the initial stages in order to aloe their sensitivity to space and detail must be heightened. All of the above can be taught through simple drawing exercises with ideas drawn from psychology and graphics and through practical demonstrations.
Facades of icy indifference and accommodations of prison like austerity has not the respect of a common man. Admiration of a design among professionals while creating detestable living conditions comes from an inward looking professionalism and as life in all Arts and Architecture. Students must be made aware of such ideas and practice and wean them away from such indulgences in self-admiration.
Also, the cheapest way of satisfying the minimum standards of accommodation is no way to architecture either. It so happens that many people embank upon a teaching profession, not in the belief that they have a craft to learn but they think, sometimes, that a technique will evolve from the continued practice of their profession i. e. teaching. This may never happen. The inter-disciplinary nature of Architecture profession requires one to be abreast of developments in other related fields of study. Teachers derive a lot of their techniques from psychology. Kevin Lynch derived his concepts from psychology to arrive at an “Image of the City”.
Urban Geography is important while environmentalism is the dominant issue today. The Architect is the medium of expression, and change; but he is also capable of intervening and imposing his will. A teaching Architect also becomes a medium through which a student is taught individually by creating simple and easy methods out of complex ideas and practices.
The main task of the teacher of Architecture is to feed the student with easily comprehensible, concrete and easily recognizable solutions. Just make thing simple enough to understand.
We cannot teach a student how to be original. Originality cannot be sought nor commanded. Being different merely in order to be original is fraudulent. Most of the design is a rearrangement within the current idiom, yet the work could be dull or fresh. Dull design seems to come from dull people, just as some people are natural conversational bores. Freshness in work comes from a lively awareness and response, through our sensibilities, to our built environment, our sensitivity to detail. There are ways if involving such concepts in our teaching methodology and we shall discuss them in our suggestions.
There is a touch if originality in fresh design in that it is a fresh response, within the existing parameters, by being responsive and sensible. Originality goes further and of itself creates new stimuli in the mind of Architects.
The student of Architecture is in the process of acquiring the vocabulary, just as a child learns to talk, then to write. Therefore, it becomes a matter of important for a teacher of Architecture to teach his language of Architecture not only from the point of view of the evolutionary nature of the profession, but also the means of his expression which is drawing.
Modern Architecture has run its cathartic course; a new mannerist architecture, anti-functional and anti-rational is already with us. It is an instinctive protest against functionalism, against the worship of technology, the cult of cost effectiveness. As part of a trend, this is only an interlude and its products will take their place among the oddities of History.
The above trends both in theory and practice are issues of western architecture and societies. We have not yet acquired functionalism as a trend to reject it. We have not become so rational yet to be anti-rational. Our trends are guided by our basic needs on a more human scale. We can study western ideas but certainly should not imitate them neither in theory nor practice. Architects do not live and design by theory, but they are proven to accept and practice upon a theoretical basis which is in tune with the time. We should not despise theory; but if we can take a total view of Architecture we can see the contemporary theory – based design is not immutable truth for all time.
Our local response to western trends and ideas, concepts and theories can be made through indigenization. Indigenous response to indigenous peoples. It would not be an Architecture of the masses, nor will there be a national trend. The emphasis will be in emphasizing the locality, to identify the locality and our diversity lends itself to this kind of a definition. Hence, as teachers of Architecture, we have to be familiar with the trends, and devise methodologies based upon our diversity. We as teachers should be clear in our minds as to what and all the students should know in order to develop. Out of this will emerge a theory of our own most suited to us.
A student of Architecture must be taught to respect the needs of the common man, not by giving people what is good for them. But rather by studying the people as they are and give them what they will enjoy and be comfortable with. Similarly, a teacher should make the student aware of the egotistical attitude that develops amongst architects that it is menial to serve people and dignified to order them about. This egotism must be kept within tolerable limits.
In terms of attitude, the teacher earns his respect through the quality of works of the students. The fruits of his labour is clearly visible in the quality of drawings the students produce. And maintaining a high quality requires a teacher to work atleast twice as hard as any student. Only through such inputs can you expect quality work. A teacher has to be generous and sympathetic towards his students. Some grow faster than others. It is for the poorer students that the teacher should devote his tune in order to bring them on par. Attendance and grades are necessary incentives for the students but they should never be used as weapons to train students. Just as a supplementary exam is a gracious chance for a student to catch up, like wise, the teacher should be gracious enough to promote students lagging as long as they understand the subject and submit the assignments. Additional assignments is an age old way of helping weaker students.
Teaching is not an easy job and requires a lot time and preparation. Every semester has to be made lively through fresh ideas, different teaching methods and an attempt to sustain the interest of students. Add some spice to it. Dictating old notes is the easiest way to teach. Neither preparation nor much effort is required. Philosophical trends, intellectual inclinations, psychological concepts, socio-economic factors, building construction and graphic communications etc. All of the above and many more add to the list of an Architects understanding and imparting professional education. Age and experience enhance depth of understanding which younger teachers do not possess. A student’s mind is what is required of our younger faculty. Learning from seniors is a way of balancing the short comings of inexperience. Unhindered by an Architect’s ego, both the teacher and the student can complement each other in this process of learning.