You don't have to be an authority on education or more so on architectural education to find out the deficiencies in architectural education in India. It's seen and felt everywhere. Well, almost! It's increasingly becoming obvious that we need to junk the pre-historic curriculum of architectural education in the country for a revised, refreshed, updated and upgraded one, packed with the kind of stuff the rapidly evolving industry is looking desperately for.
Most of the emerging skill-sets or knowledge areas that are so crucial to the very survival of the architectural profession in the current timeline seem to be conspicuously missing from the classroom teachings in the architectural colleges today. This brings us to the point of who is or is supposed to be teaching the would-be-architects? In my view, both are not desirable as the 'desperate' one is constantly seeking out better opportunities and so never interested in improving his or her teaching skills, while the 'passionate' one is not inclined to practice in the field and so never interested in improving his or her practical skills.
"Most of the emerging skill-sets or knowledge areas that are so crucial to the very survival of the architectural profession in the current timeline seem to be conspicuously missing from the classroom teachings in the architectural colleges today"
It may be easy to pass such comments or judgments but it is clearly very difficult to offer solutions or alternatives. So, while we are all broadly in agreement that the current system needs overhauling and should include some of the key contemporary subjects, let's try to be little more specific. The following are some of the emerging areas of knowledge that I have found missing from today's curricula:
Design Thinking:Though some of the institutions may have a passing reference to the concept while teaching Life-Cycle Design, it is rarely covered in detail as a separate subject. Design Thinking is a human-centric and solution-focused methodology for solving complex problems and finding desirable solutions. It deals with 'what if', 'why not' and 'what works' scenarios of every design proposal and is especially important and relevant in today's business-as-usual context.
Bio-Design: Bio-design is a unique combination of Nature, Science, and Creativity - a much-needed portfolio of design learning approaches. Some of the bio-design concepts like the Bio-Philic and Bio-Mimic design are taught in bits and pieces and not as a cohesive design strategy.
Generative Design: Is an evolutionary approach to design to find the best option, in other words, it's about 'Designing the Design Process'. Since generative design deals with selecting the best option from among many alternative solutions, it needs the ability and maturity to trade-off certain functions with certain others.
Goal-Driven Design: An extension of Generative Design, Goal-Driven Design involves working around functional, physical and cost restrictions. Goal-Driven Design is an emerging technology tool where software plays an active and participatory role aided by Artificial Intelligence and Simulation Technologies.
Designing For All: Tailored for human diversity- like age, gender, physical & mental attributes medical conditions, cultural differences and so on -Designing for All is a forgotten approach in the architectural education and needs urgent revival. Though it is not about meeting all requirements with a single solution that fits everyone and not just about designing for the differently challenged section of the population, it never the less should be the primary objective for designing public spaces.
Lean Design Principles: A rarely touched upon subject in the architectural schools, lean principles that strive to avoid wasteful design practices have become a must-consider aspect of any design project today. In a world with a cut-throat competition, eliminating waste time, cost, resources, and efforts - is obviously of utmost importance and hence should be part of any architectural curriculum.
Sustainability: Moving beyond 'green building' design, architectural education should include the larger sustainability issues like carbon positive developments, net-zero energy buildings, water neutral regions and zero-waste communities in order to align the fraternity with the global Sustainable Development Goals.
Wellness: As the buildings become green and efficient, the focus has now shifted to the wellbeing of the occupants of all built spaces. Since the building design aspects like air, water, lighting & ventilation have a profound impact on the occupant's health and productivity, the industry is expecting the architects to be well conscious of these impacts.
Resilience: Whether it's the building or the community, climate resilience has become an urgent need of all living systems. With the destructive impacts of climate change being immensely visible, industry professionals are expected to be building resilience into architectural, structural and engineering aspects of a building. Enabling the buildings and its occupants rebound after every potential disaster by design should, therefore, be an integral part of every design solution.
Virtual Design and Construction: VDC is a rapidly evolving professional expertise required to create and manage digital prototypes of buildings, also known as Building Information Modeling, during its design, construction, and operational stages. It is estimated that the real estate industry will be needing thousands of these VDC professionals, especially the architects, engineers, project & facility managers, in the next 3-5 years.
Smart Built Spaces: Projected to become the next big thing in the building industry, the IOT enabled smart built spaces in the commercial and residential sectors are fast becoming the pre-requisite of many clients. In another 10-15 years, architectural professionals would probably not have an option but to go digital & smart in changing the way a building is conceptualized.
The above are some of the key aspects of the architectural profession that, I think, need to be built-in to the curriculum - specifically and comprehensively if the future generations of architects were to perform at par with the rest of their fraternity in the rest of the world.
RK Goutham, Director - Sustainability
Author, Architect, Project Manager, Sustainability Professional and Technology Evangelist, RK Gautham, in his long professional career spanning 30 years, has worked in various capacities with Consulting, Execution and Project Management firms. An IGBC Accredited Professional, presently he is working for the Global Real Estate Consultancy firm Cushman & Wakefield and heads the Sustainability business and initiatives across the company in India.